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5 ways to make better use of search engines

Search engines like Google are our gateway to the internet, but many of us don’t know how to make the most of them. Here are a few tips for smarter, more efficient searching.

1. Use the tabs – Web, Image, News, More.

Once you’ve done your search, you can use the tabs at the top of the Google to narrow things even further. You might have noticed these tabs before – they say All, Images, News, Videos, Shopping, etc.

So, say you’re shopping for a new pair of cufflinks. You type cufflinks into the search bar. If you stay on All (the default page), you’ll probably see a bunch of websites that sell cufflinks – however, you’ll need to click on them to see anything more.

If you use the Shopping tab, however, Google will know you’re specifically looking to purchase a set of cufflinks and will show you a range of cufflinks including pictures, prices, and user ratings.

2. Avoid common words and punctuation – focus on keywords

Words like a, the, and, etc. are known as “stop words” and are generally unnecessary in your search.

So, say you’re trying to remember the full name of a former Australian cricketer by the name of Doug. You don’t need to type the whole phrase – e.g., what was the full name of the Australian cricketer by the name of Doug. Only the keywords in that phrase are necessary.

Simply typing australian cricketer doug will get you the answer you’re looking for (Doug Walters? Doug Bollinger? Both appear at the top of the search!) in half the time.

3. Use "Boolean operators"

A "Boolean operator" is a fancy way of saying that you use symbols to narrow your search. So, for example placing the word and between two search terms tells Google that you only want to see results where both terms are included. Placing the word not between two search terms tells Google you want your results to include the first term, but also to exclude the second term. And placing quote marks around your search terms tells Google to only show you results where those words are used in the exact order in which you typed them.

4. Search by voice

See that microphone key on your smartphone's keyboard? You can use it to search the web without having to type anything in. Simply open your smartphone's browser, tap the search bar to begin typing, and then when the keyboard comes up, hit the microphone. You can then speak the search into your phone – and Google will do the rest.

5. Use it to do maths, convert measurements, convert currency, and more

You can do a range of mathematical tasks on Google quickly and easily. This could be something as simple as an equation – type 2 + 2 into Google, for example, and you can probably guess what happens – or it could be something more complex, such as converting currencies and measurements. Want to know how many kilometres are in 18 miles? Type 18 miles in km and Google will give you the answer. Want to know how many Australian dollars are in a US$100? Type convert US 100 to aud and you’ll find out. Want to find out what a 60-degree Fahrenheit day works out to be in Celsius? Type 60 fahrenheit in Celsius.