Master the Google Operands: Search Really Fast

Tina Sieber 30-05-2008

The internet, a network spanning the globe. Today around 20% of the world’s population is connected. That’s over 1.4 billion people, a number with ten digits and it’s growing. Imagine each of these individuals would contribute only one sentence per day and one file per week.


And now think again. How realistic is that? How many sentences and files do you put online on an average day? Does that put Google’s name choice into perspective? Google is said to be named after the number googol, i.e. 10100, a one followed by 100 zeros. It’s funny how back then they obviously didn’t care about the correct spelling, and today the verb google is found in many contemporary dictionaries.

Either way, it’s hard to imagine how much information is out there, yet a lot of it is at your fingertips. You just have to search right. Here are some tips to optimize and streamline your Google searches, and furthermore a handful of tricks that will save you time.

(1) Fine Tune

Operators are functional words or signs that tell the search engine how to connect or separate the given search terms. The most important ones are…

  • AND or +
    With “AND” or “+” you can link words, so all linked terms are included in the search results. I’m adding this to give a complete collection. Google automatically searches for all given terms.
    Example: sun AND moon or sun +moon
    Note the “AND” must be in caps and there is no space after the “+”.
  • OR or |
    Use these to search for either term.
    Example: sun OR moon or sun | moon
    Note that again “OR” must be in caps, but in this case there is a space after the “|”.
  • ” “
    Putting terms in a quote indicates a sentence and will be searched for exactly in this composition.
    Example: “the sun lights up the moon”

  • The minus indicates that the following word or quoted set or words will be excluded from the search results.
    Example: sun -moon or sun -“moon and stars”
    Note that there is no space after the “-“
  • *
    This is the so called wildcard. The asterisk represents a missing word, use it to let Google fill in any potential word.
    Example: “the * lights up the moon”
  • ~
    To search for all synonyms of a word, put a tilde directly infront of it.
    Example: ~sun
    This search will bring back results containing the terms sun, solaris, solar, and a couple less obvious ones.
  • ..
    The double dot put directly between two numbers denotes a range to narrow the results down.
    Example: “solar eclipse 1990..2005”
    Note that there are no spaces between the numbers or the dots.
  • Advanced Search
    If you have a hard time remembering all of these operators, use Google’s Advanced Search .

Master the Google Operands: Search Really Fast google01

(2) Narrow Down

Let Google do a search for more specific content. Google will exclude vast parts of information and dig deeper, if you tell it where to look or what to look for. And these are the operators you will need to know for that purpose:

  • site:
    Search a specific site only. Very useful if that page doesn’t provide an in-site search.
    Example: “Master the Google”
  • cache:
    A clever operator to use if you suppose a page has changed or if it’s not currently available. Search for cached site versions within the Google Cache.
    Example: cache://
  • inurl: _ intitle: _ intext: _ inanchor:
    Those will search terms within any URL, title, text or anchor text, respectively. You can define several terms and combine with any other operator. If you add an “all” infront of either of these operators, all given terms have to appear in the respective query.
    Example: google -maps OR allintext:makeuseof google maps
    Note that these are not the same as the site: operator. The in… operators will search all sites containing the given terms.
  • link:
    This one will find pages that link to a given URL.
  • define:
    The smart way to search for definitions across the web.
    Example: define:Googol
  • related:
    Let’s say you love MUO and would like to find related pages, try this operator!
    Example: related://
  • info:
    Get all the information Google has on a specific website in one search. That is links to Google Cache, similar pages, and more.
  • filetype:
    Quite obviously a way to search only for one type of file. Works with pdf, ppt and doc.
    Example: filetype:pdf “Sun and Moon”
  • music:
    A search with this operator will bring back artist, album and song information. The results are not always complete, so be careful.
    Example: music:tina turner [Broken URL Removed]
  • movies:
    The search for movie reviews.
    Example: movie:indiana jones
  • Q&A
    Google Q&A applies an AI engine to find answers to simple questions.
    Example: What is the population of China?

Master the Google Operands: Search Really Fast google04

(3) Do the Math

Google can calculate.

  • + _ – _ * _ /
    For simple equations use the symbols for plus, minus, multiply, and divert respectively. Use (brackets) to define which calculations shall be done first, else the simple rule multiplication and division before addition and subtraction applies.
    Example: (10 + 4) /2 *7 = 49 OR 10 + 4 /2 *7 = 24
  • % of
    Example: 51% of 900 = 459
  • ^ OR **
    These operators will raise a number to the power of another.
    Example: 5^3 will raise 5 to the 3rd power.
  • And more…
    Without further ado, here’s an in-depth selection for the math junkie in you:
    Master the Google Operands: Search Really Fast google03 sqrt() or square root of
    sin() cos() tan()
    ln logarithm base e
    log logarithm base 10
    lg logarithm base 2
    ! factorial

(4) Convert & Conquer

Google can do painful conversion for you, for example from degrees Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius. It can also answer really mundane questions such as what is the time in Sydney. Just type your question in plain English and Numbers, and Google will most likely give you a smart answer.

Master the Google Operands: Search Really Fast google02


And finally, I know you’ve been waiting for that one for all of your life…..

(5) the answer to life, the universe, and everything

Google can give THE answer and a lot more.

Master the Google Operands: Search Really Fast google05

There are a few things to remember. For one, Google can do a lot more than what is listed above, these are just the most important, interesting and simple tips & tricks to remember. Then keep in mind that Google isn’t the same everywhere. Depending on where you live, Google might send you to country specific Google sub-sites, which may return varying results. The most prominent example is censorship in countries like China.


If you’re logged into Google, it can keep a record of your searches, which can come in handy at times. If you wish to enable your Google History, go to your account, click on Web History and follow the indicated steps. This requires the Google Toolbar to be installed. However, I generally recommend to keep this feature turned off.

Which other Google tips & tricks do you find important? The comments are open for suggestions!

Related topics: Google, Web Search.

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  1. navneet singh chauhan
    September 16, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Wow Its's really amazing information your knowledge unique then other thanks a lot keep this on

  2. Moler Bonds
    July 19, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Wow! What is it ?

  3. tips photo
    February 4, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    I have never heard of any of these, thanks for sharing.

  4. Davor
    January 6, 2009 at 6:39 am

    Great summary of google search possibility

  5. smarty7
    August 6, 2008 at 6:21 am


    all were the brilliant things

    actually i know some of the things but anyways i got some more new things here!!!!!!!!!

    GOOGLE IS SIMPLY Great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Nicole
    June 6, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    I dont think its how they didnt care about the spelling....its more of a marketing thing....something that will be found pleasing to the world...and make more sense......can u imagine if they hadnt changed the spelling...(provided what u say is true) = googol????

  7. Brent
    June 2, 2008 at 8:06 am

    the one thing I struggle with is searching for literal strings that are normal operators, such as plus sign, question mark, colon, forward slash. Any tip on this?

  8. Alex
    June 1, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    It’s funny how back then they obviously didn’t care about the correct spelling, and today the verb google is found in many contemporary dictionaries.

    The story I've always heard is that, originally intending to be "Googol", they received a cheque payable to "Google" and ended up settling for that as their final name.

    I knew most of these already; some of them are incredibly useful.

    Is there a wildcard that works within words? For example, in some simple wildcard systems for /phar*cal/ to match "pharmaceutical".

  9. Gregory
    June 1, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Would like to recommend a web site for you , a direct download search engine

  10. JK
    May 31, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Yeah...the "find chuck norris" and "who is a failure" one too :) lol. (click on the "i'm feeling lucky" button, for those who dont know)

    Besides...once again, a great post from MUO.

  11. Ben
    May 31, 2008 at 6:17 pm

    surprised nobody has mentioned that chuck norris search yet

  12. abhsihek
    May 31, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Good in india i use google to find the latest scores of the ipl cricket matches going on....and one question is still there is any way to find the duplicate content for a particular site via google...or any other program or web service which can do so.

  13. ai3gtmc
    May 31, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Blogged! :) thanks for this tips really helps!

  14. steve
    May 31, 2008 at 10:45 am

    sorry to say that.. seems //
    is loosing quality !

    • Aibek
      May 31, 2008 at 11:59 am

      What makes you say so? This is an excellent post !
      OTOH, if you're referring to something else we would be happy to hear it.

  15. derek
    May 31, 2008 at 3:15 am

    There is also one more very useful operator. It's a simple dot. If you'll for example search for // the results will be 3 words connected anyhow so it can be www makeuseof\com or www?makeuseof"com and so on. Notice that space is also included so it can be used like quote "" but with more results

    • Tina
      May 31, 2008 at 3:32 am

      Didn't know that one. Thank you derek!

  16. Brent Cramer
    May 31, 2008 at 3:06 am

    you would be amazed at the features more search engines have... and most of them fit similar patterns. Often you can specify language, country, dates, sites, extensions, you can specify phrases, restrictions... its huge. Also if you really need to find that hard to reach source try multiple search engines, There are Meta search engines as well as a rare few that link to the big four. I have to admit my disclaimer, I work for which has some unique abilities based on the time that a page was published. Looking at your favorite search engine's help page can really net you some large productivity gains when you could be looking at the 10th result page.

  17. Sumesh from TechZilo
    May 31, 2008 at 2:06 am

    Some good tips there. I liked the AI search of Google (What is the population of China).

    One thing to note - and or + are not required while searching, because they are added to every search by default.

  18. multippt
    May 30, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    I've used some of those tricks in Google when Google doesn't give me what it wants. The quote ("") feature in Google is very useful since Google sometimes attempt to search for several permutations of your search which would result in results you are not really looking for.
    The "site:" command in Google is also useful to site owners who want to track Google's crawl of their site.

  19. macdet
    May 31, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Yes, this is an good article. It goes in my booksmarks!

    I collect this for my wiki

    [Broken Link Removed]

    Feel free to visit :) and share

  20. Joel
    May 30, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Quite a list but one more which I had written before...In the site specific search, you can extend to a better use for researchers and students like me who often wants to get free articles from educational sites.
    You can search using ''