The Google search engine almost always does a better job digging information off tech support sites and other specialty websites than the search functions provided by those sites themselves. Learning a handful of advanced Google operators (commands) will make Google more usable and get you more reliable results. Some of my favorite Google tricks:
Wikipedia is a great place to start any kind of online research. To search it quickly, type anything you want in the Google search bar and include wiki at the end; e.g., “Frank Lloyd Wright wiki” and Google will usually return the closest matching Wikipedia entry in the first few search results.
SITE:, INURL:, and CACHE: search operators. Google (and other search engines) set aside special words called “search operators” that will automatically modify your search in specific ways. You must include the colon directly after the operator (no spaces), but the operator need not be capitalized.
Let’s say you are trying to find out what’s causing your Word 2010 software to crash. Type “Word 2010 crash SITE:answers.microsoft.com” in the Google search bar and it will return anything about a Word 2010 crash on Microsoft’s “Answers” website.
If you don’t know the exact website but do know part of the name, use the INURL: operator instead. (URL means Uniform Resource Locator or, in English, the “Web address.”)
Typing “Word 2010 crash INURL:Microsoft.com” in the Google search bar will get you search results that contain “Word 2010 crash” from any domain that has “Microsoft” as part of it — Microsoft.com answers.microsoft.com, Microsoft.com.ca, and so forth.
If you don’t come up with anything from the current websites you’re trying to search, sometimes searching Google’s saved (cached) pages will do the trick. Type “Word 2010 crash CACHE:www.Microsoft.com” in the search bar.
Quotation marks. Let’s say your computer crashed or there is a virus or other malware at play, and you were able to copy/paste or even write down the exact error message. By surrounding it with quotes, your search will return only results with that exact language. Typing: Word 2010 Crash “your computer has stopped working”site:answers.microsoft.com in the search bar will get you any article with the exact error message you’re experiencing. You don’t even need the whole string of words; just put quotes around a few words or a phrase you’re sure of.
Excluding/including specific words. Another way to limit searches is to use the “+” and “–” signs in your search syntax. Let’s say you’re trying to search for housing prices in Richmond, Va. , but you keep getting results about Richmond, Calif., and Richmond, Vt. Get California and Vermont out of your search like this: New home prices Richmond +VA +Virginia -CA -VT -California -Vermont. The plus and minus signs have to be right in front of the word(s) you’re trying to include/exclude, no space.
Define: Need a quick definition of an acronym or word? Use the “Define:” operator: Define:WordYouWantToLookUp will return a dictionary definition or send you to a dictionary site.
These are just the tip of the iceberg. The best overall guide for using Google is the independent Google Guide, which features an excellent two-page cheat sheet in PDF format with all of the advanced Google search operators and syntax and examples of how to use them.
One final trick — use Chrome everywhere you can: Chrome remembers you, and once set up correctly it will automatically sync both your search history and bookmarks between all your gizmos. That alone can save a ton of frustration if you’re forced to search using your smartphone; whatever you looked for last night on your PC will be there waiting for you. Google’s advanced search functions also work on practically every kind of device that can connect to the Internet.