Fifteen helpful google search operators

First came the World Wide Web, and then came the search engine (presumably to try and make the whole thing more accessible/manageable). And it wasn’t long (relatively speaking) before one particular search engine proved to be the one to watch (and use): Google. Google has inadvertently revolutionized the way we work – we use it to find definitions, names of proper nouns and check context, research companies, prospective clients and colleagues… the list goes on and one and on. So it makes sense to learn how to google* for things efficiently and effectively. On the simplest level, effective googling translates to knowing what to type into Google in order to find the most relevant information you’re looking for – something that can often be achieved much more easily by employing a few basic search operators, such as:

  • site:
Include “site:” to search for information within a single website. This one in particular can be a godsend when trying to match styles, specific spellings or usages to a client with a website full of already published works, for example.
Example: [ site:foodfortranslators.com books ]

  • define:
Include a word or phrase immediately after the operator “define:” to find the definition of said word or phrase. Just like a dictionary. Simple.
Example: [ define:food ]

  • “....” (double quotes)
Use quotes to search for an exact word or set of words in a specific order, without normal improvements such as spelling corrections and synonyms. Extremely useful for searching for proper nouns, expressions and examples of usage, etc.
Example: [ "read a book written over 100 years ago" ]

  • * (asterisk)
Use an asterisk (*) within a query as a placeholder for any unknown or “wildcard” terms. Tip: You can combine this with double quotation marks to try and find variations of an exact phrase or to remember words in the middle of a phrase:
Example: [ “beat * the bush”]

  • or
If you want to search for pages that may have just one of several words, include OR (must be capitalized) between the words. Without the OR, your results would typically show only pages that match both terms.
Example: [ olympics location 2014 OR 2018 ]

Tip: Enclose phrases in quotes to search for either one of several phrases.
Example: [ "world cup 2014" OR "olympics 2014" ]

  • - (minus sign)
Add a dash (-) before a word to exclude all results that include that word. This is especially useful for synonyms like mountain lion the large cat species and mountain lion the Apple OS.
Example: [ mountain lion -apple ]

Tip: You can also exclude results based on other operators, like excluding all results from a specific site.
Example: [ books -site:foodfortranslators.com ]

  • ~ (tilde)
Normally, synonyms might replace some words in your original query. Add a tilde sign (~) immediately in front of a word to search for that word as well as even more synonyms.
Example: [ ~food facts ] includes results for “nutrition facts”

  • filetype:
Include “filetype:” to search for files of a specific type, such as PDFs.
Example: [ filetype:pdf chicago manual of style facsimile ]

  • .. (two periods)
Separate numbers by two periods (with no spaces) to see results that contain numbers in a given range of things like dates, prices, and measurements.
Example: [ paralympic gold medalists 1996..2012 ]

Tip: Use only one number with the two periods to indicate an upper maximum or a lower minimum.
Example: [ paralympic gold medalists ..2008 ]

  • info:
Type a URL after “info:” to be presented with a short description of the site and a list links to other information related to the site in question.
Example: [ info:www.proz.com ]

  • related:
Type a URL after “related:” to be presented with a list of pages that Google considers to be related to the one you’ve entered.
Example: [ related:www.atanet.org ]

  • allintitle:
Use “allintitle” to restrict a search so that all of the keywords must appear in the page title.
Example: [ allintitle: books for translators ]

  • allintext:
Use “allintitle” to restrict a search so that all of the keywords much appear within the body of the text on the page, rather than in any of the titles, etc.
Example: [ allintext: signs and symptoms of translators dementia ]

  • time:
Promised a client that you’ll have a finished piece of work with them before 3pm? Is that 3pm in their country or yours? What time is it in their country now? Or what time is it in your country for that matter?  4am? …isn’t it about time you went to bed?
Example: [ time:London ]

  • translate:
Well, we couldn’t very well leave this one out now could we…  Type a word or phrase in another language after “translate:” to see an English translation (presumably produced by the same system that powers Google Translate) of said word or phrase.
Example: [ translate:翻訳者 ]

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