Villing & Company

If You Use Google for Everything, You're Missing Out

If you haven't heard of Microsoft's Bing yet, you probably will soon thanks to an $80 million advertising campaign. While it's unlikely to overtake Google any time soon, Bing does have several features worth considering. For instance, I find that Bing's video search beats Google's video search by a significant margin.

Several weeks ago, there was a similar release that also shows a lot of potential: WolframAlpha. Unlike Bing, WolframAlpha isn't competing directly with Google. According to the site, it's a "computational knowledge engine." Sound impressive, but you really have to use it to get an idea of what it can do. It's sort of like combining a high-end calculator with an almanac. The results are VERY different than what you get with Google, which is really exciting. It's got a long way to go before it's going to be commonly used, but definitely check out the page of example searches.

These two releases made me think of a feature in almost every modern browser that you may not be fully using. Whether you are using Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari, there is a search box at the top right of the screen next to the address bar. By default, typing something in that box will search Google (or your default search engine). However, if you use Google for everything, you're really missing out on the full power of the Web. It's pretty easy to add search engines to your browser, and customizing your search engine list makes it really convenient to perform more specialized searches. (Note: Safari users may need to install the Saft or Inquisitor plug-in to add search engines.)

Think of Google like the index section of the Web. While it's a great tool, it's very inefficient to always refer to the index, especially when you are searching for specific information.

Here's some situations when Google isn't your best option:

  • If you're looking for anything that would be in an encyclopedia...search Wikipedia.
    Google will likely end up pointing there anyway, and you can skip the extra step by just searching Wikipedia directly.
  • If you're comparison shopping...search PriceGrabber.
    You can enter model numbers or product categories and get direct price comparisons with links to actual online stores.
  • If you're looking for movie or TV show information...search IMDB.
    This will bypass all the marketing and fan sites and get straight to the details about the movie.
  • If you're looking for a popular video clip...search YouTube.
    It's the best place to start looking for a popular video clip. While it might be worthwhile to use Google or Bing's video search, I normally find what I'm looking for directly on YouTube.
  • If you're looking for the definition, pronunciation or spelling of a word...search Dictionary.com.
    This will skip the initial Google results and go directly to the dictionary entries. As a bonus, the site also includes a Thesaurus that is just one click away.

Many of you may also have favorite Web sites that you visit all the time that have their own internal searches. In both Internet Explorer and Firefox, the search box will light up when you are on a site that has a customized search engine. To add that site to your search options, simply click the down arrow next to the search box and choose the option to add it. Internet Explorer even lets you create your own, which means that you can automatically search nearly any site on the Web directly from your browser.

If you spend a little time customizing your browser's search engines, you'll be a lot more efficient when looking for things online.

Filed Under: web

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