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Exploring Google’s niche search engines

Google is well known as the go-to search engine for almost anything on the Web.

But behind its simple interface lies a wealth of hidden gems: a picture sharing community, a blogging platform, an e-mail server, a brand new Internet browser and a satellite map of the entire Earth, just to name a few.

Dig even deeper and you will also discover these new and unique ways to search Google’s ever-expanding collection of data:

News and Archives

If you want access to the latest news, but don’t have the time to visit multiple news Web sites, pay a visit Google News (news. google.com).

Google News aggregates the latest headlines from news sources across the Web, linking to multiple sites for popular stories. You can browse news by topic or location, or search for recent developments on a particular subject.

You can also tell Google News what kind of stories you want to read. On the homepage, you can build customized news feeds that display articles containing specific keywords you’ve selected.

If you’re looking for older news, go to news.google.com/archivesearch to access Google’s database of select articles, dating back nearly 150 years. Search the full archives or choose a specific time frame. Be aware that some sources will require you to pay for access.

U.S. Patents

If your law practice includes work with patents – or if you just have an interest in when and how certain products came to be – you’ll want to

check out Google Patents (www.google.com/patents).

This database contains the entire collection of issued patents (approximately 7 million) and over a million patent applications, ranging from those issued in the 1790s through the past few months.
Google has converted the information, taken directly from the United States Patent and Trademark Office Web site, into a searchable database.

Results include the patent number, filing date, issue date and names of inventors. You also have access to downloadable PDFs of the inventors’ original applications, complete with drawings and descriptions.

Books and Scholarly Articles

Book lovers and researchers alike will find value in the Google Books search engine (books.google.com). Although the project is somewhat controversial, Google has worked with several major libraries to scan their collections and make the text of books readable and searchable online.

The database contains a wide variety of printed material, including both classic and modern literature, non-fiction, poetry, textbooks and magazines.

If the book has an expired copyright, or the publisher has given permission, you’ll be able to view and download a preview of the book, and in some cases, the entire text. For books with copyrighted content, search results will show information about the book, including references and reader reviews.

Google also provides links to buy the book from participating retailers, as well as links to libraries that carry the book.

Similar to the book search, Google Scholar (scholar.google.com) provides a database of scholarly literature from a wide variety of disciplines. Material includes peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles from academic publishers, professional societies, universities and other scholarly organizations.

Some results provide the full text of the material, while others give you an abstract with the chance to purchase the piece or subscribe to the Web site. Results also link to related material and scholarly sources that cite the article.

Blogs and “Knols”

If you wish to stay up to date with the latest buzz in the blogosphere, use Google Blog Search (blogsearch.google.com) to narrow your search. Google’s database includes every blog that publishes a site feed, from all blogging platforms.

You can use this search engine to see what bloggers are posting about your topics of interest. Google will search for individual entries, as well as entire blogs that match your query. You can also browse blog entries by topic or by date.

If you’re still interested in what the Web community at large has to say, you may want to take a look at Google’s Knol project (knol .google.com). A knol, short for unit of knowledge, is similar to a wiki.

Articles are submitted by members of the community who wish to share their knowledge about various subjects. But unlike a wiki, authors can take credit for their writing, elicit reviews and comments from their readers and choose whether to allow edits from other users.

Google collects knols into a database, allowing users to browse or search for topics within this niche community.

More Niche Searches

Images and Videos. To narrow your search down to photos, drawings and other images, visit images.google.com. For clips from YouTube and millions of other video sources from the Web, search from video.google.com. Here, you can find footage of speeches, events, performances and even your favorite TV and movie scenes.

Google Maps. Search within the Google Maps site (maps.google.com) to find places of interest. Type your search term, along with the zip code, and Google will not only point to your matches on an interactive map, it will also give you directions, links to relevant Web sites and even a street view in some locations

Business and Finance. On Google Finance (www.google.com/finance), you can search for stocks, monitor the state of the market and scan the latest headlines from top financial publications. You can also build and customize your portfolio to monitor your stake in the market.

Directory. The Google Web Directory (www.google.com/dirhp) enables users to search deeper within categories. Choose your area of interest from the menu and Google will limit its search to that field.

Domain and site searches. You can use Google’s advanced search feature to search within a specific domain and even a URL (ex: .gov or www.cnn.com). The downside is that you can only search within one domain or site at a time.

Search Tricks and Shortcuts

Definitions – No need to dust off your ancient edition of Merriam-Webster or Black’s Law Dictionary. If you need to look up a definition, simply type “define” and your search term. Ex: Define res judicata. Bonus: Not sure of the spelling? Just give it your best shot. Google will check your spelling and give you suggestions if it thinks you got it wrong.

Synonym search – Add a tilde (~) in front of your search term and Google will expand its search to include your term plus common synonyms. Ex: Using “~lawyer” as a search term gives you results that include “attorney,” “legal” and “bar associations.”

Fill in the blank – Have a specific question for Google but not sure how to phrase it for the best search results? Try retooling your question as a statement, and plug in an asterisk (*) where the answer should be. Ex: Vick sentenced to * years

Calculator – Type a problem into the search box and Google will do the math for you. And unlike the Windows calculator, Google can perform multiple calculations at once. Ex: (3*6+8^2)/(10-7)

Who links to me? – Curious where some of the traffic to your firm’s Web site is coming from? Type link: and the site’s URL and you will get a list of Web pages that include a link to your site. Ex: link:www.doelawfirm.com.

Note: Most of these time-saving features will also work in other search engines.

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