Web Search Tips and Tricks - Shortcuts for Quick, Efficient Searching
It is not widely known that the major search engines such as Google and Bing have built a set of shortcuts into their search boxes that include useful tools like calculators, translators, currency converters, specialized searches and dictionaries.
These tools make finding information much faster and more efficient. Many of the shortcuts and tools work on smartphones and tablet web browsers.
Entering search queries in certain ways can also provide more specific and detailed search results.
This article summarizes the shortcuts and tools available in Google and Bing in charts and provides advice on how to use them.
Search Tools and Shortcuts for Quicker and More Specific Search Results
Detailed list of shortcuts and tools is provided for Google and Bing in the tables below.
Search Shortcuts for Travel
To get fast directions from Google simply type the to addresses into the search box. The format is 'from start address to destination address'. The browser will show the travel time and distance, a link for directions and a map.
For air travel, you can quick get a summary of flights and fares, and sites that sell tickets. Just type the start and destination international abbreviations for airports. For example: SYD to NYC.
For more general information use the longer form such as the “Flights from Sydney to New York City”.
Bing’s air travel tool uses the same shortcut. Both Bing or Google, provide quick checks of flight status using a similar format: Provider flight status Flight Number.
Quick Language Translation Tools and Dictionaries
Both Bing and Google provide for quick translations use the same format: translate coffee to French.
Instant Dictionary functions are available using the format: define ooze.
The tool also provides a list of synonyms.
Quick Currency Conversions
Both Search Engines use the same format: 100 US dollars in Euros.
Booking Reservations at Local Restaurants
If your query is “Chinese restaurants in Sydney" or another a major city, a list of restaurants will be provided, often with addresses and ratings (e.g. 16/30). You can narrow the results to a smaller window by adding a postcode or area designation. The right-hand column in Google will often show maps and reviews.
Instant Stock Prices
Both Google and Bing provide instant stock prices simply by entering the stock symbol followed by the word “stock”. For example: goog stock - shows the latest Google share price. In the Google search box you can also enter the company name - for example: Apple stock.
Shortcuts for Local Weather
Both Google and Bing provide great shortcuts for weather forecasts by entering city names or codes or city name, for example weather Sydney. The autosuggest tools helps resolve and duplicate locations.
Shortcuts for Finding Local Movies
To find out what movies are currently playing in your city or suburb, just enter 'movies' followed by your ZIP code, City or Suburb name. For example: movies Sydney.
Current movies are listed with button links for trailers.
Typing the name of an actor or a director will generate their profile. for example: Hitchcock movies
Shortcuts to see Video Previews
Usually the browsers provide video previews without having to click on them. For example in Bing when you hover over a video image it will often start to play. In Google you can also see previews by moving the your cursor just to the right of a search result. Hovering over the small double arrows image will start the preview.
Shortcuts for Calculators and Measurement Conversions
Both Google and Bing provide instant calculator functions by directly typing into the search box. Google extends the tool by proving the answer as you type. If you enter 5 * 25 in Google up pops the answer along with a scientific calculator. Google further extends the functionality by providing answers for trigonometric functions and a graphing calculator; type, for example if you type sin(x) + sin(y) a rotating 3-D graph is displayed.
Converting measurements is easy as pie using a very simple format in both Google and Bing. For example: litres in a gallon; meters in a mile.
Specialised Searches and Listings
In both browsers various terms can be used to get list of files and other information about particular websites. For example entering the prefix ‘site:’ followed by a URL in the search box produces a list of links for every page on the site. Lists of these type of searches are provided in the tables below.
Improving Search Efficiency by Using Smart Terms and Word Order
While search engines have greatly improved their understanding of synonyms and various terms and autosuggest helps a lot you can improve the outcome by smart entries. Below are a set of tips:
Be Natural and use Common Words and Terms
Type in the more common word and keep it simple. Use rare or more specific words when this is what you want. Despite the improvements in search engines using primary key words still works best. It you are interested in learning about the “health benefits of green tea” – It is better to simply type ‘green tea health benefits” or “green tea AND health benefits” than to type “What are the health benefits of green tea” or “Is green tea healthy”. If you start with the ‘topic’ word first followed by the qualifier or action word the autosuggest feature will be much more specific in showing you what it thinks you are after.
Exclude Words that Bing and Google Ignores
The search engines ignore ‘and’ and other words such as ‘at’ and ‘the’. So it is best not to enter these words especially as the browsers have specific meanings for ‘and’ and ‘or’. In some cases you may have to add extra words to be more specific with the results.
When you want to include common words or phrases that Google and Bing normally ignores put the exact phrase in quotes. For example if you are searching for a book title: “Looking for a Horse” Google will mostly include search results for “Looking Horse”. Entering the entire phrase, including the quotes will produce a search for the complete phrase.
Focus on the Answers you want rather than the Questions
Search engines work by trying to find pieces of text that match what you entered in the search box. Most web pages have information on answers rather than on the questions you are asking. So phrase your request in the way the answer will be phrased rather than the question.
For example if you want to know the reason why the sky is colored blue enter “sky blue because” rather than “why does the sky have a blue color” The answers you get will be much more specific.
Use Boolean Phrases in Your Searches
Boolean phrases such as AND, OR & NOT can help make your searches much more specific.
NOT or "-"
This excludes words and so narrows the search.
either word to be present in search results
AND or "+"
Both words are presented in the search results
Choose the Best Engine for the Purpose
There is a lot of debate about this but certain engines are better for particular purposes. Try some of the more advanced search engines that show multiple results for three of four engines simultaneously. Use a metasearch engine or one that specialises in particular topics on the modern semantic search.
Shortcuts for Google Search
Finds Pages That Have...
" quotes for example love me tender
the exact phrase love me tender
#...#(search within a number range)
nokia phone $200...$300
percentage; 50% of 100
raise to a power; 4^18 (4 to the eighteenth power)
looks up the word auto and synonyms
allintext: (return pages with all words specified in body text)
allintitle: (search for keywords in page title)
book(search book text)
book The Lord of the Rings
bphonebook: (find business phone numbers)
cache: (view cached page)
daterange:(search within specific date range)
definitions of the word serendipity
filetype:(restrict search to specific filetype)
how now * cow
the words how now cow separated by one or more words
info: (find info about a page)
intext:(search for keyword in body text)
inurl:(restrict search to page URLs)
link:(find linked pages)
movie:(search for showtimes)
movie:wallace and gromit 97110
the words nokia and phone
old in new (conversion)
45 celsius in Fahrenheit
phonebook:(find a phone number)
the word printer but NOT the word cartridge
related: (related pages)
rphonebook:(find residential phone numbers)
rphonebook:Joe Smith Seattle WA
safesearch: (exclude adult content)
sailing OR boating
either the word sailing or the word boating
site:(search only one website)
site:websearch.about.com "invisible web
site:.edu (specific domain search)
site:.edu, site:.gov, site:.org, etc.
site:country code (restrict search to country)
site:.br "rio de Janeiro
stocks:(get a stock quote)
Toy Story +2
movie title including the number 2
weather:(get local weather)
Shortcuts for Bing Search
Finds webpages that contain all the terms preceded by the + symbol.
Finds the exact words in a phrase.
Finds or excludes webpages that contain a group of words.
AND or &:
Finds webpages that contain all the terms or phrases.
NOT or -:
Excludes webpages that contain a term or phrase.
OR or |:
Finds webpages that contain either of the terms or phrases.
Advanced Search Keywords
Keeps results focused on sites that have links to the file types that you specify. Example: tennis contains:gif
Finds RSS or Atom feeds on a website for the terms you search for. Example: feed: technology.
Returns only webpages created in the file type that you specify. Example: filetype: pdf
Finds webpages that contain an RSS or Atom feed on a website for the terms you search for. Example: site: www.about.com hasfeed: tennis
inanchor: or inbody:] or intitle:
return webpages that contain the specified term in the metadata, such as the anchor, body, or title of the site, respectively. Example: inanchor: tennis inbody: wimbledon
Finds sites that are hosted by a specific IP address (A specific address for a computer on the Internet.) . The IP address must be a dotted quad address. Type the ip: keyword, followed by the IP address of the website. Example: IP: 18.104.22.168
Returns webpages for a specific language. Specify the language code directly after the language: keyword. Example: "tennis" language: fr
loc: or location:
Returns webpages from a specific country or region. Specify the country or region code directly after the loc: keyword. To focus on two or more languages, use a logical OR to group the languages. Example: tennis (loc: US OR loc: GB)
Adds emphasis to a search term or another operator to help focus the search results. Example: tennis prefer: history
Limits your search to a specific root domain, such as .edu, .gov, .org. Example: site/.edu
Returns webpages that belong to the specified site. To focus on two or more domains, use a logical OR to group the domains. Example: site: about.com/tennis/US Open
Checks whether the listed domain or web address is in the Bing index. Example: url: about.com
© 2012 Dr. John Anderson
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