GOOGLE Tricks & Tips

By donmc, 30 March, 2008

Google Is a Calculator

When you can’t be troubled to reach over and pick up the handheld calculator sitting on your desk, you can use Google as a high-tech web-based calculator. All you have to do is enter your equation or formula into the standard Google search box, and then click the Google Search button. The result of the calculation is displayed on the search results page; it’s that simple.

You can use the standard algebraic operators to construct your calculations—+, -, x, and / for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, accordingly. For example, to add 2 plus 3, enter 2 + 3 and press Enter. To divide 10 by 2, enter 10 / 2, and so on.

And Google’s calculator isn’t limited to basic addition and multiplication. It can also handle more advanced calculations, trigonometric functions, inverse trigonometric functions, hyperbolic functions, and logarithmic functions. Just enter the proper formula into the search box, and wait for Google to display the answer.

Google Knows Mathematical Constants

In addition to performing calculations, Google also knows a variety of mathematical and scientific constants, such as pi, Avogadro’s Number, and Planck’s Constant. It also knows the radius of the Earth, the mass of the sun, the speed of light, the gravitational constant, and a lot more.

For example, if you’re not sure what the value of pi is, just enter pi into the Search box and press Enter; Google returns 3.14159265, as it should. How about the speed of light? Enter speed of light, and Google returns 299,792,458 m/s. It’s amazing what Google knows.

Google Converts Units of Measure

Another surprise is that Google’s calculator also handles conversions. It knows miles and meters, furlongs and light years, seconds and fortnights, and even angstroms and Smoots—and can convert from one unit of measurement to another.

The key to using the Google calculator as a converter is to express your query using the proper syntax. In essence, you want to start with the first measure, followed by the word "in," followed by the second unit of measure. A general query looks like this: x firstunits in secondunits.

For example, to find out how many feet equal a meter, enter the query 1 meter in feet. Not sure how many teaspoons are in a cup? Enter 1 cup in teaspoons. Want to convert 100 U.S. dollars into Euros? Then enter 100 usd in euros. And so on and so forth.

Google Is a Dictionary

Want to look up the definition of a particular word, but don’t want to bother pulling out the old hardcover dictionary? Not sure of a specific spelling? Then use Google as an online dictionary to look up any word you can think of. It’s easy—and there are two ways to do it.

The first approach to looking up definitions is to use a ´All you have to do is enter the keywords what is in your query, followed by the word in question. (No question mark is necessary.) For example, to look up the definition of the word "defenestrate," enter what is defenestrate.

When you use a "what is" search, Google returns a standard search results page (typically with several useful definition links in the list), as well as a definition section at the top of the page. This section includes a short definition of the word and two useful links. The first link, disguised as the result title, is actually a link to other definitions of the word on the web. The second link, Definition in Context, displays an example of the word used in a sentence.

Google Is a Glossary

Even more definitions are available when you use the Google Glossary feature. Google Glossary is what Google calls it, anyway; really, it’s just another advanced search operator that produces some very specific results.

The operator in question is define:. Use this operator before the word you want defined, with no spaces between. So, for example, if you want to define the word "defenestrate," enter the query define:defenestrate.

When your query includes the define: operator, Google displays a special definitions page. This page includes all the definitions for the word that Google found on the web; click a link to view the full definition.

And here’s something else to know. If you want to define a phrase, use the define: operator but put the phrase in quotation marks. For example, to define the phrase "peer to peer", enter the query define:"peer to peer".

Google Lists All the Facts

When you’re looking for hard facts, Google might be able to help. Yes, Google always returns a list of sites that match your specific query, but if you phrase your query correctly—and are searching for a fact that Google has pre-identified—you can get the precise information you need at the top of the search results page.

What types of information are we talking about? Fact-based information, such as birthdates, birthplaces, population, and so on. All you have to do is enter a query that states the fact you want to know. For example:

  • To find the population of San Francisco, enter population san Francisco.
  • To find where Mark Twain was born, enter birthplace mark twain.
  • To find when President Bill Clinton was born, enter birthday bill clinton.
  • To find when Raymond Chandler died, enter die raymond chandler.
  • To find who is the president of Germany, enter president germany.

The answers to these questions are displayed at the top of your search results page. You get the precise answer to your question, according to the referenced website. Click the associated link to learn more from this source.

Google Displays Weather Reports

Did you know that Google can be used to find and display current weather conditions and forecasts? It’s a pretty easy search; all you have to do is enter the keyword weather, followed by the location. You can enter the location as a city name, city plus state, or Zip code. For example, to view the weather forecast for Minneapolis, enter weather minneapolis.

Google displays current weather conditions and a four-day forecast at the top of the search results page. And, while this is a good summary report, you may want to click through to the more detailed forecasts offered in the standard search results listings below the four-day forecast.

Google Knows Current Airport Conditions

Weather information is important to travelers, as is information about flight and airport delays. Fortunately, you can use the main Google search page to search for this information, just as you did with weather forecasts.

To search for weather conditions and delays at a particular airport, all you have to do is enter the airport’s three-letter code, followed by the word airport. For example, to view conditions at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (with the code MSP), enter msp airport. This displays a link to conditions at the chosen airport; click this link for detailed information.

Google Tracks Flight Status

Google also lets you track the status of any U.S. flight and many international flights. All you have to do is enter the flight number into the Google search box. For example, to find out the status of United Airlines flight 116, enter ua116.

Google now displays links to three sites that let you track the flight status—Travelocity, Expedia, and fboweb. Click one of these links to view real-time flight status—including maps of where the plane is in its route.

Google Tracks Packages

Airline flights aren’t the only things you can track with Google. Google also lets you track the status of package deliveries, from the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS. All you have to do is enter the package’s tracking number into the Google search box, and Google will display a link to the service’s tracking page for that package.

Google Is a Giant Phone Directory

As part of its massive database of information, Google now includes listings for millions of U.S. households in what it calls the Google PhoneBook. You search the PhoneBook listings from the main Google search box, using specific query parameters.

All you have to do is enter some combination of the following parameters: first name (or initial), last name, city, state, or Zip code. For example, to search for John Smith in Minneapolis, enter john smith minneapolis mn. As you might suspect, the more details you provide, the more targeted your results will be.

When you enter your query using one of these methods, Google returns a search result page with a PhoneBook Results item at the top of the results list. The two or three names listed here aren’t the only matches in the Google PhoneBook, however. To see the other matching names, click the PhoneBook Results link; this displays a full page of PhoneBook listings.

And here’s something even more cool—Google lets you perform reverse phone number lookups. Just enter the full phone number, including area code, into the standard Google search box. You can enter all 10 numbers in a row, without hyphens (like this: 1234567890), or use the standard hyphenated form (like this: 123-456-7890); Google accepts either method. When you click the search button, Google displays a single matching PhoneBook result.

Google Knows Area Codes

It goes without saying that if Google knows phone numbers, it also knows area codes. If you have an area code and want to know which city it serves, just enter the area code; Google will return the city in which that area code resides.

Google Has Movie Information

Numbers aren’t the only types of information available via a Google lookup. You can also use the standard Google search box to look up movie reviews and showtimes. All you have to do is enter the word movies followed by the name of the movie. For example, to find out when Casino Royale is showing in your neighborhood, enter movies casino royale.

Google now displays a movie information section at the top of the search results page. From here you can click to view movie reviews, showtimes for a theater near you, and so on.

And if you can’t remember the name of a given movie, you can use Google to figure it out for you. Just enter the movie: operator, followed by whatever information you do know—an actor’s name, the movie’s director, a plot detail, or whatever. Google returns a list of movies that match your search criteria, along with reviews for each movie listed. Click the movie title to view more reviews for that movie.

Google Loves Music

Google not only lets you search for movie information, it also is a great search engine for music. Google knows the names of tens of thousands of popular performers; all you have to do is enter the performer’s name in the search box, and Google returns specific information about that performer.

For example, when you search for norah jones, Google displays a Norah Jones section at the top of the search results page. This section includes a brief listing of the artist’s most recent (or most well-known) albums and songs.

And there’s more. Click the performer’s name and you see a visual listing of the artist’s albums. Click any album art or title and you see a listing of album tracks, a link to album reviews, and links to download tracks from the album from a variety of online music stores. Back on the main artist page, there are also links to websites devoted to the artist, news about the artist, photos of the artist, and mentions of the artists in Google Groups discussion forums.

Google Knows the Answer to the Ultimate Question

Let’s return to Google’s calculator for one final hidden feature. As you recall, the Google calculator has been hardwired to include the answers to some fairly complex—and fairly fanciful—calculations. For a bit of fun, try entering the query what is the answer to life the universe and everything. Google’s answer should delight long-time fans of Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (It’s "42", in case you were wondering.)