It's easy to take the common Google search for granted, but if you really think about it, you might appreciate it for what it truly is: crazy superhero magic.
Just by typing a few words, a single person can achieve near-instantaneous access to all of the world's collected information. Want to know the capital of Moldova? (It's Chisinau.) Who played the mean judge in Ghostbusters II? (Character actor Harris Yulin.) How long does it take Neptune to orbit the Sun? (164.79 Earth years!) Bam, boom, POW!
As long as you have a connected device, you have the power to know just about everything thanks to Google. There are, of course, other capable search engines out there, but only one service is a widely accepted verb.
While you probably use it just about every day, there may still be a lot you don't know about the old dependable Google search. If you have ever struggled to get the results you want, here are some tips you can follow to improve your Googling abilities.
1. Use Google Search Modifiers
Google's search algorithm is remarkably adept at returning the information you are looking for—even when you aren't exactly sure yourself. But for those times when you know precisely what you need, you can refine your search results with these tips:
Exclude terms with a minus (-) symbol: Want to exclude certain terms from your search results? Use the minus symbol to exclude all the terms you don't want, i.e. best apps -android for results that omit roundups of top Android apps.
Use quotations to search for the exact order: Searching "Danny Devito hair" will only bring back results that include all those words, in that order. However a search for Danny Devito Hair (without quotations) will bring back a different set of results, which have all those words, but not necessarily in the order you searched for.
Search inside a single website: If you want results from within only one site, use site: followed directly by the site URL you wish to use. You must include the site's domain, i.e. Google Photos tips site:pcmag.com and not Google Photos tips site:pcmag.
Search titles only: Use the search intitle: to look for words in the webpage title. For example grasshoppers intitle:gross will only return sites about grasshoppers that have "gross" in the title. Conversely, allintitle: will only return links with multiple words in the title, i.e. allintitle: cow meat yummy.
Search URLs only: Similar to the intitle: function, you can search only in the URL using inurl: or allinurl:.
Search text only: intext: or allintext: allows you to only search in the text of a site, as opposed to the title and URL, which the search algorithm usually takes into consideration.
For a comprehensive set of search modifiers and qualifiers, you can check out this handy guide.
2. Search File Types in Google
You can also filter your search results by file types using the qualifier filetype:. So, if you wanted to find downloadable PDFs featuring llamas, you could search llama filetype:pdf. If you wanted to find downloadable Microsoft Word docs prominently featuring our llama friends, you'd search llama filetype:doc. You can find a comprehensive list of (occasionally obscure) searchable file types here.
3. Search for Related Websites in Google
We all have favorite websites that we like to frequent, but sometimes change is a good thing. If you're looking for ideas on where to go next, Google has you covered. Just use the related: qualifier to show related results. This can be used with any word or phrase, but it works best if used with a website. Searching related:amazon.com brings up results including Walmart and Overstock. Searching related:google.com shows Yahoo and Bing.
4. Google Search With Placeholders
Did you ever try to think of a song lyric or famous movie quote, but couldn't remember all of it? Well, Google has you covered. Just type as much of the phrase as you can remember, but place an asterisk (*) with a space on either side and Google will usually be able to fill in the rest (i.e. Frankly my * I don't give a damn, I like * * and I cannot lie, or what is the airspeed * of an unladen swallow?)
5. Set Google Search Result Time Restraints
Looking for only the latest news about a subject or trying to find information relevant to a specific time frame? Use Google's search tools on desktop and mobile to filter your search results. After you conduct a search, click "Tools" or "Search Tools," depending on the interface, on the top right. Click "Any time" and the drop-down menu will let you narrow results to hours, weeks, and months, or even set a custom date range.
6. Perform an Advanced Google Image Search
You can use many of the aforementioned search refiners in Google image searches. However, you can get even more in-depth image searches by clicking over to Google's advanced image search page, which allows you to search by image size, region, file type, and even for specific colors.
7. Perform a Reverse Image Search
Google supports "backward" image searches on most browsers. This function allows you to upload an image file and find information on that image. For example, if you uploaded a picture of the Eiffel Tower, Google (probably) has the ability to recognize it and give you information on the Eiffel Tower. Pretty cool. (And it works with faces, too).
In addition, a backward search can direct you to websites where the particular image appears, identify a work of art, or even show you images that are "visually similar."
Just go to Google image search and click the little camera icon in the search bar. Here, you can upload an image (or enter an image's URL) that you'd like to search. You can also simply drag and drop the image into the image search bar. And updated versions of the Chrome, Firefox, and Edge browsers will allow you to drag an image file directly into the search bar.
8. Do Math in Your Google Search Box
Whether you want to figure out a tip on a meal, or create a complex geographical rendering, Google search has you covered.
You can do basic calculations directly in the search bar. For example, searching 34+7 will prompt a calculator below the bar with the correct answer already filled in.
Conversely, you can also ask Google to solve math questions in regular language. For example, searching what is 3 times 7 will prompt the calculator and the correct answer. You can also ask things like what is 20% of $67.42 and receive an answer ($13.50). You can even leave out the "what is" altogether.
And if you are a super math nerd, you can create interactive 3D virtual objects (on desktop browsers that support WebGL) just by plugging in an equation that uses "x" and "y" as free variables. Or, if you are like me and have long forgotten your high school geometry, you can just plug in different numbers along with some cos(x)s, sin(y)s, and tan(x)s and see what renders. It's a lot of fun! For like four minutes.
If these more advanced math functions are actually something you can use for your everyday activities, Google has a much more in-depth mathlete-level explainer here.
9. Use Google Search as a Converter
Google will help you convert just about anything. Just try entering the basic information and hit enter. For simple conversions, say 38 Celsius in Fahrenheit, Google will not only tell you an answer (100.4, in this case), it will also provide an interactive conversion calculator for further converting.
After playing with this function, I found that Google will supply the answer for some pretty zany conversions, say 17.5 millimeters in light years (for the record, it's 1.849751e-18 light years), and will still give you the interactive calculator.
Additionally, you can find up-to-date-ish currency conversion rates with just a few keystrokes (this function will also usually prompt an interactive calculator). The cool thing about this function is you don't even need to know the official currency symbol ($, €, etc.) or ISO designator (i.e. USD for the U.S. dollar or GBP for the British pound)—Google's algorithm is able to discern sentence-style queries. For example, a search for 38 dollars in Iceland returns the answer that (as of April 9, 2019) $38 was equal to 4,520.10 Icelandic króna.
We should note that when converting currency, Google has a disclaimer stating that it cannot guarantee the up-to-date accuracy of its exchange rates. So, while this function may be useful when budgeting for your next overseas adventure, perhaps you shouldn't rely on it as a go-to tool for all your international currency trading.
10. Define Words in Google Search
You can ask Google search to define unfamiliar words (or two-word phrases) using either the define: or definition: qualifier; it works without the colon, too. This will prompt Google to return a card with the definition, pronunciation, and—when available—a detailed etymology.
11. Track Packages in Google Search
You can track (most) packages in your search bar. Just paste it into search and Google will automatically recognize it and provide a link to the tracking page.
12. Google Voice Search
To search by voice in your desktop browser, just click that little microphone in the search box. This feature works much better on mobile devices, where the "OK, Google" trigger is more intuitive. This function is only supported in the Chrome browser at this time.
13. Search for the Time
Type "time" into your desktop browser, and it will return a card with the up-to-date local time based on your IP address. More useful is the fact that Google also has the chops to provide the local time anywhere in the world by just searching time [any location], which could be the name of a country, city or (if it's in the US) a ZIP code.
14. Search for Sunrise and Sunset
Want to know when the sun will rise or set in your neck of the woods? Just search "sunrise" or "sunset." You can also search for the sunrise/set times in other locations, as well.
15. Search for the Weather
Simpler than simple, if you search "weather," Google will present an interactive card with weather information courtesy of The Weather Channel. By default, a search for "weather" will prompt an info card for the location of your IP address.
However, you can also search weather [any location] and you can find the weather report for just about anywhere in the world, e.g. weather Toledo, OH or weather Kabul Afghanistan.
16. Real-Time Stock Quotes
Just type in any publicly traded company's ticker symbol and Google will present real-time price information on that company, e.g. "GOOG" (for Alphabet), "AAPL" (for Apple), or "AMZN" (for Amazon). Most of the larger exchanges are in real time, though Google offers a comprehensive disclaimer for which exchanges are on a delay.
17. Check Flight Times
Here's a handy little tip. If you just type in a flight number, Google will return a card with updated flight times as well as terminal/gate information. If you're looking to book your next flight, Google can also help. Check out Google Flights to find the cheapest flights online.
18. Find Local Attractions
If you travel for a living, you may occasionally find yourself in the middle of a strange city and not know what to do with yourself. If you're the tourist-y type, Google has you covered. Just search [city name] attractions to prompt an info card with local attractions and relevant images. Click "More things to do" to open a map of the area with attractions marked on the map.
19. Save Images in Google Search for Later
In recent years, Google has introduced a Pinterest-like feature that gives users the power to save images in a central location to view later. Just click on any image in image search and tap the bookmark icon.
This feature works on desktop and mobile (via Chrome) and saves will sync across devices. To access saved images, click "Collections" on the top-right of Google image search results on desktop, where you can group images together into separate collections. On mobile, look for the double bookmark icon on the screen to view pics.
20. Interactive Games and Tools
There are also several different helpful tools that you can access the same way. Need to make a decision, but don't have a coin? Just search "flip a coin" and Google will do it for you. Same thing with a die and spinner. Google also has a built-in calculator, metronome, breathing exercise, and color picker that provides the Hex Code and Decimal Code for any given shade.
21. Filter Explicit Content
Have a kid using the computer? Protect them from explicit content with Google's SafeSearch feature. By opening Settings and selecting Turn on SafeSearch, you can filter out any explicit links, images, or video that may be deemed inappropriate for an all-ages audience. While Google admits it is not a 100 percent fix, it should help prevent your child from seeing anything they shouldn't.
22. Let Google Search for You
Sometimes Googling can get tiring, which is why we have Google Alerts. You can create custom alerts that will notify you any time a new page is published containing appropriate keywords. Create an Alert here. You can select an email address these alerts will be sent to, then add topics to track. Type in what you're looking for and Google will show you what the alert will look like with existing stories already indexed by the search engine.
You can control the settings of each individual Google Alert. Choose how often you receive an update, the sources included, and a few other limitations.
23. Google Search Easter Eggs
As we've detailed in the past, Google's engineers apparently have a lot of extra time on their hands with which to implement all manner of Easter eggs and April Fool's pranks. And why should Google's main raison d'etre be left out of the fun? Here are just a few cool Easter Eggs you can uncover through search.
- "askew" or "tilt" will tilt your screen; "unaskew" or "untilt" will set it upright again (or just reload the page)
- "Atari breakout" and then clicking on "images" will begin a game of Breakout
- "Festivus" adds a Festivus pole to the left side of the screen
- "do a barrel roll" or "z or r twice" will cause the screen to do a 360
- "Google in 1998" will make the page appear as Google did in 1998
- "zerg rush" will cause a bunch of Google Os to attack the screen, which you can fight off by clicking on them.