With Bing slowly but steadily rising in popularity Google is facing more pressure than ever to rejuvenate the search experience it has to offer. Sure, they still hold a clearly dominant share of the market at about 64.6% (versus 19.3% for its closest rival, Yahoo), but then again Google has proven to know better than to just rest on its laurels.

Over the years, the Mountain View-based company has been enhancing its search engine not only to provide quality and relevant results, but also let users be more particular about their searches with dozens of special features and operators. Despite this, I am willing to bet that most people just use the vanilla search as is.

Fair enough. I mean Google is supposed to be easy to use, so why complicate it? Well, for starters, these functions are meant save you a lot of time and effort. I'm sure the more inquisitive of you know all about the basics, like quoting your searches to find exact matches, and then some -- but that's truly just the tip of the iceberg. Today we'll be highlighting some of our favorite Google search tricks.

Special Features

Beyond the standard word search capability, Google can quickly display things like the current time or weather of a particular city; it can be used to track packages; as a calculator for basic and fairly advanced math operations; and can convert things like currency, weights and measures.

Time and weather
To find the time in another corner of the globe simply enter "time" and then the name of a large city or country -- time Berlin for example. Likewise, weather humidity, temperature and forecast can be viewed by typing the word "weather" followed by the desired location.

Calculator and package tracking
Use Google for math equations by entering them as a query -- 3*2 will work, but so will a more complex calculation like 94/36*(sqrt 34)^3. Most symbols and integers can be swapped with written words, too. Typing the tracking number for your UPS, FedEx or USPS package directly into the search box will get you quick links to easily track the status of your shipment.

Unit conversions
Conversions are just as easy. Simply enter a number followed by something like USD to GBP, mm to inch, Fahrenheit to Celsius. Be it teaspoons, microseconds, bytes or kilometers, Google's conversion calculator is quite featured, and can be used for just about any unit that comes to mind.

Other tweaks
While all of that is handy and easy to use, things get much more intricate. By using the proper strings of text, you can even use Google search in place of a P2P program to find songs, video clips, and other media. There are also plenty of minor hacks and tweaks. For instance, Omgili shows how to tinker with a Google search URL to get real-time results. This is particularly useful for finding news related to current events; here's the latest on IDF (in progress as of this writing) within a 30 minute timeframe, by the way.

Query Refinements

Finally, below is a table of a few functions that we have found to be useful -- but they only scratch the surface, really. We would love to hear about the small search adjustments you make to refine or otherwise improve your Google results in the comments.

Function Purpose Example
+ Includes specified words. netbook +11.6 +ion
- Excludes specified words. gaming keyboard -logitech
* The standard wildcard symbol. Used as a placeholder for unknown words. traditional * food
~ Searches for words similar to the one it's paired with. first computer build ~help
.. Searches for a numeric range -- especially useful for dates or prices. halo pc $0..$15
define: Can be used for various things, including words, acronyms, and phrases to offer specialized search results. define:monkey see monkey do
filetype: Filters out results by specified file type. filetype:torrent ubuntu
related: A great way to find sites that have similar content. related:techspot.com
site: Search for site-specific content. Lynnfield site:techspot.com
Combining operators You can use most of these search functions in a single query to further enhance your results +microsoft +yahoo ~talks "Matthew DeCarlo" site:techspot.com

Did you know?

Google is cooking up an innovative personal communication and collaboration tool dubbed Google Wave. In short, it is a web-based service, computing platform and protocol designed to unite email, IM, wiki, and social networking. Based on recent information posted on its blog, it appears like Google Wave may be entering the public beta phase next week.

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