14 Hacks to Improve Your Google Searches

iStock
iStock

In the 20 years since Google was founded, it’s grown into one of the biggest companies on earth—but its original purpose, search, is still as relevant as ever. How many times a day do you type a few words into that search bar and click on a result? For most of us, the answer is dozens, if not hundreds.

For a product that’s used so frequently, there’s a lot Google can do that you might not know about. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up tricks to help you get the most out of Search, from simple tricks for narrowing down your results to more advanced methods for finding hidden files and pages online.

1. GOOGLE SEARCH BASICS

You probably already know some or all of these, but it’s worth going over the basics in case you don’t. If you’re searching for a specific series of words, like a quote, just put those words in quotation marks (e.g. “The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice”). Alternatively, if you want to rule out any search results that include a certain word, just add a minus sign before that word (e.g. “Martin Luther King -quotes”). You can also search for results from a specific website with the format “site:mentalfloss.com”—or whatever other site you’re looking for.

2. REVERSE IMAGE SEARCH

Google Images Search
Google

Google’s image search is a great tool for finding photos online, but you can also use it to learn more about a picture you’ve already found. Just right click on the image and select “Search Google for Image.” Google will offer up a definition of whatever you’re looking at, along with other web pages that use that image and a few relevant links.

3. USE AN ASTERISK FOR WORDS YOU CAN’T REMEMBER

searching Google with an asterick
Google

If you’re searching for a specific quote but you can’t remember one of the words, just put an asterisk in its place. That tells Google there’s a word missing so you get the best results. This also works for song lyrics or article headlines that you can’t quite remember.

4. HOW TO USE OR AND AND

Adding a capitalized AND or OR to your search can help narrow down your results as well, thanks to a method called Boolean Search. Putting an AND in your search between two words makes it clear that you want to see results with both of those terms included. Meanwhile, using OR will tell Google you only want to see links that include one of those two words.

5. USE “RELATED” TO FIND SIMILAR RESULTS

If you’re looking at a specific website or article and want to find more information on the same subject, just add “related:” right before the URL. This works for general sites (e.g. related:mentalfloss.com), along with individual web pages (e.g. related:https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/530750/15-easy-ways-extend-your-phones-battery-life).

6. HOW TO SEARCH WITHIN A RANGE OF NUMBERS

If you’re searching for numeric results inside a specific range, there’s an easy way to do that in Google. Just put two period marks in between the two numbers. It works with basic numbers (1..10), dates (1960..1970), financial figures ($500..$1000), and other units of measurement (40..50 miles per gallon).

7. SEARCH FOR SOMETHING IN THE TITLE, BODY TEXT, OR URL

You can narrow your search results to a specific part of a web page with a few different commands. To focus exclusively on headlines, just add “allintitle:” before your search. You can also do the same for body text (“allintext:”) or the web address (“allinurl:”).

8. CACHED WEBSITES

If the website or article you’re looking for no longer exists online, you can still use Google to track it down. Just click on the small downward facing arrow next to the URL in your search results and select "Cached." That will pull up an archived version of the site.

9. SEARCH THROUGH OLD NEWSPAPER ARTICLES

stack of newspapers and tablet
iStock

If you’re looking for an older article that was never posted online, Google has a whole separate site set up for just that. Head to news.google.com/newspapers to look through scanned copies of old newspapers and search for specific topics.

10. SEARCH FOR A SPECIFIC LINK TO SEE WHO’S SHARING IT

If you run a website or published an article online and you’re curious to see who’s sharing it, there’s an easy way to find out. Just copy the URL in question and paste it into Google’s search bar with quotations marks on either side. The results will reveal any other sites that are sharing your content.

11. LOCATION SEARCH

To narrow your search to a specific part of the world, just add “location:texas” (or wherever you’re looking) to the end of your search. Google will also automatically factor in your current location if you’re looking for something like nearby restaurants, but this is a useful trick if you need to plan for an upcoming trip.

12. SEARCH FOR SPECIFIC FILE TYPES

You can also use Google to search for certain types of files, like PDFs, audio files, and Powerpoint presentations. Just add “filetype:pdf” (or the extension for whatever type of file you’re looking for) to your search and Google will narrow down the results automatically.

13. GAMES AND EASTER EGGS

Google Bubble Level tool
Google

Beyond helping you find the information you’re looking for, Google is also packed full of hidden surprises. Over the years, developers have added various Easter eggs into Search, and most of them are still there. Try searching “do a barrel roll” to make the screen spin around in an homage to Nintendo’s Starfox games. You can also search “zerg rush” to launch a minigame, and search “bubble level” on your phone to create a virtual level tool that actually works.

14. GOOGLE SEARCH WIDGETS

Google weather widget
Google

Google’s also added dozens of useful tools to show you information right from the results page. You can search “weather new york” (or wherever you are) to get a forecast. You can also ask Google for stock quotes, sports scores, sunset and sunrise times, word translations, definition, movie showtimes, currency or unit conversions, and your public IP address. Google even has a widget to help you search for plane tickets, a built-in calculator, stopwatch, and countdown timer.

6 Fun Backgrounds to Use on Your Next Video Call

You might be stuck in the living room, but it doesn't have to look like it.
You might be stuck in the living room, but it doesn't have to look like it.
Ridofranz/iStock via Getty Images

If you’re struggling to find a perfectly decorated wall in your house to serve as the backdrop for your video calls with friends, family, and coworkers, we have good news: Video conferencing platform Zoom lets you customize your very own virtual background.

To do it, log into your Zoom account, go to “Settings” on the left side of your screen, and choose the "Meeting" tab. Scroll down to the “In Meeting (Advanced)” section, and then scroll down farther to make sure the “Virtual background” option is enabled. After that, open the Zoom application on your desktop, click on the “Settings” wheel in the upper right corner, and go to “Virtual Background.” There are a few automatic options, but you can choose your own image from your computer files by clicking on the plus-sign icon.

Now, the only thing left to do is decide which image will best set the tone for your next video call. From the New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room to Schitt’s Creek’s Rosebud Motel, here are six of our favorites.

1. The Rosebud Motel lobby from Schitt’s Creek

schitt's creek rose motel lobby
It's not the Ritz-Carlton.
CBC

You can imagine that David is just out of frame, doing his best to carry on a silent—albeit with lots of expressive gesturing—conversation with Stevie at the front desk. (More Schitt's Creek backgrounds here.)

2. Carl and Ellie’s house from Up

carl and ellie's house from up
Balloons not included.
Walt Disney Pictures

If you’re hoping to create a calming atmosphere, look no further than the cozy little sitting room where Carl and Ellie grew old together in 2009's Up. (More Pixar backgrounds here.)

3. The attic study from Knives Out

knives out attic study
Nothing bad has ever happened here.
Lionsgate

If your own study isn’t quite teeming with intriguing souvenirs and leather-bound volumes, feel free to borrow this one from the mansion in 2019’s Knives Out. (More Knives Out backgrounds here.)

4. The USS Enterprise from Star Trek

star trek's uss enterprise bridge
A great way to get your coworkers to fess up to being huge Trekkies.
TrekCore.com, Twitter

Blame your spotty internet connection on the fact that you’re traveling through the galaxy at the speed of light with this background from the bridge of Star Trek’s USS Enterprise. (More Star Trek backgrounds here.)

5. The New York Public Library’s Rose Reading Room

new york public library reading room
You reserve the right to shush any coworkers who forgot to mute themselves.
New York Public Library

Bibliophiles who can’t make it to the library can still pay a virtual visit to the sumptuous Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library’s iconic Fifth Avenue location. (More New York Public Library backgrounds here.)

6. The Werk Room from RuPaul’s Drag Race

rupaul's drag race werk room
Sashay away from the screen if you're taking a bathroom break during the call.
VH1

Dazzle your coworkers by calling in from the vibrant room where all the magic—and most of the drama—happens on RuPaul’s Drag Race. If you happen to be decked out in an ensemble made entirely of things you found at the Dollar Store, even better. (More RuPaul's Drag Race backgrounds here.)

Turn Your Favorite Photos Into Works of Art With Google’s Art App

Edvard Munch's "The Scream"
Edvard Munch's "The Scream"
Edvard Munch, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

If your local art museum is closed, a new app from Google Arts & Culture will make the photos in your camera roll worthy of gallery consideration. As Gizmodo reports, the Art Transfer feature uses artificial intelligence to reimagine any image you upload in the style of a famous artist.

If you've already downloaded Arts & Culture for Android or iOS, hit the camera icon at the bottom of the app and select Art Transfer. From here, you can either snap a photo or choose an existing picture saved on your phone. Google then gives you a variety of art styles to choose from. You can transform your cat into Edvard Munch's The Scream, for example, or turn your brunch pic from last month into a piece of Yayoi Kusama pop art.

The feature doesn't just apply filters; it uses machine learning to edit the colors, textures, and even shapes in the image you upload.

Dog image inspired by Man from Naples.
Michele Debczak/Mental Floss, Google Arts & Culture

Pizza picture inspired by The Scream.
Michele Debczak/Mental Floss, Google Arts & Culture

Two years ago, Google Arts & Culture rolled out a similar feature that matched users' selfies to their art lookalikes. The difference with this one is that instead of showing you existing art, it creates an entirely new image by combining your photo with a famous artwork.

You can download Arts & Culture for free today from the App Store or Google Play. After having fun with the new feature, you can use the app to virtually explore landmarks, museums, and other cultural institutions from the comfort of your home.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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