T I M E :
Working in an off-shore development center like Mindfire’s entails frequent communication with geographically-distributed clients (based in different time zones, which might be some hours — whole or fraction — ahead or behind our time). We must, therefore, have a sense of time at the client’s location, for example, while initiating communication (so as not to cause inconvenience), while joining a pre-scheduled virtual meeting (so as not be late), and so on.
A little mental arithmetic will tell you the time at your client’s location, but sometimes you might not know the exact time zone your client’s location falls into / might be in a hurry / might want to double-check. And sometimes things can get a little more complicated while factoring in Daylight Saving offsets for countries where it is used.
A number of free/proprietary, desktop/online time-zone tools are available to help you with your time-related needs (See Note for an online time-zone converter). If you need to know the current time at a location fast, Google’s simple search box, too, can become your time-teller (and since we normally have a Google search box around at most times, this might produce the fastest results). Example: Here’s what you’ll need to type into Google’s search box to know the current time in, say, Boston:
In addition to telling you the current Boston time, Google will also let you know its time zone, the country / state it is part of, and the current time in any place(s) sharing the same name (Boston) and situated elsewhere, e.g.:
12:53am Friday (EST) – Time in Boston, Massachusetts
Boston, United Kingdom 5:53am GMT
You’ll also see a little clock image accompanying the above information with the hands pointing to the perfect current time!
Picture this: you have forgotten your watch / cell-phone home and your computer clock is showing incorrect time. You may NOT go as far as typing in [time bhubaneswar] into Google’s search box; just the following will do to get the current time at your location wherever you are:
Google will find out your geographical location and let you know the exact time at your place, like the following:
11:35am Friday (IST) – Time in Bhubaneswar, India
 D E F I N I T I O N S :
During the course of a work day, we normally come across certain words / phrases / acronyms that are unknown and ones that we need to know better. There is an ever-growing need, especially for knowledge workers like you and me, to make sense of a world increasingly full of jargons on a daily basis. The meanings of some such words can be guessed from their context of use, but there are times, especially while doing research on a subject, when one needs to go deeper than a superficial guess and be absolutely sure of its, at the least, definition.
A hardbound tome of a dictionary, if one is within reach, is a great place to start, but it may not be very mobile and may prove grossly inadequate for relatively recent words. A computer dictionary, installed or online, makes up for the above limitations to an extent, but, depending on how it is implemented, may not be quick to access nor have just-born words.
Google provides a way for you to home in on the definition(s) of a word. It is not meant to substitute dictionary lookup, but can offer benefits over and above those offered by conventional lookup, namely:
- Can be faster (since most people normally have a Google search box around at most times).
- Covers more words (especially technical jargon, slang words, brand new words, and words of ethnic or other specialized nature).
- Points to vast related information on the Web as a bonus.
There are at least three ways in which you can find definitions of words using Google:
- You can explicitly request for definitions of words, phrases, or acronyms using thedefine: operator. Google will present you with a page (glossary) full of definitions collected from various online sources (and with links to those sources). Please note that for a phrase, the definitions will be for the entire phrase just as you entered it and not for individual words making up the phrase. Ex: [define: unicode], [define: web 2.0], [define: site stickiness], [define: saas], [define: zeitgeist], [define: lead generation].
- Using a more inclusive and natural approach, you can just add “define,” “what is,” or “what are” (no colon) before your words, phrases, or acronyms (as you would do in normal English). In this case, Google displays the link to the glossary page (that you get with define: operator) at the top followed by usual search result pages with content oriented more towards definitions.Ex: [define seo], [what is ajax], [what is personal software process], [define lol].
- Have you ever noticed, whether you explicitly ask for it or not, Google makes links to definitions available in the search result pages? The statistics bar at the top (one that holds the total Google results count) provides definition link(s) (should you need them). You can click the underlined terms in the statistics bar to go to their definitions.Examples:
[snow white] : Results 1 – 10 of about 37,300,000 for snow white [definition]. (0.17 seconds)
[ajax] : Results 1 – 10 of about 92,200,000 for ajax [definition]. (0.06 seconds)
[happy hour] : Results 1 – 10 of about 15,700,000 for happy hour [definition]. (0.23 seconds)
[software as a service]: Results 1 – 10 of about 57,200,000 for softwareas a service. (0.24 seconds)
 C A L C U L A T O R :
You can use Google’s search box as a calculator for many of your everyday computational needs. Rather than reaching for a pen and a piece of paper, or a handheld calculator, or a computer math program, you can simply enter the calculation you’d like done into Google’s search box and get instant answers. Not only does it let you evaluate basic arithmetic expressions, it also helps you do advanced mathematics, unit conversions, etc with equal ease. You may not remember mathematical and scientific constants either; just use them in your expressions like natural language and Google will replace them with their values before evaluating the expressions!
- Basic Arithmetic:
Covers: Addition (+), subtraction (-), multiplication (*), division (/), modulo (mod), percent (% of), exponentiation (^), nth root (4th root / cube root / sqaure root / sqrt).
Examples: [15*43+(sqrt 17)^3], [15% of 123.75], [33 mod 9], [cube root of 729].
- Advanced Mathematics:
Google understands many mathematical constants and functions, e.g.
Constants: e, pi, i (the square root of –1).
Functions: Factorial (!), Base 10/e/2 logarithm (log/ln/lg), Exponential (exp), Combinations (choose), Trigonometric (sin, cos, etc), Inverse trigonometric (arcsin, arccos, etc), and Hyperbolic (sinh, cosh, etc) functions.
Examples: [7!], [exp(16)], [log(16)], [cos(pi/6)], [5 choose 3] (the number of ways of choosing a set of 3 elements from a set of 5 distinct elements).
- Unit Conversion:
Google understands and can convert between units of measure.
General syntax: [x units in y units].
Examples: [1 meter in feet], [100 usd in euros], [65 miles in km], [2 meters + 5 feet], [62 in binary], [1500 in hexadecimal]. To get conversion factors, use “per”: [meters per mile]
- Scientific Constants:
One of the coolest features of Google’s built-in calculator is its knowledge of many popular scientific constants. Example:
[(66% of speed of light) in km/h] (= 712,306,880 km/h) is the typical speed of propagation of an electrical signal through a coaxial cable.
[Mach 9.6 in km/h] or [(speed of sound * 9.6) in km/h] (= 11,760.4 km/h) is the speed of the NASA’s X-43A which became the fastest jet-powered aircraft in the world few years ago.
[98.6 degrees Fahrenheit in Celsius] (= 37 degrees Celsius) is the normal human body temperature.
[(radius of Earth * 2) / 100 km/h] (= 5.3 days) is the time it will take you to travel a distance equal to the earth’s diameter at 100 km/h. It’s a small world, ain’t it?
- Parentheses — ‘(‘ and ‘)’ — can be used to enforce order of evaluation and an equal to sign — ‘=’ — to explicitly force the built-in calculator to evaluate any mathematically computable (e.g. unlike 1/0=) expression.
- Google’s calculator understands some common questions too, e.g. [How many seconds in a year?] will produce the same result as [1 year in seconds], and, in broader context, [When is Thanksgiving?] will tell you exactly when it is!
 S Y N O N Y M S :
Synonyms are words having the same or nearly the same meaning as another word. There are times (especially when doing a broad startup search) when you would want to expand the scope of your search to include synonyms for a search term, e.g. while searching for “help” in a particular subject, you might also be interested in “tutorials”, “guides, “faq”, “tips”, etc in the subject.
You need not do the hard work of finding all possible synonyms of a word and OR-ing them together to build your Google search query. Simply prefix a search term with a ~ (Tilde) to search for synonyms of that word. The synonym operator (~) will take the word immediately following it (so leave no spaces after the ~) and would search not only for that specific word, but also for its synonyms. Google renders synonyms that it also searched for in bold in the search result pages (You can also use the operator and then exclude the keyword, e.g. as in [linux ~help -help] to see more clearly what synonyms are searched for.) Needless to say, the synonym operator works best when applied to general terms and terms with many synonyms.
Example: Searching for [dreamweaver ~help] would also search for dreamweaver guides, tutorials, tips, references, documentation, manuals, faqs, support, helping, problems, etc. Searching for [syndication ~rss] would broaden your search to include xml and rdf syndication as well.
Even in cases when one is not directly interested in the synonyms of a search term, using the synonym operator can implicitly help get better results by increasing relevance, since Google will rank a page higher if it has many of the synonymous terms (and hence more of the context / relevance). Being more inclusive, the synonym search also reduces the risk of missing out context.
Note: Tilde is pronounced t i l d u, where /i/ is as in sit, /u/ is as in agree. In mathematics, ~ means “is similar to”. Hence, it was Google’s natural choice as the synonym search operator.
 W I L D C A R D S E A R C H :
Whereas in computing a “wildcard” stands in for one or more unknown characters, in the context of Google search, it is a stand-in for one or more unknown words. Generally speaking, it is represented by the asterisk (*) symbol in both cases.
You can do a Google search using a wildcard in your search query when you are unsure of the exact term you are looking for (or want to perform an all-inclusive search). The wildcard search, if used well, can be a powerful tool in your search toolbox. Here are some examples:
The search query [web * certification] would return results containing all of the following phrases (and more):
Web Developer Certification
Web Development Certification
Web Design Training and Certification
Web Design Certification
Web Services Certification
Web Component Certification
Web Server Certification
One common use of the wildcard is in a query that answers a question. When you are looking for a very specific piece of information, you can leave an asterisk for Google to “fill in the blank” with the right word(s), e.g. the query [microsoft was founded by *] would fetch you results containing the following (and more):
Microsoft was founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen…
Microsoft was founded by a couple of college dropouts…
Microsoft was founded by an unemployed kid in his garage…
Interestingly, you can also employ wildcard search for the other extreme: to look for highly unspecific (general) information: Try [life is a *]!
You can make the wildcard tell you how something stacks up against its competition (which can be quite handy during evaluation and decision making), e.g.
will give you links to material such as
SQL Server Vs. Oracle
SQL Server Vs. Access
SQL Server Vs. MySQL
will point you to resources on
Java Vs. C++
Java Vs. C#
Java Vs. Ruby
Java Vs. Perl
- You can use multiple wildcards in a single search query, e.g. the query [dance like * love like * sing like * live like *] will take you to the full text of this beautiful Mark Twain quote if you partially forget it as above.
- Please note that Google currently does not support searches in which an asterisk indicates a fraction of a whole word, e.g. searching for [mang*] will not search for [mango]. Google, however, does automatic stemming which searches for word variations, e.g. [mangoes] would also search for [mango].
 O T H E R :
There are many other useful Google search features. Going into the details of each would be beyond the scope of this tip. Here is a summary of some selected features that I think can be very useful: