Google to the Max (July 6, 2010)

Posted: July 6, 2010 by docbabad in Apple Mac Tips, Multiple Products
Tags: , , , ,

By Harry {doc} Babad, Copyright 2010, All Rights Reserved

Introduction

As a few of our readers know, I spend a great deal of time looking for information. The items I look for range from:

  1. Specific Information related to nuclear waste disposal on which I consult. General Technical information on energy, the environment and other issues I want to write about.
  2. References for a new book and updating my co-authored book on The Use of Nuclear Materials revision 2nd Edition.
  3. Grist for my Hobbies of collecting recipes and recipe eBooks and Folk Music
  4. Anything else my wife wants me, as her secretary, to chase.

Several months ago I wrote an article on To Site Search or to Google for the macC March 2010.  I concluded, perhaps a predetermined answer that the question was a little bit like the number of angels on the head of a pin. “To Site Search or to Google, That is the question.“ The answer is both! It depend on which seems faster, an intuitive guess, or whether one method gives you so much chaff, that you get mega-hits crazy, so its time to switch.

I like Google better than the other search engines I have worked with. Perhaps its familiarity, but I don’t really believe that. In addition, if a site has opted to use the Google engine to power its search function, it is easy to use, tolerant of syntax errors and even forgives my misspelling.

Otherwise searching individual websites for information can be either easy or maddening depending on how carefully/flexibly a site was indexed and the accuracy with which the internal search engine was configure. However, if I’m hunting for an electronic copy of a magazine article, googling it is often very simple and quick.

Alas too website search functions suck! Even Amazon.com, one of my favorite sources of stuff, has flaws in its search engine, so that by changing search criteria, you will often find you seemed to have missed retrieving in your first attempt to locate a product. Unfortunately, there are so many technical or other commercial sites whose engines are designed to thwart your finding what you need… they get friendly feedback email from me, mostly to relive my search stress.

Multi-Browser Search Engines and Tools

DEVONagent is now v. 2.3.1, is the solution if you’re tired of clicking hundreds of links to find most of them either outdated, broken, or leading to junk pages. DEVONagent communicates with search engines and then digs through the results for you. This results in giving you only the documents worth reading. Better yet, DEVONagent summarizes the accumulated knowledge and presents you with a list of the most important topics and an interactive mind map. Finding information on the Web has never been easier.

Your Research Assistant: DEVONagent finds, collects and organizes information with powerful search architecture. DEVONagent also provides a simple to use built-in archive and integrates perfectly with DEVONthink. With over 130 plugins for popular search engines, databases and search tools, including predefined search sets, and a clean Mac-like interface; DEVONagent is the number one tool for finding information on the web. I often use the current version for my searches. [http://www.devon-technologies.com/products/devonagent/] DEVONagent 1.7, which I reviewed in August 2005 for macC) made a believer out of me. Confession time — when I updated to Snow Leopard, I neglected to add DEVONagent to my dock, as a result that last few months worth of searching has been harder then it might have been.

MultiBrowser 1.0.0 — A new application <MacUpdate *****> I found when browsing, might be another tool of worth for casting a wider ring than just Google alone. According to its developer. I’ve not yet tested it, MultiBrowser, is a freeware program, allows you to take control of the many browsers that you may have installed on your Mac. Whenever you click on a link in just about any application (e.g. Mail, Preview, etc), MultiBrowser will appear and allow you to choose which browser to open that link in. Its browser selection window is highly configurable allowing you to change its colors, size, and more so that you can decide exactly what it should look like. MultiBrowser uses built-in Mac OS X services so that it does not even have to be running until you actually click a link – this means that it will not waste any of your Mac’s resources. MultiBrowser also has additional options for changing how browsers are launched, handling multiple monitors, and more. It has optional usage tracking (which will not be shared with anyone except yourself) to let know how many times you use each browser.

ISeek – An old favorite that is nearing its support life, is another variant for focusing searches. Although last updated in December 2007, it is Snow Leopard compatible – as program I use all the time. iSeek is a handy little program for Mac OS X that allows you to instantly search for anything you my seek, no matter what program you are running. iSeek puts a familiar search field in your menu bar, needing just a click or keystroke to start your search!

iSeek’s seamless interface hides a significant amount of power and convenience. iSeek is no mere front-end to Google, it will ship with pre-configured search shortcuts for dozens of useful Internet resources. Look up a word definition in the dictionary, or a synonym in the thesaurus, or even famous quotes that reference the word. Search for information on Google, in popular news sites such as the BBC News, MacNN.com, or search for software on MacUpdate.com.

Any Link on the Internet can be added to iSeek as a search shortcut that’s available in a snap, and your recent searches are saved, too, for even quicker access. The real power of iSeek is that it is also highly configurable: you can add whatever search sites you find useful, and easily share them with your friends.

I have even added other locations, via its preferences pane, to the list of easily accessible sites, allowing me to add one-click access to my most used web links directly from my Menu bar. This allows me faster access to Time Magazine, The Economist and Bloomberg Business Week, on which I sped much time.

Meta Search Engines — An option I’ve not yet tried is using a Meta search engines such as http://www.search.com/.  I did search ‘Small Nuclear Reactors’ and got too many hits for comfort. I tried narrowing down the search by looking for ‘pocket” and ‘Micro’ reactors but that didn’t help. All searches contained to many hits associated with none nuclear energy articles. Small Rectors for Nuclear Energy gave no hits on www.search.com but worked well in Google even without using a Boolean approach.

At that point I decided to live with the tools I have and know or to only explore new tools if I thought they might add value to my search efforts. Life and my time is too short… and for my paid consulting work, this that latter is doubly true.

Advanced Google Searches

To paraphrase a phase incorrectly attributed to Horace Greeley, go Boolean young man (person). Much of what I share has been abstracted and paraphrased from the referenced About.com and other sites. Check them out for more details as well as guidance.

Boolean searching is built on a method of symbolic logic developed by George Boole, a 19th century English mathematician. Most online databases and search engines support Boolean searches. Boolean search techniques can be used to carry out effective searches, cutting out many unrelated hits among the thousands of documents a search engine provides. (See the Appendix for added Boolean operator information. Also, )

Using Boolean Logic to broaden and/or narrow your search is not as complicated as it sounds; in fact, you might already be doing it. Boolean logic is just the term used to describe certain logical operations that are used to combine search terms in many search engine databases and directories on the Net. It’s not rocket science, but it sure sounds fancy (try throwing this phrase out in common conversation!).

Basic Boolean Search Operator AND — Using AND narrows a search by combining terms; it will retrieve documents that use both the search terms you specify, as in this example: Portland AND Oregon

Basic Boolean Search Operator OR — Using OR broadens a search to include results that contain either of the words you type in. OR is a good tool to use when there are several common spellings or synonyms of a word, as in this example: liberal OR democrat

Basic Boolean Search Operators – NOT Using NOT will narrow a search by excluding certain search terms. NOT retrieves documents that contain one, but not the other, of the search terms you enter, as in this example: Oregon NOT travel.

Keep in mind that not all search engines and directories support Boolean terms. However, most do, and you can easily find out if the one you want to use supports this technique by consulting the FAQ’s (Frequently Asked Questions) on a search engine or directory’s home page. Then practice a bit while running your normal searches – you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to do – and a narrow search steals less of your time and lowers your frustration level.

There are, for a few websites such the MacUpdate and of course Google have excellent built in search focusing tools, in which you can narrow the focus of a search by using a combination of typed limiting criteria and check lists of biographical criteria areas. But these are few and far between so go Boolean.

Summary

As noted above, there are several ways to improve you search capability.

  • You can, in he browser of your choice, learn to better define you search term. Don’t be shy about change your search term. Often the hits you get are either sufficiently different that a multiple search gets more useful information. Other time, alternate wording eliminates the strange. Also at times comparably similar search terms [e.g., Micro nuclear reactor, small nuclear reactor, pocket reactor]
  • If you are comfortable, a valuable tool for doing so is a Boolean search. Each browser I use has a FAQ that defines how such a search should be formatted… a matter of format and punctuation.
  • You can; alternatively, use a search application that allows searches either with multiple browsers or on varies previously identified sites.
  • Finally there are tools like iSeek that allow you to access your search sites faster via a menu bar item.

Whatever you do don’t let the web intimidate you — it’s a strange and wondrous place and each search engine has different ways of indexing information, and search nuances. So illegitimus non carborundum.

References

  1. To Specifically Site Search or to Google, That is the question. http://www.maccompanion.com/macc/archives/March2010/Columns/MacTips.htm
  2. Google and Other Search Engines — Visual QuickStart Guide – or How to find it when you need it, by Alfred and Emily Glossbrenner, Peachpit Press. May 2004. [Article no longer appears on macC archives.]
  3. Google, The Missing Manual, 2nd Edition, by Sara Milstein, J. D. Biersdorfer, and Matthew MacDonald, O’Reilly Press, January, 2006. [Article no longer appears on macC archives.]
  4. Google Search Basics: Basic Search Help http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=134479
  5. Boolean Logic, Wikipedia May 2010 — A detailed very mathematical description of the use of Boolean methods aimed at geeks
  6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boolean_logic
  7. The Spider’s Apprentice Blog [2007 – Dated but still very useful]
  8. A Helpful Guide To Web Search Engineshttp://www.monash.com/spidap.html
    How Search Engines Work — http://www.monash.com/spidap4.html
  9. Boolean Web SearchLearn how To Use Boolean Search Operators. By Wendy Boswell,
  10. About.com Guide. http://websearch.about.com/od/internetresearch/a/boolean.htm/, and http://websearch.about.com/od/2/g/boolean.htm/,
  11. Web Search 101 – How to Search The WebIntroduction to Web Search By Wendy Boswell,
  12. About.com Guide. http://websearch.about.com/od/searchingtheweb/a/websearch101.htm/

Appendix

Boolean Search Operators

  • The Boolean search operator AND is equal to the “+” symbol.
  • The Boolean search operator NOT is equal to the “-” symbol.
  • The Boolean search operator OR is the default setting of any search engine; meaning, all search engines will return all the words you type in, automatically.
  • The Boolean search operator NEAR is equal to putting a search query in quotes, i.e., “sponge bob squarepants”. You’re essentially telling the search engine that you want all of these words, in this specific order, or this specific phrase.

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Acknowledgements: Unless otherwise noted I have provided the source of the material in these articles. I also found in my many notes I’ve stashed for future articles, that certain themes keep coming up, that parallel what I’ve read or practiced.  In most cases I have acknowledged as well as modified the original document(s) to personalize them for our readers.

This original article was posted to macCompanion in June of 2008. Since that eZine is no longer fully active, I am re reprinting it, in a slightly revised, in ourBlog.

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