Where’s that lat/long? Ask Google Maps!

This morning there was a sizeable earthquake in the Gulf of California, or more precisely near 24.9N 109.0W according to the first tsunami bulletin issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. When I first saw that text bulletin, without an accompanying graphic, my first thought was: “so where is that point exactly?” Enter Google Maps to answer that one.

A nifty feature of Google maps is the ability to enter any lat/long point in the search box, either in decimal or degrees/minutes/seconds. Doing so will give you a marker on the map listing both types of co-ordinates, for example:

Note that to get the pop-up you’ll need to click the green marker.

As well as using the four compass points N/S/E/W for the lat/long values, you can also enter negative values for S and W, eg. “24.9 -109.0” gives the same result as “24.9N 109.0W”. And if your point of interest is in degrees, minutes and seconds instead, then use the following format: “41 17 22S 174 46 59E” or “-41 17 22, 174 46 59” for example (with or without the comma separating lat/long is ok either way).


Keyword Search for Firefox users

To make map lookup even faster, grab your Firefox (you do use Firefox right?!) and add a search bookmark with a keyword. Doing so will let you type something as simple as “map 40S 175E” in the location/address bar to jump straight to a map search result.

To set up a keyword search bookmark, visit Google Maps, right click the search box, then select “Add a Keyword for this Search…”.

In the New Bookmark window that pops up, give your bookmark a name (eg “Search Google Maps”) and a keyword (eg “map”).

And voilà! It doesn’t work! But don’t fret, we can fix the bookmark easily. Normally this technique does work well and I frequently use keyword searches for several sites directly from the address bar (eg IMDB, Twitter, Wikipedia to name a few).

To fix your bookmark, right click it in your bookmarks list, select “Properties” and change the location to “http://maps.google.co.nz/maps?q=%s”.

Note that the “%s” in the link above is replaced with the search term you enter after “map “.

Now you’re good to go! For example, to search Google Maps for Timbuktu simply enter “map timbuktu” in the address bar and hit enter. Voilà! Now it works, and now you know where Timbuktu is. 🙂

Google Search Tricks

Google Search is just for finding websites right? Wrong!

Google has been quietly adding features that have turned that search box into so much more than a simple search tool. Here’s a selection of tricks that highlight why Google’s search is fast becoming the go to place for all kinds of info – and in many cases you don’t have to leave the results page to get an answer.

Use Google as/for:


A calculator

Google can easily do some number crunching for you – just type in your equation for the result on it’s own page. Eg seconds in a day: “60*60*24”, or something a little more complicated: “sin(45)*sqrt(10^3)/2*pi”


Currency/unit conversion

To do a currency conversion based on current rates, try something like: “24.99 USD in NZD” to convert from US$ to NZ$. Obviously there are loads of other currencies you can use including GBP for British pounds and AUD for Australian dollars. For unit conversion, here’s a couple of examples to get you started: “25 ft in m”, “97F in C”, “36in in cm”, “60kt in km”.


An international clock

Simply type in “time in Sydney” (or some other city) to get current time there at the top of the search results page. This also works for “GMT” or “UTC”.


A dictionary

Entering a single word produces a search results page which should have a link near the top right to jump to a full dictionary entry containing pronunciation, synonyms, and definitions. To quickly get a list of definitions on the web, simply enter “define: ” and then your word, eg “define: cipher”. Or try an abbreviation: “define: ftw”. And worth noting is that if you spell your word incorrectly, Google normally suggests a more common spelling right at the top.


A phone/address book

This works great for many businesses including restaurants – enter the business/restaurant name and the first entry on the results page often has a listing including map, address and contact info. Note however, for some more generic names you might strike some unexpected results or you’ll need to narrow your search. Eg “Martin Bosley” works a treat, but “The White House” needs “restaurant” added on the end if you want to visit Oriental Parade and not Washington!


Movie times

To get the screening times of a movie, eg Avatar, try entering “movie avatar”. The first time you do this you might be asked for a city and whether you want to remember that location. Alternatively, you could enter “movie avatar wellington” to get straight as some local results.


Flight tracking

If you know the flight number of an aircraft, type it in to see the scheduled departure/arrival time. Eg “NZ 413”. Note that while this is cool, I’m not 100% sure how up to date flightstats.com is when it comes to delays. You might be better to check the airport/airline website (eg Wellington or Air New Zealand).


A weather forecast

While I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this one(!), Google does present simple forecasts for cities around the world. Eg “weather melbourne”. Of course if you want a NZ forecast you should visit metservice.com 😉


Document search by filetype

If you want to track down a specific type on document on a subject, use the filetype: search option – for example “google filetype:pdf” will only show PDF documents in the search results for “google”.


And as a bonus, a couple more that are Google search driven, but require you to leave the results page…

A map portal

If you’d like to get to a map of a particular city or even a suburb, simply add the word map after your location of interest, eg “wellington map”. The first result should be a direct link to that place on Google Maps.


Visual search

Google’s image search is a fantastic way of finding pictures of something or someone. Usually a search with “images” on the end will return a results page with a sample of images at the top linking to the image results only. (If not, click the “images” text link near the top left of the page.) Once you’re in the images results, be sure to click the “show options” link for some powerful filtering tools – eg you can search for particular sized images, types of images such as drawings or photos, and you can even search for images by colour!


And finally, let Google complete your query! The auto-suggest feature that drops down some suggested results as you start typing can be a fast way of getting at your search term and lets you see the number of results for similar queries. For example:


Have fun Googling! 🙂

Tweak Google Search in Firefox – NZ edition!

Here’s three tweaks to Firefox for the search box – a couple for everyone and one for kiwis or anyone else wanting to use the regional New Zealand site, google.co.nz.

Open results in a new tab

This is one of the first changes I make to every Firefox install. By default, if you search from Firefox’s search box near the top right of the browser the results open in the current tab – potentially killing something you might have been working on. To have results always open in a new tab enter “about:config” in the address bar and hit return. Read and acknowledge the warning and then enter “browser.search.openintab” in the filter box. Double click this entry to toggle the value to “true”.

Now search safe in the knowledge you won’t lose your current tab.

Update the search box icon for Google

The blog Mozilla Links has a nice little post detailing how to update the search box to use the new Google favicon. It involves downloading and replacing a small file in your Firefox install directory.

Awww, isn’t it pretty!

Change the search box to use Google.co.nz

If you use google.co.nz for your internet searches, you will probably have noticed the option below the search box to search “the web” or “pages from New Zealand”.

By default the search box in Firefox uses google.com so those search options are not available on the results page. To change this you’ll need to make a small change to the file that got replaced in the above tweak – google.xml, which for Windows users normally lives at,

C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins\google.xml

Open that file in a text editor (like Notepad) and look for the line that contains,

<Url type="text/html" method="GET" template="http://www.google.com/search">

Change the template address to “http://www.google.co.nz/search&#8221; and save the file. Now (re)start Firefox and you’re done. Search results will come from “the web” by default, but using the NZ regional site google.co.nz thus allowing you to re-search pages from New Zealand easily.


Props to WordPress Support

After recently changing to the K2 theme here, I noticed that the search function was only returning a single page of results with no links to get at more pages of results.

After contacting the support team via WordPress.com last night, they had it fixed within 24 hours.

Now that’s awesome. Kudos WordPress!

Google in Maori launched

When visiting google.co.nz this morning I noticed a new option on the homepage, “Google.co.nz offered in: Maori” – which results in this,

The launch coincides with Maori language week here in New Zealand, and a quick Google Search for more info yielded this article at Geekzone and a more general blog post about languages from Google themselves.

Kudos Google.

The future of Google…

In the future, Google knows all – don’t just search the web, search your life…