What's your favorite Google feature, trick, or hack?
January 19, 2006 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Stupid Google tricks: I'm teaching a class on internet searching. Help me impress and inform by sharing your favorite Google or other search tool feature, trick, or hack.

Class will be adults with varying levels of internet savvy and varied interests. I'm set for basic course content, but I want to have plenty of "wow, that's cool" tricks up my sleeve.
posted by cosmicbandito to Computers & Internet (48 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
How about you just read the book?
posted by kcm at 10:09 PM on January 19, 2006

type in something like:

music: band name

google comes up with album / song results instead of regular results... I think that's pretty slick.

also, my favorite thing about google is all the crazy useful tools they have, most of which are linked at labs.google.com..

Of particular note is going to
local.google.com and doing something like:

pizza near 123 Some Street, MyCity
posted by twiggy at 10:11 PM on January 19, 2006

If you don't show the satellite feature on Google Maps, you're not teaching.
posted by frogan at 10:11 PM on January 19, 2006

The answer to life, the universe and everything, obviously.

(I can't tell you how amazed and impressed my six year old was when we typed this in, and Google knew. Ever since then, his response to any question he doesn't know is 'ask the computer').
posted by unSane at 10:13 PM on January 19, 2006

THe UPS tracking only seems to work if you have the google toolbar installed (at least that's my experience).

Typing a movie title with your city or zipcode gets you showetimes, and reviews.

Google calculator can do math and conversions. So type in 24*23^14/71 for the answer. Or "62 cubic metres in litres to do the conversion."

Type "weather for your local weather.

Google sets (under google labs) is great for finding things similar to things you already know. So if you enter "bon jovi" "poison" and "whitesnake" you get a list of 80s bands.

posted by duck at 10:20 PM on January 19, 2006

That should be weather and zipcode for your local weather.
posted by duck at 10:20 PM on January 19, 2006

i use it as a dictionary all the time.

google search define:word

or if i need to find something site specific the more obvious

site:site.com searchword

also, ducks suggestions for weather and calculations are awesome as well.
posted by freudianslipper at 10:22 PM on January 19, 2006

Definitely "movie:Brokeback Mountain near 02906" (for instance).

The best thing about it? Text message GOOGL from your cell phone and Google will get back to you with the results.
posted by rafter at 10:29 PM on January 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

By far, my favorite is this:

Google BlogSearch's RSS results of all pages linking to http://jnewland.com, sorted by date

Egosurfing made simple :)

Close second is this:

All albums on which 'Creep' by Radiohead appears

Google knows all.
posted by slhack3r at 10:42 PM on January 19, 2006

You know, I am very upset, because you used to be able to type in just where in the world is carmen sandiego? and Google would tell you. I am deeply saddened. So is my younger brother.
posted by booksandlibretti at 10:59 PM on January 19, 2006

If I were teaching a class, I wouldn't overlook the simple, magical quotation marks. You'd be surprised how many people don't know about them.
posted by cribcage at 11:05 PM on January 19, 2006

The ? wildcard is quite impressive. For example: 1 cup =? ounces
posted by dhruva at 11:19 PM on January 19, 2006

ooh. good one. I usually go with "1 cup to oz", but sometimes google muffs it.

the other google "trick" i use often is typing in "imdb name_of_movie" -- which 95% of the time will pull up the imdb info on the movie you tap in. You can type it into the toolbar on firefox if google is your default search engine and get there in half the time.

other than that, I'm a big fan of searching google groups when I have obscure tech questions.
posted by fishfucker at 11:38 PM on January 19, 2006

(er, with the imdb thing you'd need to hit the "i'm feeling lucky" button -- the firefox address bar does this for you automatically. somehow i'm pretty sure i got this tip from someone else on mefi, so hats off to them. you crazy superstar, you.)
posted by fishfucker at 11:39 PM on January 19, 2006

"Put search terms in quotes" is the most useful google tip.
use the "-" sign to filter out links you don't want.

obvious stuff I guess.
posted by seanyboy at 12:25 AM on January 20, 2006

I use cliche phrases if I'm in the mood for reading something online that falls into a specific genre. For example, in the mood for reading thrilling personal stories of disaster?

"But the worst was yet to come"
posted by vacapinta at 12:43 AM on January 20, 2006

google suggests some cool things themselves (many already mentioned, but they're all here):
posted by carsonb at 12:45 AM on January 20, 2006

Google two cities, get airfare links.

Google a city and a movie, get showtimes.

This doesn't break down when the movie is a city.

However, I learned how to really use search engines by reading about the special symbols they use. So, how to search for something like google ~tutorial would be most useful to people who don't know how to use it.
posted by raaka at 12:51 AM on January 20, 2006

also, it's been popular on certain community websites lately to circulate name-substitution searches.

search "[yourname] was killed by"
"[yourname] succumbed to"
"[yourname] [etc. you get the idea]"

I think it's the online equivalent of those name magnets and keychains they sell at truckstops, but instead of seeing your name on the state you're from you get how you died.
posted by carsonb at 12:53 AM on January 20, 2006

Google lyrics!

Have you ever known a line to a song that you didn't know the name of? It's easy to find the name out with google.

Example lyric: You're a slave to money, then you die
Google search: "You're a slave to money, then you die" lyrics

The results make it obvious enough that the song is Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve.

You can also search the reverse: "Bittersweet Symphony" lyrics
posted by charmston at 1:24 AM on January 20, 2006

x in y units expressions (e.g. ounces in 1 cup or oz in 1 cup) also invoke Google's unit conversion calculator that dhruva and fishfucker mentioned.

I'm learning a lot of useful stuff here and I thought my searching skills were pretty good.
posted by TimeFactor at 2:49 AM on January 20, 2006

link:[url of a website you are interested in]
tells you what other sites are linking to it. Does your school have a website?
posted by rongorongo at 3:41 AM on January 20, 2006

currency: "1 USD in Chinese currency", you don't even need to know the name of the currencies.
posted by signal at 3:47 AM on January 20, 2006

Dont go to far away and have a look at mefi.
posted by donut at 4:19 AM on January 20, 2006

The in-browser tools that integrate Google more tightly - for example, typing "g stuff" in Opera's URL bar searches google for stuff.

The spell checker, the "4 inches in centimetres" format, define:, "double quotes" to bind words together and gmail are all things I use regularly.

Google Earth, searching for postcodes (zip codes), searching for phone numbers, ego surfing the name of the guy who's interviewing you/you are interviewing, astroturfing your own name so you look good to potential employers.
posted by Leon at 5:00 AM on January 20, 2006

I think the Google toolbar in Firefox has changed my life significantly. Combine that with the ability to open search results in multiple tabs, and you become an unstoppable machine. Another good hack would have been to buy Google stock at $100 and sell at $465.
posted by jasondigitized at 5:06 AM on January 20, 2006

You can also search the reverse: "Bittersweet Symphony" lyrics

And of course, if you do this, and go to read the lyrics, don't click on the link for the cite. Click "cached". All those lyrics sites have pop-ups and re-directs, but not the google cache.
posted by duck at 5:23 AM on January 20, 2006

The odd site Fravia's Search Lores has some first rate tips to search for some really arcane stuff, but you have to dig a little.

Search around in the background to find interesting things: example \index.of mp3.

Pattern recognition to populate blacklists:

"# You can find out more about MT-Blacklist at"

Customising Google News to add different subjects; different numbers of articles; different languages. And using Google alerts to watch the headlines.
posted by sagwalla at 5:28 AM on January 20, 2006

Find in a Library (Open WorldCat). Find books in local libraries by filtering to site:worldcatlibraries.org.

I'm also a fan of inurl:, and the links to answer.com's dictionary [definition]s (top, right).
posted by steef at 5:33 AM on January 20, 2006

Google suggest makes me feel warm and fuzzy

when i search for "grand theft auto cheats xbox" it saves me all the typing
posted by Makebusy7 at 5:44 AM on January 20, 2006

No-one's mentioned google bombing or google whacking.
posted by TheRaven at 5:48 AM on January 20, 2006

My students were pretty impressed when I typed in their names and town addresses and Google spit out their phone numbers and a map to their house.

The other thing I used to drive home some of the tips was this series of searches

Clinton -Bill
Clinton -Bill -Hillary
Clinton +George
posted by jessamyn at 5:53 AM on January 20, 2006

Google's Uncle Sam searches only government and military sites (.mil, .gov, .us, the official sites of U.S. cities and states, etc.).
posted by Gator at 5:56 AM on January 20, 2006

The site search feature is my favorite, for instance, mrmoonpie site:metafilter.com. It's not fancy, but it's incredibly useful and often (I've found) overlooked. I use it to find old blog posts of mine, and to find information on the site I work on.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:09 AM on January 20, 2006

Googlism - what google knows about you.

and googlefight - fight between two google searches - Death and taxes! God and Satan! Newsfilter and Funfilter
posted by filmgeek at 7:10 AM on January 20, 2006

I used to teach Intro to the Internet classes. For the last 1/2 hour or so, I would always do an Internet Scavenger Hunt. Each team of 2 or 3 got the list of things to search for. They always included an example of every task we reviewed, and I tried to make them diverse and fun.
cheat sheet
tips & tricks
posted by theora55 at 7:39 AM on January 20, 2006

posted by JeffK at 7:53 AM on January 20, 2006

Using inurl: to search for security cameras.
posted by Leon at 8:27 AM on January 20, 2006

Some things that use the Google API.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:31 AM on January 20, 2006

Google can perform simple mathematical functions like Sin, Tan and Cos. Try to type in a math problem and see what happens!
posted by jne1813 at 9:23 AM on January 20, 2006

Use three periods to search a range of numbers (e.g., 1967...1969 searches for 1967, 1968, and 1969). Useful for all sorts of things in conjunction with other search terms.
posted by istewart at 9:44 AM on January 20, 2006

I sometimes find it quicker to type happy-days than "happy days". The hyphen acts like quotes, provided there is no preceding space, in which case it becomes negative, as you know.
posted by jikel_morten at 11:00 AM on January 20, 2006

The OR feature is quite useful:

blag (purple|monkey|dishwasher)

is the equivalent of searching for:

blag and one of either purple, monkey or dishwasher

A real-life example: (holiday|christmas|xmas) decorations
posted by blag at 1:37 PM on January 20, 2006

You can use google as a proxy server to read sites that might otherwise be blocked to you by Websense and the like. Just enter your URLs in the form

http://translate.google.com/translate_c?hl=en&u=www.metafilter.com (to get to metafilter, for example.)

This is how I read Metafilter at work; otherwise it's blocked.

Every link on the resulting page will also be proxified. I'm guessing this is a very rudimentary form of anonymous surfing as well (wouldn't stand up to serious inquiry).
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:49 PM on January 20, 2006


Also, if you enter a phone number in the search box, it'll return any directory listings with that number listed (either residential or commericial.)

I also love Google Scholar.
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:59 AM on January 21, 2006

stupidsexyFlanders: b.t.w. Google Web Accelerator pushes everything through the google proxy. If, you know, you want to browse forbidden sites at work.
posted by seanyboy at 3:25 PM on January 21, 2006

that would be great if I could install software at work, those boxes are extremely locked down.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:54 AM on January 22, 2006

Have you tried to tip in "failure" in the last few weeks? The first web-page Google showed in search results was the official web-page of George W. Bush. Sometimes it's enough to repeat a phrase over and over again, posting articles about it in blogs. It isn't that hard to trick Google. If you have time and know how to do it.
posted by vitaly friedman at 5:28 AM on February 3, 2006

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