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A guide to using Google search and other Google tools
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

The Basics Print Page

The Basics of Google Search


This GOOGLE 101 LibGuide is a collection of tips and links to help you use the features of Google search and its related tools and services better.

If you are using Google Basic Search and just typing in a few words to begin a search, then you are not getting the most from the service - and yet, you are probably pretty satisfied with the results. Google has gotten smart enough to figure out what you're probably trying to find.

Here are TEN TIPS using the basic search that everyone should know about...

If you add one thing to your search abilities, make it using quotes around compound words, phrases, and names to create a search string. Searching for STAR WARS means looking for any page that contians those two words - for example, a page on movie stars who fought in wars - while searching for "STAR WARS" means pages with that phrase, so you are more likely to get results about the movie series.

If you were actually looking for information on the Star Wars startegic defense inititaive started during the Reagan administration,you need to do a more advanced seach to narrow your results to that topic.  I'm disappointed that Google removed the "Advanced Search" link from their main page, but the service still exists at   Maybe Google assumes that people know how to do advanced searches. I definitely do not agree.  Anyway, if you were to type in the search bar:   "star wars" defense -film -movies -toys  you would get much better results because you eliminated pages about the movies and related toys.  To eliminate a word, use a – (minus sign)

Use the root form of a word to get all forms of the word. For example, swim = swims, swimmer, swimming...   BUT use a plus (+) in front of word to keep it exactly as is and to ignore other forms of the word. For example, +swimmer would not include any other forms. Using the word OR (in caps) allows two ideas to be found together, For example, "Barack Obama" election 2008 OR 2012.

Google has a "Wild Card" option if you use an asterisk (*) allows for missing words in a phrase (not missing letters). For example, if I couldn't remember the name of a recent film and book but I thought it was "Incredibly Loud and something something"  I could search for incredibly loud and * * and it will find results on Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close for me.

One reason that Google may have removed that advanced search link is that the basic search is a lot more intelligent. When I start typing "incredibly loud" Google suggested incredibly loud and extremely close (which is wrong) but cliicking that actually took me to the correct results on extremely loud and incredibly close. The search is smart enough to learn the mistakes most people are making when they search.

If you want to search a specific website (especially if the site doesn't have its own search feature) you can use Google to search the site. Put site: in a search as a modifier.  For example, you could search "social media" to get information on that topic just from the Starbucks corporate website.

You can also search for specific document or file types. By using the modifier "filetype:" you can find only PowerPoint presentations related to climate change by using "climate change" filetype:ppt    It would also work with other file types such as pdf, doc, mp3 etc.

Google also allows for a number of numerical searches like the phonebook feature. Just type in a number such as 973-684-6551 and it will give a number of results from various phone websites. You can just put in the 3-digit area code and Google will tell you where it’s from. 

Although Google has a whole finance section, if you just want some quick comapny stock information, just enter a valid ticker symbol as your search term and Google will give you the current financial and a quick thumb-nail chart for the stock.  Example: GOOG

Don't have a calculator handy?  Type your expression in to Google.  Example: 4512 * 1.02 will tell you that it = 4602.24  The very extensive has guides for almost all the features, such as That site is NOT a part of Google.

Need a definition? Put the command define: in front of any word. Example, define:phatic 


11 More Basic Search Tricks

Did you know that you can...

  1. Narrow your search by finding web sites that have a keyword in the title by typing intitle: followed by word you are searching for  intitle:free  looks for "free" in titles.  OR, if you want to find a word in the text of the page, use intext:  as in intext:Paterson
  2. Want to find out who is linking to a site? (Very popular activity if you want to find out who is linking to YOUR own site!)  It's also a good way to check the credibility and popularity of a site. Type  link: followed by the complete URL (Note if you put no space after the colon, you will get all active hyperlinks, but if you use a space before the URL, you will get hyperlinks and text mentions  link:   OR  link:
  3. Another way to explore a site you are interested in is to find related sites. Use  related: and the URL to find related pages.  will give you other sites about that brand of guitars and other guitar sites
  4. If want lots of about a site in one big bite, guess what search word you use?  Yes, type info: plus the URL to get cached versions, links to the site, links from the site, other web pages that are simular to, and other places the web site is mentioned on the Internet.
  5. Some people use Google as a dictionary by using the define: in a search, but you can also find synonyms, if you use the tilde sign (~) immediately in front of your search term. To see how results will differ, try a term like ~geocaching and then try it without the tilde.
  6. There's a nice measurement converter in the search. Put in the measurement you want to convert followed by to and then enter the desired unit. For example, you could type in  8000 ft to miles 
  7. You can also get the weather for many U.S. and worldwide cities. Type  weather followed by a space and then the city and state, U.S. zip code, or city and country/ Examples: weather 07505  OR  weather Austin   Google will probably figure out that you mean Austin, Texas before you even hit the "T" key.
  8. You can also get the time in many cities around the world by typing  time  and the name of the city as in  time Paris
    There are lots of other little tweaks - like enter sunset 07009  or sunrise 07009 and get the time for that event in that location. 
  9. Sports fans have figured out that you can get scores and schedules for sports teams by typing the team name or league name into the search box. It includes the National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball)  Typing  ny yankees  brings up a schedule link and a current score (in season)
  10. Find reviews and showtimes for movies playing near you, type “movies” or the name of a current film into the Google search box. If you’ve already saved your location on a previous search, the top search result will display showtimes for nearby theaters for the movie you’ve chosen, if not enter a location. “the hunger games” 07505
  11. And if you want to see an airline flight status for arriving and departing U.S. flights, type in the name of the airline and the flight number into the search box. You can also see delays at a specific airport by typing in the name of the city or three-letter airport code followed by the word “airport”  ewr airport

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