This tool isn’t one you can put on a thumb drive.  Or even a CD or DVD.  It’s not downloadable (and it’s not evil).  It’s Google.

Everybody (well, everybody who reads this blog, plus several other folk) knows about Google. It’s big, it’s free, and it’s easy to use. In fact, google (used as a verb) has just been named the word of the decade.

But (I hear you saying) if everybody knows about it, and everybody uses it, then how come it’s the Cool Tool this week?  Because (I answer) there’s so much more available.

You know that Google does searches.  You probably know that if you want a quick answer, you can hit the “I’m feeling lucky” button and get taken to the top search result.  Did you know that you can tailor your search results to show just a specific site?  Put in your search terms, then add, and it will return hits only from that web site.

You can also force Google to search for specific terms, by putting quotes around your search term.  (Hint: use more than one word.)  If I wanted to see what’s up with the house of Aubrey with my French-speaking cohorts, I could enter maison aubrey and pull back over a hundred thousand hits.  Adding quotes around the phrase drops the results to less than 700, a much easier space to peruse.  (In this case, it also led to Maison Aubrey, a nifty-looking catering business just outside Ottawa.)

Google can also expand your search.  Dropping the quotes and the n from the French word gives back over a million hits, and a suggestion that perhaps I meant to include the N – which it goes ahead and searches on.  I can force it to look for the exact term by putting  a plus sign in front of what you want to force.  Searching for +maiso aubrey gives around seven thousand hits.  Adding the quotes back in gives zero results for that term, so Google suggests that I didn’t want the quotes and performs that search.

You can also remove hits by using a minus sign as a prefix.  Bengals returns about 9.5 million hits.  Adding -cincinnati drops four million off.  Still way too much info, but a lot more manageable.

But Google is great for more than just searching.  It’s a handy calculator.  Want the cubic volume of a box that’s 2 feet by 4 feet by 3 and a quarter feet?  Go to Google, drop in 2*4*3.25= and hit enter.  Your answer is 26.  Curious about how cold that box volume would be?  Enter 26 degrees fahrenheit and Google understands you’re wanting a conversion to centigrade.

More weather?  You can type in weather and a zip code (or a city name) to see the weather there, plus a 3-day forecast.  Works internationally, too.  And yeah, Hyderabad in the upper 80s is looking pretty good about now.  Time works the same way as weather.

The coolest thing about Google, and one I’m going to have to use more?  The set completion.  Put in a few entries, and Google will try to figure out what list you’re looking for.  Putting in just grumpy and hoping for the Seven Dwarves is a stretch, but they did pretty good, getting all seven (along with some others).  Adding sleepy returned a perfect list (if you ignore humbert – and I think I will).  Putting in matthew and mark correctly returns luke and john, and nobody else.  Picking the “grow set” button returns a list of 49 books of the Bible.  Not sure why it was truncated, but there are still no false positives.

Trying it in another area by entering red and orange gives back a list of colors, but not the whole rainbow.  For some reason, pink and gray show up.  I try expanding the original search terms to include yellow, and it stretches the list to have gold, navy, gray, and grey.

So it’s not perfect.  Still fun, and potentially useful.