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INTERNET Book helps users add power to search engine



Published: Sun, April 13, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The tricks in 'Google Hacks' can make it easier to comb the Net.

By FRANK BAJAK

AP TECHNOLOGY EDITOR

NEW YORK -- It may be the best way to find stuff online, but most of us who use Google a lot still find ourselves wading through oodles of Web pages.

A new book from O'Reilly & amp; Associates helps fine-tune the foraging.

"Google Hacks" gets its name from the geek vernacular for quick, clever ways to accomplish something. It's the kind of hacking that draws compliments instead of the cops.

The $25 book bills itself as offering 100 "industrial-strength tips and tools" that can easily save beginner and techie alike time and frustration if they spend anywhere as much time with Google as yours truly.

Clever tricks

Bet you didn't know Google lets you quickly look up U.S. phone numbers (business and residential), stock quotes, even dictionary definitions (simply click on a word in your search string at the top of a results page).

Or that you can enter special codes into Google's search box to narrow a query to, say, Web page titles, Web addresses (Uniform Resource Locators or URLs) and/or the content of specific Web sites, such as www.ap.org.

You can also do translations, check spelling and limit a search to a range of dates.

Google also can be told to search for images, or even for specific file types such as Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and Adobe PDF files.

Thumbing through this 328-page paperback, readers will realize why Google has become an unofficial verb and why so many people set their home pages to www.google.com.

The authors, Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest, don't shy from the basics.

Here's some:

UGoogle is a database with about 3 billion full-text snapshots of Web pages, obtained by computerized "spiders." Think of it as a command post that dispatches Web explorers who report back with periodic updates.

UIn searching, placing phrases or full names in quotations (such as "Saddam Hussein" or "George W. Bush") yields better results. Oh, and the order of the words in the search box counts. Try mixing terms up and see.

UGoogle is not case-sensitive, and it limits searches to 10 words, ignoring anything beyond. It accepts wildcards (for which you use an asterisk), but they can replace only entire words, not word stems.

Saving some time

Now for fabulous features:

Did you know Google has a toolbar you can add to Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser so you needn't go to the Web site to type in a search?

In my house at least, Google has replaced the White and Yellow Pages (space hogs, they were). But until I got hold of this book, I had no idea I could search residential or business listings separately.

Don't neglect the "Advanced Search" page. It lets you narrow a query with a number of variables including language, date range and words to be excluded. At the bottom there's even a link for searching U.S. government pages only: www.google. com/unclesam

Special codes can also hasten the hunt. Let's say all you want is recipes for kumquat dishes for which the name of the fruit is in the Web page's title. You'd enter "intitle:kumquat recipe" in the search box. If you're interested only in recipes on commercial Web sites in Australia, you would add "site:com.au" to the search string.

Sometimes you're unable to find a page that was on a particular Web site just a few days ago but has since vanished. For that there's the special prefix "cache:"; combine it with "site:" and you're apt to score.

Learning what's new

A salad of special services is also on the Google menu.

Want to sample technology that Google is currently researching? Try http://labs.google.com.

If it's current news you're after, http://news.google.com pores through thousands of news sites. It can take weeks for pages to show in a general search.

Beyond detailing such features, "Google Hacks" plumbs unexpected, obscure and even fanciful ways of exploiting this invention; the authors acknowledge 23 contributors.

All kinds of applications have been written to work on top of Google -- and you don't necessarily need a Web browser. One program lets you query by e-mail, another by instant messenger.

Then there's the wacky stuff.

If you've got time to burn, try Google Whacking. Attempt to enter a two-word search string that yields only ONE result.

Or try a Google hack that composes poetry. Another hack will give you a recipe to cook up all the odds and ends in your refrigerator.

Had enough? I didn't. But I ran out of time.

Oh, I guess I do have one complaint about this book. It's paper, so I can't Google anything in it.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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