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Building Research Tools with Google For Dummies
By Harold Davis
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7645-7809-X
Chapter OneGoogling the World
In This Chapter
* Searching with Google
* Searching with a number
* Using Google shortcuts
* The parts of Google
* Downloading and using the Google Toolbar
How do you easily find information about anything (or anyone)? You "google" it (or them) using Google's Web search. For many (if not most) people, the Google Web search engine is the information gateway to the Web (and the world).
You probably know that it's easy to enter almost any words or names in the Google Web search engine and get useful search results back. But you may not know that you can also enter many specialized numbers into Google's Web search box - such as shipment tracking numbers, product codes, and more - and get useful results. In this chapter, I tell you about some of the specialized information you can request from Google, how to use Google shortcuts to get information about stocks and travel, and how to use Google's wonderful "secret" calculator.
Google is the world's biggest one-stop shopping mall for finding information on the Web. Most likely, you already know about - and have used - Google's Web search functions. But you may not know about some of the other "shops" that are part of the Google Web information mall. In this chapter, I list many of the hidden parts of Google - including Google Answers, Google Directory, GoogleNews, and Google Scholar - and tell you where in this book you can find more information about each specific part of Google.
Last, but hardly least, the Google Toolbar is a wonderful add-on to Internet Explorer that makes using Google more efficient and fun. In this chapter, I show you how to download and install the Google Toolbar, and explain its features to you.
Searching the Web with Google
To open the Google Web search window, which is also Google's home page, enter the URL (Uniform Resource Locator), or Web address, google.com, in your Web browser (such as Microsoft Internet Explorer).
When the Google home page appears, you see the familiar, simple, uncluttered window shown in Figure 1-1.
To search the Web with Google, enter your search terms in the text box. Click the Google Search button. The results of Google's search - a list of pages and their associated Web links - opens in your Web browser (usually in an amazingly short amount of time). For more information about what you find on a Google results page, and how to make the most of it, see Chapter 4.
If you click the I'm Feeling Lucky button instead of the Google Search button, the first result (the result at the top of the list that the Google Web search would otherwise spit out) automatically opens in your browser. This option can save time (by skipping the Google results page with its links) - but, of course, is a time-waster if the first result does not have the information you're looking for.
The vast majority of searches that you conduct with Google aren't fancy. You have done dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of them already. You just enter some words in the Google search box, separating each word with spaces. For a great many uses, this kind of "keep it simple" Google search is good enough.
The words entered for a Google search are sometimes called keywords or search terms. All the words in a search together are called a search phrase or query.
Researchers often need to search with greater precision than a simple keyword search allows. In Chapters 4 and 5, I explain how to use Google's query language, which strings together Google operators with keywords, to craft powerful and precise searches.
Searching using Google's rules
Even with simple Google keyword searches, there are some basic rules Google follows that you need to know about to get more out of your searches:
Searching for words, not meaning
When Google pursues simple searches, it looks for word occurrences, not meaning. Although this point is simple, it is probably both the most subtle and the most important for getting good search results. You need to think about how words are likely to be used in Web pages.
For example, a search for hello world in Google might seem likely to produce results pointing to pages with information about spiritualism, ecology, and kids' programs. But if you are a programmer, or have ever learned a programming language, you'll probably know that it's a common custom to write an introductory program that displays the phrase "Hello World." Most of the results for a hello world search link to pages about programming, programming languages, and learning to program.
If you want to search for information about introductory programming, the query hello world might be a good way to go about it because on real-world Web pages the word "hello" and the word "world" usually appear in proximity in pages about introductory programs.
Your simple Google searches can be highly effective, but they will probably work better if you follow these suggestions:
Refining your search
One of the biggest problems with Google searches is sifting through the large number of results that are often returned. Many of these results are not what you are looking for.
There are several easy ways to refine a simple Google search. These techniques yield essentially comparable results. You can
To add words to an existing search, first run the initial query, for example, hello world.
As I explain earlier, in "Searching for words, not meaning," a search for the phrase hello world might be useful if you are looking for introductory information about programming languages. But that doesn't mean that you'll only end up with results about programming - so such a restriction might be very helpful, seeing as how the last time I did this search, Google yielded some 16 million results.
You can refine your search so that you only find material about programming languages. Scroll to the bottom of the first Google results page and you see the Google search box with the search words hello world already in it. You can add the terms programming language immediately after the original search terms and click the Search button (see Figure 1-2). A new, refined, results page displays.
The Google search box, with the existing search terms already in it, also appears at the top of each search results page.
Alternatively, on a Google results page, you can click the Search within results link. This link appears at the bottom of each Google search results page (refer to Figure 1-2).
When you click the Search within results link, the Google Search Within Results window, shown in Figure 1-3, opens.
In the Search Within Results window, you can add the terms, such as programming language, that you want to use to refine your search. Google searches for the new term (in this case, programming language), but only within the results for the previous search (hello world).
We live in a world in which things - and even people, eek! - are often identified by numbers. This makes it a gosh darn good thing that you can enter most of these numbers in Google and get meaningful results.
Google provides a shorthand way to search for a numerical range. For example, a search for 1066 ... 1099 returns results for all numbers between 1066 and 1099. You can use numerical range matching if you are sure of most of a number, but not all of it; for example, if you know the first nine digits of a number, but not the last three digits.
You may be scratching your head at this point because you're not aware of all the meaningful results you can get when you enter numbers into the Google search box.
A "number" might be a mixed combination of numbers and letters used to identify something.
Some numbers you can search for include
When you enter any of these types of identification numbers in Google, you may see a typical search results page with links that provide information using the number. Sometimes, however, you may see a special search results page - for example, if you search for a Federal Express shipping number, a page with a Track FedEx package XXXXXXXXX link appears. Clicking the link opens the Federal Express page used for tracking that package.
Google provides a number of helpful shortcuts that you can use to easily find a wide array of information. In this section, I tell you about three of these shortcut techniques. I show you how to use Google to
The Google calculator
The Google calculator does arithmetic for you, and also performs more complex calculations. You just have to use the syntax specified by Google - see google.com/help/calculator.html for complete information about using the calculator - and enter your expression for calculation.
For example, enter 42*12 in the Google box and click the Search button. The answer (504) appears on the results page, along with a link so that you can learn more about the calculator. Another link appears to search for the query 42 * 12, just in case you really meant to search rather than to calculate.
Enter the expression 2*pi*26 into the Google search box and click the Search button. This expression evaluates to 163.362818 (which is the circumference of a circle with a radius of 26).
The Google calculator can do much more! Suppose you want to find the value of the famous mathematical expression e^(i pi)+1. If you enter this expression in Google and click Search, you'll find that it evaluates to 0, as you can see in Figure 1-4.
To find out more about the expression shown in Figure 1-4, search Google for Euler's Identity or click the link that lets you search for more information about the expression e^(i pi)+1.
Finding out about stocks
To find out about a publicly traded stock, enter the word stock, followed by a colon, followed by the ticker symbol for the company (all without spaces) in the Google box and click Search. For example:
If you don't know the ticker symbol for a company, you can usually find it by searching for all (or part) of the company name, followed by the word ticker, for example:
When you use the stock: operator with a valid stock ticker symbol, the first link on the Google results page that appears is a Stock quotes link. Click this link to open a framed, tabbed page of financial and securities information. Tabs with information are provided by Yahoo! Finance, The Motley Fool, MSN MoneyCentral, and ClearStation.
Getting travel information
Finding travel information quickly is simple when you use the Google search box. Here are a couple of the travel shortcuts provided by Google:
Getting local information
Google also provides some tools to help you find specific local information.
If you add a zip code (or city) after your other search terms, the first few results Google returns are local results within the zip code (or city) you specified. These local results are indicated with a little compass icon (see Figure 1-5). A compass icon appears at the top-left side of the search results page; click it if you want to see more local results.
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