10 ways to get more out of Google

You spend half your life there so you might as well find out how to do it properly. Here Esquire's technology columnist, John Lanchester, offers 10 steps to better Googling.

1 You can find the meaning of any word by putting “define:” in front of it and hitting “Search”. The result is a range of dictionary definitions.

 Google will do sums for you. Not just simple ones, but complex symbol-heavy calculations. Search 2+2 to give it a try. It will also calculate currency conversions and unit conversions (square feet into square metres, kilos into pounds, etc).

Google will translate from most common languages into most other ones. It will directly translate any web page. It isn’t perfect, but it’s often handy. Look under “Language tools” on the home page.

4  Under “Preferences” on the home page, you can set Google’s default language to be anything you like, including Latin and Pirate. (Pirate for “Advanced Search” is “Use Me Better Spyglass”.) Party trick: while your co-worker is away from his desk, turn his Google home page into Klingon. Heavens, how amused he’ll be!

5 You can search for specific phrases by putting double quotes around them. It’s often quicker, I find, directly looking for a phrase that’s stuck in your memory, rather than trying to remember the site where you found it.

If you put “inurl:” in front of what you’re searching for, it looks for those words in the domain name — useful for those sites whose title isn’t exactly the same as their domain name.

The default number of results per page for a search is 10, but under Preferences you can set this to 20, 30, 50 or 100. Using this, you can scan an incredible number of pages super-fast. 

You can set “alerts” to get news on subjects that interest you — it’s on the home page, under “more” and then the submenu “even more”. It will send updates daily, weekly, or as-it-happens.

Google’s geographical tools range from the useful (Maps) to the useful-but-slightly sinister (Street View — it takes photos at street level, but hasn’t got going in the UK yet) to the inspiring (Google Earth) to the educational (Google Sky) to the geeky (Google Mars). 

10 And all this is to leave out the stuff that I use not just every day, but pretty much every hour of the day — Mail, Calendar, Reader, and YouTube. Oh, and it’s shit-hot at searching the web.

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Crikey. They can’t keep this up for another 10 years, can they? Google isn’t perfect and its sheer scale is increasingly raising questions; there is an argument that its net effect is one of dumbing-down. But I can’t think of a company that has ever brought the user so many useful tools for free. These days, that’s everybody’s favourite price.