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MAVERICK AT LAW

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Technology

Tips and Tricks

By Dan Pinnington

Google is much more than a search engine. You can use it as a phone book, a currency converter, the ultimate library and a whole bunch of other things that will help you with all sorts of daily tasks.

In the October/November issue, I reviewed various tips and tricks that you can use to improve your Google search results. But we won't stop there because Google is so much more than just a search engine. Although it won't draft a will, make the coffee or get a client to sign a retainer (at least not yet), there are dozens of other things that Google can do that you might find useful in a law office.

But first, a few notes on syntax. In this column I'll give you numerous examples of the text that you can enter in a Google page search box. These examples will be in double quotes—but remember, you don't need to use double quotes when you type your terms in Google. (Save the double quotes for phrase searching, which we covered in Part One.) You should also pay close attention to the spacing of the text within the double quotes, especially after a colon (where there is never a space).

And second, take care when looking at your Google results. In some cases, your query will yield only the specific answer you're seeking. In other cases, the results will look like normal Google search results but the special one you're looking for will be the first item in the results.

Throw Out Your Phone Book

In Google you can find publicly listed U.S. residential phone numbers and addresses by typing any of the following combinations into the search box:

  • "first name (or initial), last name, city"
  • "first name (or initial), last name, state"
  • "first name (or initial), last name, area code"
  • "first name (or initial), last name, zip code"
  • "last name, city, state"
  • "last name, zip code"

Do you want to do a reverse phone number lookup on publicly listed U.S. residential numbers? Type just the phone number (with area code) in the Google search box. Also, you can enter an area code to see a map of the region covered by that area code.

Fun with Other Kinds of Numbers

You can enter other types of numbers into the Google search box to track down often useful information from a variety of sources. For example, you can enter a car's VIN to see the vehicle's year, make and model. To see information on a FedEx, UPS or USPS shipment, enter the package number. To look up information on a particular U.S. patent, simply type the word "patent" following by the patent number (e.g., "patent 5960411"). Or, if you want information about a product, you can search using its UPC bar code number only (e.g., "036000250015").

And for the mathematically challenged, Google does all sorts of calculations and conversions. Here are examples of what you would type in:

  • To evaluate equations: "23+45"; "14*(23/24)-2"; or "12^2"
  • To get units of conversion: "liters in a gallon"; "ounces in a cup"; or "centimeters in a foot"
  • To convert units of measurement: "16 liters in gallons" or "half a cup in teaspoons"
  • To get currency conversion factors: "US dollars in euros"
  • To convert one amount of currency to another: "12 GBP in US dollars"

How Google Helps You Travel

Whether you're traveling by land or air, Google can tell you what you want to know. For example, you can see details on the status of a flight by entering the airline name and flight number (e.g., "United 123"). To see delays and weather conditions at a particular airport, type the airport's three-letter code followed by the word "airport" (e.g., "LAX airport").

Or, to see weather conditions and a four-day forecast for a particular U.S. location, type "weather," followed by the location. Usually a city name will be enough, but you may also want to include the state or a zip code.

Next, if you need a map, directions or the address of the nearest pizza joint, click on the Maps link on the Google home page to go to Local search. To see just the stores or businesses you want in a specific neighborhood, use a city name or zip code.

And for a totally out-of-this-world experience, check out Google Earth. It combines satellite imagery, maps and the power of Google Search to put the world's geographic information at your fingertips. Fly from space to your neighborhood. Search for schools, parks and hotels. Get driving directions. Tilt and rotate the view to see 3-D terrain and buildings. It is amazing!

The Ultimate Library

Google Books lets you search for specific books or books on a particular topic. And, in some cases, you can get the full text of older books for free and even search a book's full text.

But Google also works as one of the most important books of all: a dictionary. To get a definition for a word or phrase, simply type the word "define," followed by a space, and then the word or phrase you want defined. You can also get a list of definitions by including the special operator "define:" with no space between it and the term you want defined (e.g., "define:World Wide Web").

It's a Great Feast

We haven't come close to exhausting all you can do with Google, but these tricks give you the idea. (I'll try to slip in more in later issues.) Although just in case you've missed some of the main links on the Google home page, don't forget to check out these: Click on Images to search the Web for images; click on Videos to search the Web for videos; and click on News to see a summary listing of news stories from online news sites all over the world.

While you're on the News page, consider signing up for the Google News Alerts. These are e-mail updates that will be sent to you that will include information on the latest relevant Google results (from the news, the Web, blogs, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic. Use the alerts to monitor your name, your firm's name, key clients' names, a developing news story and so on, or to keep current on a competitor, industry or your favorite sports team.

And for those of you who aren't totally Googled out yet, click on the More link on the Google home page, then on Even More. This lets you see a full listing of all of Google's products and services. Explore some of these—you'll be astounded. Wait, though, there's still more to come: Visit Google Labs to see some way cool and scary experimental things that the Google staff are working on.

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