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Did you know your favorite search engine can likely do a lot more than look for cat videos or whatever trivia question you need to answer to settle a bet? We’re talking about more than Google’s reverse image search, too. Search for specific file types, restrict a search to a domain and more.

These tips are mostly for Google, but in some limited testing, I’ve found other search engines often have the same capabilities.

Specific terms: Use quotes (” “) to search specific words or phrases. This is pretty common usage, and Bing and DuckDuckGo both use the same syntax.

Site search: You can restrict a search to a specific site by typing site:the_site_you_want_to_search.com.

Filetype: Search for a specific file type with your search term. For example, suppose you’d like to see a presentation on passwords. In Google, the search is filetype: ppt password. In Bing, it’s ext: ppt password. In DuckDuckGo, the search is password filetype:ppt.

Links: You can find pages that link to a site using link:your_site.edu.

Operators: Most search engines have at least a few operators for advanced searches. These operators include wildcards and include/exclude operators. Some search engines (Bing, for example) require AND and OR to be capitalized to be used as operators.

  • Wildcard (*): The wildcard operator is usually an asterisk (*), and it tells the search engine to replace the asterisk with any possible variation within the search query.
  • OR: Essentially combines search results.
  • AND: Find results that contain two or more terms.
  • minus (-): Exclude. Put a minus sign in front of any word you’d like to exclude from your query.

What are your favorite search engine tricks?

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