TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter – February 2003

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Google LogoAre You a Power Googler?
OK, you know how to search with Google. So does 75% of the online world. Maybe you’ve installed the Google Toolbar in your browser. So did Shania Twain, and that don’t impress me much. It’s time for you to start becoming a real power Googler. Here’s your guide to getting the very most out of this incredible zero-cost resource on your computer desktop:

Search Basics. We’ll start with a review of the basics, which means knowing how to enter a proper search query. If you just type a couple of words into Google and press enter, you’ll get a list of pages that contain ALL of the words in your query. For example [dinosaur mating habits] is the same as [dinosaur and mating and habits]. If you get too few pages of results, try cutting out a word or two to broaden your search, or add a few to narrow it. You can search on a maximum of ten words, and Google automatically ignores common words like “the,” “in,” “where,” etc. The next step up in sophistication in your search is to use phrases. If you enclose your search terms in quotation marks (e.g. “dinosaur mating habits”), you’ll only pull the web pages Google has indexed (out of 3 billion+) with that exact text string. By the way, don’t worry about capitalizing; Google searches aren’t case sensitive.

Toolbar. If you’re running Internet Explorer (version 5 or later) on a PC, you absolutely should download and install the terrific Google Toolbar. I use the Google Toolbar constantly. Actually, it’s probably the most frequently used software on my computer. With the toolbar, you have instant access to most of Google’s features, plus some very interesting exclusive elements, like the PageRank meter, which shows you how popular the site you’re viewing is, and the highlight button, which applies a yellow highlighter pen to the search terms right in the web page. Very nice.

Image Search. Have you ever tried to find a specific picture on a search engine? If you just type in a keyword in most search engines, you’ll get a list of sites that may or may not contain the image you’re searching for. Google to the rescue, with over 425 million images indexed. Just click on the “Images” tab and type in your keywords. Just one minor word of warning: because this is the wild wild web, you may dredge up some unpleasant or offensive images along with the good. Particularly, if you have a youngster shoulder surfing along with you, it’s a good idea to use “Safe Search” on the advanced image search page.

Searching for Web Pages is Just the Beginning

Did you know that Google can also provide you with news headlines, stock quotes, phone book listings, street maps, foreign language translations, and much more? Did you know that for fifty cents you can post a question  that a human researcher will bid to answer for you (at just two dollars and up)?

The Other Internet. Internet old timers fondly remember “newsgroups.” These are organized discussion threads whose structure predates the World Wide Web. Newsgroups (also known as Usenet) have fallen out of favor for the mainstream but remain viable for niche interest groups. That’s why, if you’re looking for opinions or advice, or are doing research in an obscure area, you should know about Google Groups. It contains over 800 million searchable postings on an incredible variety of topics.

Perry White, Watch Out. Have you seen Google News yet? If I owned a conventional newspaper or news-reporting web site, I’d be very concerned about Google News. It’s a totally automated newspaper front page that’s updated every few minutes. Google News pulls from about 4,000 different news sources and, in the same way Google ranks web page searches by relevance, presents headline news and photos without human intervention. There are still a few rough spots, but Google News is refreshingly free from human editor bias, and has become a regular fixture on my desktop.

But Wait! There’s More. Google is truly the Ginsu knife of the Internet. Are you getting tired jumping back and forth among all your search results? Then try Google Viewer. It presents your search results in an series of “slide show” snapshots. Prefer a more structured search environment? Then look in Google Directory. It’s a Yahoo-like tree-structured directory that permits you to “drill down” through intelligently-organized categories and subcategories (for example: Science > Astronomy > Extraterrestrial Life > SETI)

Catalogs at Your Fingertips. Hundreds of printed mail order catalogs have been scanned and are now searchable in Google Catalogs. Amazing as it seems, not everything you want in life is available for purchase online. There are so many interesting, obscure items available only from print catalogs – and many industrial products can only be ordered out of thick bound directories. Now a lot of them are not only online, but keyword searchable too. You’ll still have to pick up the phone to order, but now finding what you want is so much easier.

Shopping Engine. There’s something new from the folks at Google: Froogle, a massive shopping engine that will help you get the best price on a huge variety of merchandise. (Get it? Save money = Froogle? – sound it out). There's some puffery involved when they claim, “All the world's products in one place,” but given some time, it may really happen. By the way, Google is making some online companies mad with Froogle (I like it when that kind of thing happens), and may suffer some backlash. The full story is at BusinessWeek Online.

Believe it or not, I haven’t covered everything Google can do. There’s even more. They’re always adding and testing new features – and making it easier for you to become a true Power Googler.

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(c) Copyright 2002-2010 Victor Urbach
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