15 things you probably didn't know about Google
Used by millions, but few know how to interrogate the world's most popular search engine
Published 29/05/2014 | 02:30
Google is used by millions of people to navigate the web every day, but how many of us really put it through its paces? Here are 15 useful features you may not know about.
Google's calculator function is far more powerful than most people realise. As well as doing basic maths (5+6 or 3*2) it can do logarithmic calculations, and it knows constants (like e and pi), as well as functions like Cos and Sin. Google can also translate numbers into binary code – try typing '12*3 in binary'.
2. Site search
By using the 'site:' keyword, you can make Google only return results from one site. So for example, you could search for "site:independent.ie local elections" and only get stories on the recent local elections from Independent.ie's website.
Currency conversions and unit conversions can be found by using the syntax: <amount> <unit1> in <unit2>. So for example, you could type '1 EUR in USD', '20 C in F' or '15 inches in cm' and get an instant answer.
4. Time zones
Search for 'time in <place>' and you will get the local time for that place, as well as the time zone it is in.
A quick way to translate foreign words is to type 'translate <word> to <language>'. So for example, 'translate pomme to English' returns the result apple, and 'translate pomme to Spanish' returns the result 'manzana'.
6. Search for a specific file type
If you know you are looking for a PDF or a Word file, you can search for specific file types by typing '<search term> filetype:pdf' or '<search term> filetype:doc'
7. Check flight status
If you type in a flight number, the top result is the details of the flight and its status. So, for example, typing in EI 123 reveals that Aer Lingus flight 123 departs Dublin Terminal 2 today at 11.30am and arrives at Chicago Terminal 5 today at 1.50pm local time.
8. Search for local film showings
Search for film showings in your area by typing 'films' or 'movies' followed by your postcode. In Ireland, this only narrows it down to your town or city. For example, type in 'films ballina' and you will see listings for cinema times there.
9. Weather forecasts
Type the name of a city followed by 'forecast', and Google will tell you the weather today, including levels of precipitation, humidity and wind, as well as the forecast for the next week, based on data from 'The Weather Channel'.
10. Exclude search terms
When you enter a search term that has a second meaning, or a close association with something else, it can be difficult to find the results you want. Exclude irrelevant results using the '-' sign. So for searches for 'apple' where the word 'iPhone' is not used, enter 'apple -iPhone'.
11. Public data
To see trends for population and unemployment rates of different cities and counties, type 'population' or 'unemployment rate' followed by the location. So for example, typing 'unemployment rate ireland' returns the answer 12.6pc, and shows a graph of unemployment rates over the last 5 years (expandable to 20 years).
12. Related search
To search for web pages that have similar content to a given site, type 'related:' followed by the website address into the Google search box. For example, typing 'related:independent.ie' gives a list of other Irish newspaper and media websites.
13. Package tracking
If you have a package tracking number from the USPS, UPS or FedEx, simply plug it into Google Search and it will provide a convenient link for you.
Google's dictionary function allows you to type define:term and get definitions of words. So a search for 'define:discombobulated' tells you that it is the past participle, past tense of discombobulate, which means to disconcert or confuse.
15. Barrel Roll
Simply type "do a barrel roll" into the search bar and Google dutifully obeys. Warning: this Google trick is known to make grown men squeal with delight.