www.Wasting Too Much Time on the Web

Effective Google search tips

by becky berg

It all began the day Conner got gum in his hair. I was quite clueless regarding how one removes gum from a 3 year old’s hair. “How will you get it out, mommy?” Hmm...., I thought. Good question. I hate to admit this, but Conner didn’t suggest that we head to the local library for the answer. But rather, he stated, “Well mom, just Google it!” Within a few short minutes, I found a solution that worked. (Peanut butter!)

Whether you are searching for a healthy snack to send to preschool or resources to help your child learn a new concept, most of us head to the Internet for answers. We also spend more time Googling than we ever intend to...a few minutes, turns into numerous hours. Often times, we spend more time than necessary due to ineffective searching and other times…simply because we get off on a tangent. Speaking of tangents, did you happen to know the word Googel (el) means 1 followed by 100 zeros. Now isn’t that appropriate? Due to the wealth of information available in Google, it is valuable to learn a few tricks and techniques to search more effectively.

Search Tip #1 Changing Preferences for Safer Searching. As the saying goes, “Safety 1st” My first suggestion when using Google is to adjust your filtering system by going into the Preferences found next to the Google search box. Click on Preferences. Next to Safe Search Filtering choose “use strict filtering”. This will be just one way that you can filter out some of the inappropriate content that is on the web. This is surely not a “cure-all”, but it does help in creating a safer search environment within Google.

Search Tip #2 It’s All About the Quotations: If you are searching for something that is more than one word (a phrase), use quotes. Doing so will allow you to find the entire phrase, instead of isolated words. For example, if I type what causes day and night without quotes it will show results that have these words, but not necessarily contingent. This search resulted in 306,000 website hits. As I take a look at the search results, many of them relate to the topic I had in mind. However, without using quotes, I received search results that related to insomnia. For example, one of the search hits included a website description that stated, “Others can sleep fine during the day, but not at night. Some of the more likely causes…” Take note that this site included the same key words, but the results did not show the exact phrase.

If in the search box I type “what causes day and night” (in quotes), all of the search results show the entire phrase “what causes day and night” Because of the quotes, the words must be contingent, in that EXACT same order for Google to include it in the search results. It was quite amazing that by using quotes, the results included only 2,090 search hits. Give this a try using some of your own search terms!

Search Tip #3 Searching for a Specific File Type: Using the Advanced Search Option found to the right of the Google search box, you can search for specific file types. File types include Word documents (.doc), Excel Spreadsheets (.xls), PowerPoint Presentations (.ppt), and several others.

To find a PowerPoint presentation on “What Causes Day and Night” click on the Advanced Search link next to the Google Search Box.

In the exact phrase box, type What Causes Day and Night (by putting it in this box, Google will automatically add the quotes for you!).

Then, in the File Format dropdown box, choose PowerPoint. Click on Search.

Notice that all of the search results include PowerPoint presentations. In order to view this presentation you will need the Microsoft PowerPoint program OR you will need to download the PowerPoint Viewer. (Type “Download PowerPoint Viewer” in Google to find this free download.)

Being able to easily show your child a presentation on a topic they are learning about can definitely be beneficial. There are many applications for this tip! Perhaps you are in need of an Excel spreadsheet for a Chore Chart for your family. By finding a Chore Chart online that is in Excel format, you could easily open it in Excel and modify it in a snap!

Hopefully these tips will allow you and your family to be more safe and efficient in your online search endeavors! SFM

Becky Berg lives in Billings with her husband and two boys ages 7&4. She develops and facilitates various courses in the areas of technology and education. For additional information please email becky at becberg@gmail.com