Do a barrel roll, and 10 more...useful Google Search functions

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There are a host of commands and functions that can be used with Google Search to ...

There are a host of commands and functions that can be used with Google Search to get more out of the popular search engine. View gallery (12 images)

Google Search is so widely used that the company's name has become synonymous with searching online. There's more to the most used search engine in the world than just locating websites though, other services aside. Let's have a look at some of Google Search's other functions.

Search content from a specific website

Many people will already know that you can use Google Search to look for websites, but it can also be used to search for certain terms on specific websites. This can be done using the "site:" command.

For example, if you want to find all mentions of UK designer and architect Thomas Heatherwick on Gizmag, you need only enter "thomas heatherwick site:www.gizmag.com" in the search box. In a similar way, it's also possible to search a specific news outlet on Google News using the "source:" command.

Search with missing letters or words

Sometimes you may know what you want to search for, but may not be able to remember the exact word or phrase. Believe it or not, there is a solution to help with this. Google Search uses the asterisk as a wildcard, meaning you can substitute any word or letter for an asterisk and results containing all of the possible alternatives that the asterisk could stand for will be returned. For example, searching for "an * a day" will bring up results that include "an hour a day," "an apple a day," and "an aspirin a day."

Find similar websites

If there's a website or service you can't get enough of, or to which you need something slightly different, then you can use the "related:" command to find sites or services that are similar to it.

For example, if you're looking for alternatives to Spotify, then you can search for "related:www.spotify.com" and Google Search will provide a host of similar services and related pages.

Find definitions

If you're unsure of a word's meaning, there's no need to go searching for an online dictionary. The search engine can provide definitions itself. All that's needed is to precede the word about which you're curious with the command "define:". For example, if the meaning of "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" has escaped you, then searching for "define: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" will reveal all.

Calculate conversions

Google Search is able to convert many different units of measure. To make matters easier, it is also able to do so based on natural language. So, for example, you need only type in "10.5 centimeters in inches" and you'll be provided with the converted figure. Abbreviations will also work and the search engine also recognizes code conventions, such as for currency.

To find out how many pounds sterling your dollars are worth, therefore, you can search for "15 USD in GBP." Other units of measure that Google Search recognizes include temperature, area and power, as well as things like height and weight.

Calculate sums

You can use Google Search to work out math calculations. It's just a case of typing your sum into the search box and pressing enter. A simple example would be "10 + 20" which, of course, will give you an answer of 30. But Google Search is far more sophisticated than that and is able to handle parenthesized calculations, advanced math and physical constants.

Check flights

If you're planning to meet someone at the airport, or you just want to check that they have landed safely, you can now find flight information directly through Google Search. You need only search for the airline and the flight number to bring up the required information. Searching for "qantas QF7" will bring up information about a Qantas flight on the world's longest route, for example. In a similar way, it's also possible to track courier packages with the tracking number.

Check for movie showtimes

When you're looking for a movie to go and see at the cinema, Google Search can help you decide what to watch, where and when. Searching alone for "showtimes" will bring up cinema listings for your country or, if you provide more specific location information, your area. If you want to know when a specific film is showing, then "showtimes:" followed by the film name will bring up just the listings for that film (such as "showtimes: gone girl").

Find out world times

You may already know that you can check the time in different cities around the world using Google Search. The command "time:" along with the city in question is all you need. "Time: Sydney" will give you the time in Sydney, Australia. Fewer people may know that you can also search for the time across entire areas though. A search for "time: africa" will provide a range of times from cities across the continent.

Do a barrel roll

And, of course, if you want your search results to do a barrel roll, then all you need to do is ask and Google Search will oblige. Type "do a barrel roll" into the box and hit search. Why wouldn't you?

For more advice on getting more out of Google services, you can hit up Gizmag's Google Chrome tips and our tips for getting the most out of Gmail.

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