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How to search like a pro

Submitted by Ryan P.C. McQuen on September 18, 2011 – 11:26 pm2 Comments
Illustration by Ryan P.C. McQuen
Search engines are not just for looking up homework answers or funny videos. They have a lot of functionality you may be unaware of.

Type in an equation like 2+3 or 7*5 and the search engine will yield 5 and 35 respectively. Bing, Google, and Yahoo! are all capable of acting as a calculator. You can also find the time anywhere in the world by typing: “what time is it in ____________?”

What about using a search engine for research? Most professors advise against this. But let’s say you are searching for a term like “cell theory.” If you type that into your search engine, you will get a variety of results, the first is often Wikipedia. You can’t use many of these sources but do the same search like this “cell theory” and that will only load results from .edu websites. You can also use to search only government websites.

Another useful feature is searching for a flight. Try “American Airlines flight 1789” and you will instantly know if your flight is on time.

Search engines also make unit and currency conversions easy. Type “how many teaspoons in a tablespoon?” or “2 teaspoons in tablespoons” For currency, type a similar inquiry: “how many us dollars in a euro?” or “2 dollars in euros.”

Another useful addition is “loc:” for location. If you are looking for pizza locally search “pizza loc:72204” to find places listed in order of nearness to that zip code. You can also be more exact and put an entire address after loc:. For all modifiers containing a colon make sure you do not put a space after a colon, otherwise the engine will interpret that as a search and not a command.

Also, one last trick, is the ability to search for a word on any page. Press Command+f on a Mac or Control+f on a Linux or Windows computer to search a webpage for any word(s).


  • Ryan P.C. McQuen says:

    One I just learned!

    Negative modifier: type: “tiger -woods” to search for tigers without getting results about the golfer!

  • Tom Hedge says:

    Hi Ryan, I find it amazing how internet search engines work and process every site. There is so much out there on the internet and I wonder how much of it there is that I have never and probably might never see! Thanks for sharing your expertise.