This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.
Electronic Highways

Become a power Google searcher with Google hacks

Published: November 11, 2009

Tired of Google searches that reap millions upon millions of results? Are your searches reaping results that are “good enough,” but not great? Beyond just entering keywords into Google’s search box, there are several “Google hacks” that can turn you into a power Google searcher. This article will show you some of Google’s more useful commands and features. Note: I use square brackets [ ] to denote queries in this article.

• site: When you insert the command [site:] followed by a Web site or domain into a search, Google allows you to specify that your search results must come from a given Web site. For example, the search [library] will retrieve all pages that mention the term library on the domain. This incredibly powerful command allows you to create custom search engines for Web sites on the fly.

• define: The [define:] command displays definitions from pages on the Web for the term that follows. This advanced search operator is useful for finding definitions of words, phrases and acronyms. For example, the search [define: ion exchange chromatography] will identify and retrieve definitions from Wikipedia, online dictionaries and online glossaries.

• link: The query [link:] will list Web pages that have links to the specified Web page. For instance, [] will list Web pages that have links pointing to the University at Buffalo homepage. Note there can be no space between the “link:” and the URL.

• filetype: By using [filetype:], you are limiting your search to filename suffixes and extensions, including Adobe PDF (pdf), Excel (xls), PowerPoint (ppt) and Word (doc) files. The search [varicella filetype:ppt] will retrieve PowerPoint presentations with the term varicella in them.

• intitle: or inurl: If you include [intitle:] or [inurl:] in your query, Google will restrict the results to documents containing that word in the title or URL respectively. Typing [inurl:buffalo] will retrieve, and

• Quotation marks. By putting quotation marks around a set of words, you are telling Google to search the exact words in that exact order. The search request, [“west nile virus”] will search for the exact phrase and the exact phrase only.

• Tilde. When placing a tilde [~] in front of a search term, you are telling Google to search synonyms of a particular term. For example, [~auto repair] will find repair information on both the word “auto” and its synonyms: truck, car, etc.

• Number ranges. Inserting [..] between two numbers indicates a number range. For example, the query ["NIH Grant" $10000..$50000] will look for pages with NIH grants between $10,000 and $50,000.

• Calculator, measures converter and currency converter. Many people are unaware that Google functions as a calculator, measures converter and currency converter. Try these searches: [5*9+(sqrt 10)], [3.5 cups in pints] and [50 USD in CAD].

Want to find out more hacks? Try the Explore Google Search page for further tips on stock quotes, flight information and package tracking.

Dean Hendrix, University Libraries