10 Jul 2012

Become a Google Power Searcher

Registration for the 'Power Searching with Google' course ends on the 16th of July. The course is composed of six 50 minute classes and aims to empower users to find what they need faster. It will combine the Massive Open Online Course learning format with Google's social and communication tools to create a community learning experience.

Many searchers (and librarians in particular) may already be familiar with several of the search shortcuts such as using the search box as a calculator (e.g. to find out what is 65 multiplied by 8, enter 65*8 in the search box) or to find out a currency conversion (e.g. to find out what a 100 euro is in U.S. dollars, enter 100 eur in usd), but this course aims to teach more advanced tips and techniques.

For those who can't wait to hear some of these techniques, this article reports some techniques, search tools and methods used by Google research scientist Daniel Russell. Some of the more pertinent points are listed below:
  • What you know about Boolean may be wrong
Typing AND in your search is pointless, Google treats it like any other word. The OR operator works well however.
  • Find relational search terms
There is a way to find terms that are near each other on a website. [keyword] AROUND(n) [keyword] (“n” is the number of words near the search terms.) e.g. Libraries AROUND (3) "spending cutbacks" will show you all the websites where the two search terms were mentioned within three words of each other.
  • Time Travel
Typing cache:[url] or clicking on the cache function in the search results will show you an older version of the website.
  • Search your own browsing history
Visit Google.com/history to search your past searches. This feature can be disabled for those fearful of Google acting as a "Big Brother".
  • Search by image
A particularly nice feature about Google Images is that you can upload your own images and Google can search for similar images or even find information about the image if it is well known.

Franz Enzenhofer has come up with a fantastic tool which even lets you search via a drawing you make or even use a webcam to upload a photo you take from your tablet or computer and run a search for that also.

The following video explains these two concepts:


  1. If you're interested in keeping an eye on the changes over time to Google search, and the changed result sets you get from different options (being logged in vs. not for example) Keren Blakeman's blog can be very instructive: http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/about/

  2. I signed up for this myself Ronan - an interesting concept. I wonder if they plan to rerun it on a scheduled basis or to make it continuously available after the first programme.

    Thanks for the link Padraic. Lots of interesting ideas there, not least discussing the trend towards personal and social searching. Perhaps search engines like Google are even becoming less important now with social filtering tools like Twitter?