Google Search for Similar Words

Not sure you’re thinking of the right word for a query? Do you figure that some w eb pages might use alternate words to describe what you’re thinking of?

Then use synonyms in your searches!

Google uses the tilde (~) operator to search for synonyms of a specific word.

Just enter the tilde before the keyword, like this: ~keyword.

For example, to search for words that are like the word “elderly,” enter the query ~elderly. This will find pages that include not just the word “elderly,” but also the words “senior,” “older,” and so on.

Search for an Exact Phrase

Here’s one of Google’s most powerful search tools, but also one that not enough users know about. When you want to search for a particular item that you describe in multiple words, enclose the entire phrase in quotation marks. This forces Google to search for the exact phrase, and thus returns more targeted results.

For example, if you’re searching for Monty Python, you could enter monty python as your query, and you’d get acceptable results; the results will include pages that include both the words “monty” and “python.” But these results will include not only pages about the British comedy troupe, but also pages about snakes named Monty, and guys named Monty who have snakes for pets.

To limit the results just to pages about the Monty Python troupe, you want to search for pages that include the two words in that precise order. So you should enter the query “monty python”—making sure to include the quotation marks.

This way if the word “monty” occurs at the top of a page and “python” occurs at the bottom, it won’t be listed in the search results.

Let’s take this a step further. Want to search for the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Enter “monty python and the holy grail”. Your results will be much more targeted than if your query includes all these words separately without the quotation marks.

Include Stop Words in Your Search

In an effort to produce more efficient searches, Google automatically disregards certain common words, called stop words, that you might include in your search queries. Including a stop word in a search normally does nothing but slow the search down, which is why Google excises them. Examples of the types of words that Google ignores are “where,” “how,” and “what,” as well as certain single letters (“a”) and digits. For example, if you enter the query how electricity works, Google ignores the “how” and searches only for “electricity” and “works.”

If you want to include specific stop words in your search, you have to instruct Google to do so. You do this by adding a plus sign (+) to your query, immediately followed (with no space) by the stop word you want to include. (Make sure you put a space before the plus sign but not afterwards!) Using our example, to include the stop word “how” in your search, you’d enter the following query: +how electricity works.

If a particular stop word is part of a phrase, you can also use the phrase operator to include the stop word in your query. In this particular example, you could enter the query “how electricity works” and the stop word “how” would automatically be included.

Narrow Your Search to Specific File Types

Google can search for information contained in all sorts of documents—not just HTML Web pages. In particular, Google searches for the following file types and extensions in addition to normal Web pages:

Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF)

Adobe PostScript (PS)

Lotus 1-2-3 (WK1, WK2, WK3, WK4, WK5, WKI, WKS, WKU)

Lotus WordPro (LWP)

MacWrite (MW)

Microsoft Excel (XLS)

Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT)

Microsoft Word (DOC)

Microsoft Works (WDB, WKS, WPS)

Microsoft Write (WRI)

Rich Text Format (RTF)

Text (ANS, TXT)

If you want to restrict your results to a specific file type, add the following phrase to your query: filetype:filetype. For example, if you want to search only for Microsoft Word documents, enter filetype:doc.

To eliminate a particular file type from your search results, add the following phrase to your query: -filetype:filetype. For example, if you want to eliminate PDF files from your results, enter -filetype:pdf.

Travel Back in Time for Your Search

When you conduct your search, do you have in mind a particular page or article that you remember reading a year or so ago? Then what you want is a time machine—one that can take you back to search the Web as it existed at a particular point in time.

Google can be that time machine.

Google lets you limit your search results to Web pages created within a particular date range. This way you can eliminate newer (or older) pages from your results, and glimpse a snapshot of the Web the way it once was.

There are two ways to restrict your Google search to a specific date range. The first is the least practical, but it’s worth discussing anyway.

When you use the daterange: operator, Google restricts its search to Web pages that match the dates you enter. Know, however, that Google dates the pages in its index based on when it indexed them—not when the pages were actually created. So if a page was created sometime back in 1999 but Google didn’t get around to indexing it until June 15, 2003, it will be dated June 15, 2003. It’s an imperfect way to approach this issue, but it’s the only one that Google offers.

And there’s another catch to using the daterange: operator—you have to express the date as a Julian date, which is a continuous count of dates since January 1, 4713 BC.

If you insist on using the daterange: operator, your query syntax should look like this: daterange:startdate-enddate. I won’t bother with an example.

The better approach is to use the Date option on Google’s Advanced Search page. This option lets you enter current dates; none of this Julian nonsense. Just enter a start date and an ending date, and Google will restrict its search to pages indexed during that time frame. (Skip ahead to Secret #144 to learn more about the Advanced Search page.)

List Pages That Link to a Specific Page

Want to know which other Web pages are linked to a specific page? Because Google works by tracking page links, this is easy to find out. All you have to do is use the link: operator, like this: link:URL. For example, to see the thousands of pages that link to Microsoft’s Web site, enter link:www.microsoft.com.

Make Google Safe for Kids

There’s a lot of unsavory content on the Internet. When you perform a Google search, some of these undesirable pages can end up in your search results— which is not a great thing if it’s your kids who are doing the searching.

Fortunately, Google offers a content filter that you can apply to your Google searches. Google’s SafeSearch filter screens the Google index for sites that contain adult information and then eliminates those pages from your search results.

Google uses proprietary technology to check keywords, phrases, URLs, and Google Directory categories against a list of objectionable words and topics.

When you activate SafeSearch, you’re blocked from viewing results that contain these undesirable words and topics.

You activate the SafeSearch filter from Google’s Preferences page. You have three choices:

Moderate filtering: Blocks objectionable images from Google Image Search results; it doesn’t block any pages based on objectionable text.

This is the default configuration.

Strict filtering: Blocks both objectionable words and images—and also includes a stricter image filter than the moderate filtering option.

Do not filter my search results: This turns off the SafeSearch filter.

If your kids use Google, consider activating SafeSearch’s strict filtering option.

It’s not perfect, but it does a pretty good job of reducing the amount of bad stuff your kids might be exposed to.

Convert Units of Measure

Another surprise is that Google’s calculator also handles conversions. It knows miles and meters, furlongs and light years, seconds and fortnights, and even angstroms and Smoots—and it can convert from one unit of measurement to another.

Don’t know how many feet equal a meter? Then enter the query 1 meter in feet.

Not sure how many teaspoons are in a cup? Enter 1 cup in teaspoons. Want to find out your weight in kilos, or your age in seconds? Enter the queries 180 pounds in kg or 45 years in seconds. (The answers are 3.2808399 feet, 48 teaspoons, 81.6466266 kilograms, and 1.42006167 ื 1009 seconds, respectively.)

That’s right, all the formulas necessary for these types of conversions are hardwired into the Google search engine. Just state your query as clearly as possible and Google will do the rest.

Google even lets you do some nonsensical conversions. You can query speed of light in knots or 1 foot in smoots. You can also use these conversions to create nonsense calculations, such as (radius of earth) / 3 teaspoons. It doesn’t make any sense, but Google can do it.