03 November 2003

Review - Google Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools

by Mary Gorman

In April of 2002, the Google Engineering Team released an API (application programming interface) to their search engine technology. Initially aimed at software developers, the Google Web API program offers three services that developers can integrate into their own applications: access to the company's search engine; access to cached Web pages; and a spelling correction API that points users to alternate spellings of misspelled words typed into the search engine.

The authors state in the preface that "the idea of Google Hacks is not to give some exhaustive manual of how every command in the Google syntax works, but rather to show you some tricks for making the best use of a search and show applications of the Google API that perform searches that you can't perform using the regular Google interface". (p. xviii)

Google Hacks book cover

Learn to save time and get more precise results from your Google searches by getting the most out of Advanced Search or building/modifying code using the API. Sections devoted to search syntax are particularly helpful. Mari Stoddard, Head of Educational Services at Arizona Health Sciences Library, is a fan of Hack #11, date-range searching. The syntax allows you to narrow your search results to fresher content and to compare results over time.

Although Google doesn't support "stemming", Hack #13 explains the full- word wildcard. (Google's wildcard character is *). Combine a special syntax with Google News (#32) and take advantage of its clustering capabilities.

Try out examples of other hacks online at hacks.oreilly.com/pub/ht/2.

In Chapter 8, The Webmaster Side of Google, topics range from the PageRank Algorithm and Google's AdWords program to how to remove your content from Google. You don't have to be the webmaster of a commercial site to find this information useful.

Mari Stoddard thought this book was helpful "for people who don't spend their lives researching search engines" like she does because it organizes the hacks in one reference tool. Even if you don't use the API, "Google Hacks" offers the information broker, librarian, software developer and everyday google whacker "Tips & Tools" for more efficient and effective searching.

Calishain, Tara and Rael Dornfest. Google Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools. O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., 2003.

Mary Gorman is a May 2003 SIRLS graduate currently working at the Arizona Cancer Center. Combining her background in medicine and information science, she coordinates data and safety monitoring for clinical trials of new drugs.

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