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 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 😉


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! 🙂

Google Search Tricks

In a recent DLTV podcast, Patrick Norton headed over to Google HQ and spoke with Matt Cutts about Search Engine Optimisation. Matt also shared some nifty tricks you can use at, which is much more than just a simple search engine…

The obvious tips came up first, use “double quotes” to refine searches, the minus sign to exclude terms, plus sign to force a search term etc, but it turns out google is way more helpful.

(for the following search examples, don’t include the quotes!)

Foreign times
To find the time in another city, simply enter a search such as “time in sydney”

A useful calculator
Just enter your equation directly into the search box and google will do the calculation. For example “25*12” or “log5*106” or “sin60”. And if you’re really curious, try entering “what is the answer to life the universe and everything” 🙂

Unit and currency conversion
Anlong with math calculations, google will also do conversions for you. Eg. “100 feet in metres” or “1 mile =”. For currency conversion you can either use abbreviations or full currency names such as “100 nzd in gbp” or “500 yen in australian dollars”.

Dictionary definitions
Want to know what a word means? Instead of visiting an online dictionary site, try google first with a search such as “define: internet”.

Search for a specific filetype
If you’re interested in non-webpage results, you can narrow your search to only hit specific filetypes, such as PowerPoint Presentations (ppt) or Adobe’s Portable Document Format (pdf) for example. Enter a search similar to “security filetype:pdf”, and no, searching for mp3’s this way doesn’t work!

I’m sure there’s lots more fancy things you can do with searches at, but the above shoud be a useful starting place for smarter searching.