For years, the computer world used the catchphrase “information at your fingertips”, but it was only the advent of the Internet that made this a reality. These days, you can instantly find any information you need on the Internet, including medical questions, homework projects, price comparisons, electronic brochures, recipes, business advice, etc. Of course, you still have to decide which information is trustworthy.
For example, on medical queries, I tend to trust the pharmaceutical companies that promote their products through white papers less than I do opinions from unbiased medical sites, like the Mayo Clinic for example.
Unfortunately, not everyone gets the most out of the Internet, so in this article I’ll try and share some of my search tricks with you. I’m assuming that you already know your way around the Internet to some degree, but if not, you should get someone to give you a quick introduction.
First up, if you’re looking for something specific, try entering a full question into Google. For example “How many satellites orbit the earth”. Because you placed quotation marks before and after the search phrase, Google looks for all occurrences of the entire phrase. This search results in only a handful of relevant ‘hits’, whereas if you hadn’t used the quotation marks Google would have returned too many hits for you to process. Of course, sometimes the quotation marks will limit your search so much that you won’t find what you’re after, so you’ll need to repeat the search without them.
Next, I often want to verify the exact meaning of a word. So, I could locate a free dictionary on the Internet, and then search for the word – but that takes too long. Personally I find it far easier to simply type the word into the Google search bar. Very often, I get my answer without even having to browse past the summary information.
Wanting to diagnose a skin rash on your arm? From the main Google page, select ‘Images’, then enter your search criteria – for example “rash arm”. From there you can look at all the images and see if any of them looks like your arm. (Note that it is quite easy to misdiagnose ailments on the Internet, so if you have a problem, you should consult your doctor.)
So you’re doing a project, and you want to borrow a picture from the Internet. One way of doing this is to place your mouse pointer on the image, then right-click the mouse button and select ‘Copy’. From there you can paste the image into your word-processor or presentation program. (Note that certain images on the Internet are subject to copyright.)
But you may want to capture an entire ‘screen’, perhaps for training purposes. The simplest way to do that is to hold down the ‘Alt’ key, and then press the ‘PrtScn’ (Print Screen) key near the top right of your keyboard. You can then paste the image into your application as normal.
But what if you want to copy only a part of the screen? What I do then is to ‘grab’ the screen by pressing the ‘Alt’ + ‘PrtScn’ keys, and then I paste it into the Paintbrush application which comes free with Microsoft Windows, in the Accessories folder. In Paintbrush, click the ‘Select’ button (the dotted-line rectangle). Then move over your image and mark the area you want to extract. Select ‘Copy’ from the ‘Edit’ menu in Paintbrush, then paste the image into the desired application.
Lastly, another really useful feature in Google is its Alert utility. Click on ‘more’ and select ‘even more’ in Google, then follow the instructions for Google Alerts. For example, you might want to keep track of discussions on a subject you’re interested in. Or keep abreast of developments at your major clients. Then, each time someone anywhere in the world talks about the subject in your alerts, you’ll receive an email. That’s pretty powerful technology!