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A job hunting friend wanted to Google details on a prospective company. A normal search yielded lots of search results but how do you get the latest up to date information? Google results quite routinely includes pages from the way distant past.

There are two faces to the ‘date’ conundrum.

1. How to find the date of the page I am reading?
2. How to search within a specific date?

As I set out to seek answers to the two, various ‘solutions’ came up. Not absolutely iron clad, because we must remember that the web is a dynamic medium and search engines have their own foibles which the boffins call search algorithms. Search engines or web bots pick up web pages for indexing and this date might be totally different from the actual date of publishing. But we can safely assume that it’s close.

Standard hypertext has no codes for establishing the date of a web page. Meta tags for including copyright information exists but it is ignored by search spiders and more often by the designers themselves. More importantly, on the net there are different kinds of dates…publication date, indexing date, update dates…etc, etc. The results we get from our efforts may not be accurate but at least an approximation (however faulty) is something we have to live with for the time being. Back to the problems….

Is the page I am reading current – or not?

Blame it on the page designers who are lackadaisical about a small date line. If you don’t want to read an antiquated website, use this handy JavaScript hint –

    (1) Insert the code ‘javascript:alert(document.lastModified)‘ (without the quotes) in the address bar. The alert box pops up to give an update date. The problem? You need to have JavaScript enabled, it does not work on all browsers and it fails for dynamic pages where it takes the system date. But for static sites it still worth a shot.

    (2) Download the Link Diagnosis Firefox extension from LinkDiagnosis. Right-click on the webpage, and you get the page age. The add-on uses the ‘inurl’ string and the date filter of Google Search.

The better approach – search by date.

Here are a few ways to search for information using specific dates.

    (3) Google (and most search engines) has a search by date function. Drill down to the ‘Advanced Search‘ page and expand the ‘Date, usage rights, numeric range, and more‘ link. You can search within the year, month, week and day. One wonders why Google hasn’t included this on the first page.

    google results

    (4) Use a third party website using the Google engine to do a date search by default. The four on my radar are –

      # Gigablast – Fine-tunes the Google search by including a start date and an end date range.

      # Spific – You can filter the search results further through a drop down box. A few extra filters of 2, 3 and 6 months are provided. An earlier post mentions it here.

      # D8Search – Similar to Spific, but with the filter enabled on the first page.

      # GooFresh – Another search box which gives you pages indexed within today, yesterday, seven days and a month.

      # The Google Ultimate Interface – Although not officially endorsed by Google, it’s a powerful interface and combines all major search strings through the page interface. Alternatively, its sister site is the Fagan Finder.

    And if you like to get your hands dirty here are three tips to power your date search skills.

    (5) To find indexed pages use the query – ‘&as_qdr=d‘ (without the quotes). Replace the ‘=d’ with ‘dx’ (where x is any day, for example d2) and similarly with ‘wx’ (for any week) or ‘yx’ (for any year). Append this query string at the end of the search URL in the address bar as shown in the pic below.

    search google by date

    (6) The little known Google ‘daterange‘ operator is a nifty shortcut to use. You can restrict your search within a range of dates when Google indexed the page. A slight hitch is that it uses the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian calendar (the one we use). But a simple calendar converter can be found on the web. Search with syntax “Query” daterange:startdate-enddate.

These workarounds help us to get an approximate fix on the date. Though not completely accurate, it helps us to peg down the results to more fresher ones. Using the date functions, we can jump over more ‘popular’ results to get the exact information we want. Just imagine you are searching for a namesake of ‘Paris Hilton’ through Google…wouldn’t it help to use a date?

Do you have any more helpful hints for searching by date?

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  1. Criação de Sites BH
    December 16, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Ótimo post.

  2. kimotheraphy
    May 2, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Great tip! Just checked out Spific.. Terrific! Gonna tryout userscript for Greasemonkey..

  3. chris
    February 4, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I really like the website Spific. Thank you for pointing it out. I use it as my homepage now.

  4. Jlong
    January 30, 2009 at 2:50 am

    Thank You! Very Helpful.

  5. Scott
    October 28, 2008 at 6:26 am

    This isn't exactly the same thing as finding a *specific* date, but I use a Greasemonkey script, "Google Filter by Date," found here:

    It adds a drop-down with the following options: anytime, past 24 hours, past week, past month, past year, past 10 years.

  6. Saikat
    October 28, 2008 at 2:44 am

    Yes, another way. It returns all pages where "20/10" has been or otherwise. Thanks for another tip!

  7. madforit
    October 28, 2008 at 1:25 am

    This is how i do it