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How to Use Symbols and Shortcuts in Google Search

Techlife   -  

March 21, 2024

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Google Search is a deceptively powerful tool with symbols and shortcuts in Google search. While most people use it for simple searches, it hides a surprising depth of functionality. Simple searches using only keywords and phrases can only give general results, which may require more time for scrolling through and filtering the results to more specific and usable options. Remember, about 8% of search queries result in pogo-clicking, and 18% result in users changing their search queries without clicking the results. 

So, how do you avoid searches that don’t give you the results you’re looking for? Symbols. A few strategically placed symbols and shortcuts can transform how you search, helping you find exactly what you need with laser-like precision and efficiency.

Shortcuts in Google Search

Think of these symbols and shortcuts as your secret weapons. Having an alt codes list on hand and knowing how to use them ensures relevant results, searching within specific websites, uncovering related terms, and even pinpointing specific file types. Mastering these techniques will turn you into a Google Search power user, saving you time and frustration as you navigate the vast expanse of the internet.  

Below is a discussion of how you can use keyboard symbols and shortcuts in Google search. Read on.   

Symbols and operators in Google Search act like specialized commands, helping you refine your results with surgical precision. These techniques are particularly valuable for programmers who need to find specific code snippets, error messages, or documentation. 

1. Exact match quotations (“”)

1. Exact match quotations ("”)

When searching for a specific thing, such as code, location, or date, it’s essential to find results that match the syntax and structure of your query exactly. Using double quotes ensures Google treats your search term as a single, indivisible phrase.  

For example, if you’re facing a frustrating error message, searching for “TypeError: Cannot read property of undefined” within quotes is more likely to yield relevant solutions on sites like Stack Overflow or programming forums. 

Similarly, double quotes help locate specific function names or code blocks. You’re working with a JavaScript library and must remember how a particular method works. A search like “React useState hook” will prioritize results specifically discussing that hook. This refined query helps filter out related results that don’t meet the structure of the words used in the search term. As such, your results are more relevant to the search intent. 

2. Define:

The word “define:” has a special function in Google Search – it tells Google you want an immediate dictionary definition for the next word you type. This saves time when you encounter an unfamiliar term or need to clarify the meaning of a word with multiple interpretations.

Searching for define: photosynthesis will display a concise definition of the process, often along with an image or additional links for deeper exploration. The “define:” tool is especially helpful for students and those learning a new language. For instance, define:onomatopoeia would help anyone studying literary devices. 

According to Google Trends, searches using “define:” are consistently popular, demonstrating a widespread need for quick, accessible definitions. Understanding this simple operator makes you a more efficient researcher and learner. 

3. The minus symbol (-) 

The minus symbol (-) acts like an eraser, letting you eliminate terms that muddy your search results. This is incredibly useful in a world where a single word can have multiple meanings. The minus symbol proves invaluable for troubleshooting common problems, especially when dealing with confusing error messages or homonyms.  

In the top 10000 list of the most searched words on Google, only 20% aren’t in English. These terms include common words such as cricket, jaguar, and the sun; indeed, they have different meanings. Therefore, searching for those words may yield too many unrelated results. For example, if you’re interested in the jaguar as a large cat, searching for a jaguar -car ensures that results about the sleek vehicle don’t dominate your list. 

4. The site operator (site:)

The “site:” operator is a laser focus for your Google searches. It lets you zero in on results from a specific website or domain. This is incredibly useful when you’re sure the information you need exists on a particular site, but you get overwhelmed by other search results. 

For example, imagine you’re researching national parks in California and want to stick to official government sources. You could search for: national parks in California (where “” is the domain for the National Park Service). This would prioritize pages from the National Park Service website over travel blogs or less authoritative sources. 

Advanced Techniques 

Sometimes, you need to search more broadly or creatively. 

For instance, you’re tasked with reaching out to potential blog partners and you need to comb through their site and content to find meaningful partnership opportunities – being able to utilize symbols and shortcuts when conducting your search will make the process a lot easier. These advanced techniques expand Google’s capabilities to find information that’d be difficult to locate with simple word searches. 

1. The asterisk (*) 

Think of the asterisk (*) as a placeholder within your search terms. It’s perfect when you only remember part of a phrase. For instance, if you heard a catchy song but only caught a few lines, try searching with an asterisk: “You know the rules and * do I.” This could lead you to identify the song as Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” 

The asterisk also helps broaden your searches in a targeted way. If you’re planning a trip and looking for inspiration, you could search for “best beaches * in the Caribbean” to see results about beautiful beaches throughout various Caribbean islands. 

2. Parentheses ( ) 

Parentheses in Google Search act like grouping tools, allowing you to control the order in which search terms are processed. This is essential for constructing complex or nuanced queries where the default interpretation might differ from what you need. 

Consider a simple example: you’re interested in the health benefits of both apples and oranges. Simply searching for apple orange health benefits could bring up general nutritional information for fruits, but not a direct comparison. You can search for (apple OR orange) health benefits using parentheses. This ensures that Google first considers “apple” and “orange” as separate groups while prioritizing the results of their health benefits. 

Statistical data reinforces the importance of parentheses in Google Search. Over 30% of Google users are forced to redo their searches as they’re unsatisfied with the results. Bust using the parentheses helps you build complex queries in a single search and increases the accuracy of the results. 

3. The OR operator 

The word “OR” (remember to capitalize it!) instructs Google to broaden your search by considering multiple possibilities. This is useful when you’re interested in two or more related topics. For example, if you love the outdoors, a search like hiking OR backpacking will find information about either of those activities. 

The “OR” operator saves you time. Let’s say you’re researching a historical figure for a school project and are interested in their plays or poems. Searching for Shakespeare’s play OR sonnet would deliver results on both forms of writing, eliminating the need to perform separate searches. 

4. The range operator (..)

Two periods (..) let you focus your search on values within a specific range. This is very handy for shopping online. If you’re looking for a tablet with a budget of USD$300 to USD$500, a search like a tablet USD$300..$500 helps filter out the expensive and ultra-cheap models. 

The range operator works for dates, too. If you want to read about important scientific discoveries in the last decade. Try searching for scientific discoveries 2013..2023. This will provide results of the scientific discoveries within that specified period.

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Power-user shortcuts

These shortcuts give experienced programmers granular control over their searches, helping them quickly locate specific pieces of code or documentation across the vastness of the web.

1. Filetype operator (filetype:)

The “filetype:” operator targets specific file formats, which is immensely valuable when searching for source code, libraries, or technical documentation. For example, if you need to find examples of implementing a particular algorithm in Python, you could search algorithm implementation filetype:py. This would prioritize results showcasing Python (.py) files. 

The “filetype:” operator also helps find project templates or code snippets from online repositories. A search like React boilerplate filetype:zip could find downloadable ZIP files containing React project starters.

2. The intitle operator (intitle:)

The “intitle:” operator restricts your search results to web pages containing your term in their HTML title tags. This is useful for locating official documentation, in-depth tutorials, or authoritative articles on a specific programming topic. For example, a search like the title: “JavaScript Array Methods” will likely prioritize high-quality resources specifically focused on array methods in JavaScript. 

Additionally, if you recall a specific error code or a distinctive part of a function name, using “intitle:” can help pinpoint relevant discussions. For instance, searching intitle: “TypeError: list indices must be integers or slices” would likely yield solutions to that particular error.

3. Combining operators

Power users often combine multiple operators and symbols to craft refined search queries. Let’s say you’re looking for recent guides on Node.js best practices but want to avoid smartphone-related results. A search like “Node.js best practices” -android -iOS intitle:2023 would help you achieve this. 

Another example could be finding Python libraries related to image processing on GitHub. A possible search would be image processing filetype:py This combines the power of the “filetype: “, “site:” and regular search terms to narrow down your results. 


These symbols and operators are your key to unlocking precision with shortcuts in Google Search. They allow you to filter out irrelevant information, broaden your results to discover new possibilities, and locate the specific details you need. They’ll become essential tools in your online search arsenal with some practice. From now on, search smarter, not harder – master these techniques and elevate your online research skills.

As we conclude our exploration into the effective utilization of symbols and shortcuts in Google Search, I, in the capacity of a Designveloper, aim to seamlessly integrate insights and advice on web development services to further enhance your digital journey. Understanding the nuances of Google Search symbols and shortcuts is just one piece of the puzzle in crafting a comprehensive online presence.

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