Bing extends date search option

Bing has at last extended its date search options. Until recently one could only limit results to the past 24 hours, past week or the past month, and then only in Bing US.  Bing has now added a custom range on a par with Google.


The UK version of Bing has not had a date option until now but bizarrely has added the old, limited US selection.

Bing-Date-UK-2It seems very strange that they haven’t implemented the full US list. One can but hope that it will happen soon rather than in several years time, which is how long it has taken for this version to appear in Bing UK.

Advanced Google workshop – Top Tips

This collection of Top Tips is a combined list nominated by those who attended the UKeiG workshop on “New Google, New Challenges”. The next UKeiG Google workshop will be run on 8th September 2016.

1. Do not trust Google’s facts and answers
Google tries to provide facts and quick answers to your queries at the top and to the right of your results. These are computer generated extracts from pages and several different sources may be used to produce an “answer”. They are sometimes misleading or completely wrong. At the time of writing, the answer provided for a search on frugivore is an excellent example. (It explains why your cat is so fussy over its food – it is obviously craving its 5 a Day!) Always go to the original source to double check the information, but this is not always provided by Google.

2. Country versions of Google and /ncr
Country versions of Google give priority to the local content. This is a useful strategy when searching for research groups, companies and people that are active or working in a particular country. Use the standard ISO two letter country code, for example for Google France, for Google Italy.

It is also worth trying your search in Your results will probably be more international or US focused but you may see new search features or layouts in that are not yet available elsewhere. If Google insists on redirecting you to your own country version, go to the bottom right hand corner of the Google home page and you should see a link to If there is no link then add ‘/ncr’ to the Google URL, for example .

The downside of using country versions of any search tool is that the prioritised information is likely to be in the local language.

3. Search history
Your search history, which is recorded and available for you to view if you are signed in to your Google account, is used by Google to help personalise your results but it can also be useful as a record of past searches. If a user comes back to you having forgotten or lost the search and documents you gave them your search history should be able to help you find both. On any search results page click on the cog wheel in the upper right hand area of the screen and select History. You can then browse your history or select a date from the calendar (upper right and area of the History screen).

4. Verbatim
This is an essential tool for making Google carry out your search the way you want it run. Google automatically looks for variations on your terms and sometimes drops terms from your search, which is not always helpful. To use Verbatim, first run your search. Then click on ‘Search tools’ in the menu that runs across the top of your results page. A second row of options should appear. Click on ‘All results’ and from the drop down menu select Verbatim. Google will then search for your terms without any variations or omissions. Note that Google will search for documents and pages in which the words appear in any order. If you are searching on the title of a paper place the title within double quote marks to force an exact phrase match. If Google still alters your search then run Verbatim. 

If you are carrying out in-depth research it is worth trying out Verbatim even if the “normal” Google results seem OK. You may see very different and possibly more relevant content.

5. filetype: command.
An important advanced search command that is available not only in Google but in many alternative search tools. Use the filetype: command to limit your research to PowerPoint for presentations, spreadsheets for data and statistics, or PDF for research papers and industry/government reports.

For example:

plasmonic nanoparticles filetype:ppt

The command must be all lower case and there must be no spaces between the colon and the command or the file extension, otherwise Google will treat the command as a searchable word. Also you must search for pre and post Office 2007 file extensions separately as Google does not automatically pick up both.

For example

plasmonic nanoparticles filetype:ppt OR filetype:pptx

Note that Google’s Advanced Search screen pull down menu for filetype: only searches for pre Office 2007 extensions.

6. Minus sign to exclude information
Use the minus sign immediately before a term to exclude documents containing that term, but use with care as you may lose valuable information. It can also be used with commands to exclude file formats or websites from your search.

For example:

occupational asthma UK

7. Combine search commands
Combine multiple commands such as filetype: and site: to focus your search. Use the OR command to search for alternatives, for example:

occupational asthma UK filetype:ppt OR filetype:pptx

8.Personalise Google News
Personalise Google News ( page when signed in to your account  and change what content is automatically displayed or add your own searches. Click on the Personalise button at the top of the right hand column. 

9. Google Scholar Cite feature
Click on the Cite link under a reference in Google Scholar and Google will give you options to import a citation in MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard or Vancouver style into BibTex, EndNote, RefMan or RefWorks. Note that if the article is only available online you may need to add a doi or a URL, and the date of access.

10. Use Google site: search on Google scholar
This is one I had not thought of but was recommended by one of the delegates as a way of using Google’s advanced search commands on Google Scholar instead of Scholar’s own. (I have not had time to test this one out myself).

Essential non-Google Search Tools – Top Tips

It has been a while since I did a Top Tips from my workshops so here is the first of two that came out of a couple of recent UKeiG events.  This collection of Top Tips is a combined list nominated by those who attended the workshop on “Essential non-Google Search Tools” on 12th April 2016 in London.

This particular workshop will be re-run later in the year on September 7th. See the UKeiG training pages for further details.

1.Use more than one search tool
Different search tools have different coverage, search features and sort results differently. If you are doing in depth research use more than one to make sure you are covering all aspects and use a tool that is most appropriate for the type of information you require.

2. filetype: command
An important advanced search command that is available not only in Google but in many alternative search tools. Use the ‘filetype:’ command to limit your research to PowerPoint for presentations, spreadsheets for data and statistics, or PDF for research papers and industry/government reports.

For example:

home ownership UK filetype:xls

Make sure that filetype is all lower case and that there are no spaces before or after the colon.

Unlike Google, most of the alternative general search engines will automatically search for both the pre Office 2007 file extensions (xls, ppt, doc) as well as the current ones (xlsx, pptx, docx) regardless of whichever version you specify.

3. Behind the Headlines – NHS Choices
This is an excellent site for tracking down the truth and the research behind sensational, front page stories about medical breakthroughs. It explains in plain English what the background is behind the story and whether or not the claims made by the newspaper articles are valid.Behind_the_headines_2

4. Million Short
If you are fed up with seeing the same results again and again give Million Short a try. Million Short enables you to remove the most popular websites from the results. Originally, as its name suggests, it removed the top 1 million but you can now choose to remove the top 100, 1000, 10K, 100K, or million from your search. The page that best answers your question might be on a site that is not be well optimised for search engines, or might cover a topic that is so specialised that it never makes it into the top results in Google or Bing.

There are filters to the left of the results enabling you to remove or restrict your results to ecommerce sites, sites with or without advertising, live chat sites and location. The sites that have been excluded are listed to the right of the results and you can, if you wish, view the excluded pages by site.

5. Carrot Search
Carrot Search was nominated for the Top Tips for its clustering of results into topics (left hand side of the results screen) that enable you to filter and focus the search, as well as the visualisations of terms and concepts via the circles and “foam tree”. This is always a popular search tool with those who prefer visualisations rather than just text as a way of presenting and refining results. Click on the Circles and Foam Tree tabs at the top and to the left of the results.

6. Compound Interest
“Compound Interest is a site that aims to take a closer look at the chemical compounds we come across on a day-to-day basis. It also provides graphics for educational purposes, both for teacher and student use.” It is run by Andy Brunning, a chemistry teacher based in Cambridge.

Recent topics include:

The Chemistry of Camembert
Chemistry History: Teflon & Non-Stick Pans
The Chemistry of an Electric Guitar

7. Internet Archive: Wayback Machine
Want to see what was on a website a few years ago or trying to track down a document that seems to have vanished from the web? Try the Internet Archive. Enter the URL of the website or document and you should then see a calendar of the snapshots that are in the archive. Choose a date from the calendar to view the page. The archive does not have everything but it is worth a try. See also the UK National Archives of old government websites and pages at

8. UK Parliament
Perfect for monitoring the progress of legislation through Parliament ( As well as following the progress of legislation you can view the documents associated with a Bill (explanatory notes, amendment papers, report stage procedures, select committee reports etc). RSS and email alerts are available for each Bill.

9. Tineye
Reverse image search tool for seeing where and when an image has been used. Either upload an image or enter an image URL. Sort the results by Best match (default), Most changed, Biggest image, Newest or Oldest. Browser plugins are available for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE and Opera.

10. Search for images by license
If you want to be sure that you are allowed to use an image for a project use a search tool that enables you to search by license. Bing has a license filter in its image search so that you need only view those that have the appropriate license. Run your search and use the drop down menu under License in the menu bar across the top of the results to apply a copyright filter.

Always go to the page hosting the image to check that the license does apply to the image you want and not to another one on the same page. (Google Images has a similar option).

Flickr Creative Commons ( describes what the different licenses allow you to do and enables you to search for photos with that license.

Other tools that have Creative Commons or public domain images include:

Wikimedia Commons  (but do check the full information on each image as there may be copyright restrictions under some jurisdictions)
Geograph  “UK and Ireland photos of landmarks and buildings for every Ordnance Survey grid”

Flickr no longer allows easy deletion of automatic tags

UPDATE: Flickr have now restored the option to delete their automatically generated tags

Flickr no longer allows users to easily remove the automatically generated tags that it adds to photos. Flickr has been using image recognition technology for a couple of years to automatically generate tags for users’ photos but didn’t make them visible until May 2015.  As well as new photos, the computer generated tags had been added retrospectively to all previously uploaded photos. My own experience is that many  of the tags are useless and some are totally wrong. See my earlier posting Flickr pulls out all the stops with automatic tagging.

Flickr_Star_Anise_TagsUser generated tags are in a grey box and Flickr’s automatic tags are in a white or light grey box. As the tags are used by Flickr when searching for images it is important that they are correct, and it explains why Flickr search results often contain irrelevant images.

Until now, both users’ and Flickr’s tags could be deleted. Hover over a tag and a cross would appear in the upper right hand corner enabling you to delete that tag. The cross no longer appears on Flickr generated tags so they cannot be deleted that way. There is a work around which is to manually add a tag that is identical to the one you want to remove and then delete the tag you have just added. This also deletes the corresponding Flickr tag.

Several people have commented that there is an option under Settings, Privacy and Permissions  that enables you to hide auto tags. This does exactly what it says on the tin:”hides” the tags. It does not remove them so they will still be used  by Flickr’s search.


Debunking Euromyths

Those of us living in the UK have become accustomed to sensational headlines in the British press warning us that the European Union (EU) is about to ban British cucumbers, sausages, cheese, church bells, street acrobats [insert food or activity of your choice]. Tracking down the relevant EU legislation to find out whether or not there is any truth in the stories is a nightmare, and they are not the easiest of documents to read and understand when you do find them. But help is at hand from an EU blog called “European Commission in the UK – Euromyths and Letters to the Editor” at

The blog covers scare stories that have appeared in the UK press, some of which go back to 1992, and explains what the situation really is and the relevant legislation.

Euromyths A-Z

There is a neat A-Z index at so you can quickly check, for example, if the EU is about to ban bagpipes:

As for banning bagpipes, Scots can rest assured that their favourite musical instrument is not under threat from EU proposals on noise pollution … they are designed primarily for those who work with loud machinery for a sustained period – more than 87 decibels for eight hours in a row. The law … will apply only to workers rather than audiences.  If, in the highly unlikely event a bagpipe player is hired to play continuously for eight hours, and the noise created averaged more than 87 decibels, the employer would be obliged to carry out a risk assessment to see where changes can be made – tinkering with the acoustics in a hall to reduce echoes, for example. If that fails, personal protection such as earmuffs will need to be considered, but only as a last resort. Banning musical instruments is not an option.

The blog is just one of many on the Europa website. A list can be found at Blogs of the European Commission.

Flickr pulls out all the stops with automatic tagging

Flickr really went to town with its automatically generated tags for my photo today. The photo was of star anise, which I took for the Challenge Friday Group; this week’s challenge is stars. A straightforward, simple photo of the spice, I thought but Flickr read a lot more into it.

This is the photo:


And these are the tags:

Flickr_Star_Anise_TagsThe ones at the top with the grey background are the tags that I assigned to the photo. The rest are Flickr’s.

I deleted several of them before I thought of taking a screenshot for posterity but what is left gives  you a flavour of the range of concepts that Flickr feels are relevant.  Some of them I agree with (pattern, star shape, symmetry). Others I shall delete  as they are of no help to anyone searching on them (foliage, leaf, landscape, tree, forest, blossom,  pastel).

I do, though, rather like “minimalism” even though the structure and complexity of flavour and aroma  of star anise is far from minimalist. It  stays.

Business information key resources and search strategies – Top 10

The participants  of the business information workshop I ran on March 8th  had a variety of interests: search strategies and commands for Google et al,  UK government information, statistics, open data, social media, companies, locating scientific research.  So it was quite tough limiting the Top Tips that I asked them to nominate at the end of the day to just 10.

This is what they came up with.

  1. Get to know the key resources and starting points for different types of business information e.g. Companies House, OFFSTATS and go direct to those rather than Google. It will save you time in the long run.
  2.  Verbatim. An invaluable tool for research when Google insists on rewriting your search and dropping terms. To make Google search for all of your terms without variation, but in any order, first run your search. Then click on ‘Search tools’ in the line of options above your results. In the second line of options that appears click on ‘All results’ and from the drop down menu select Verbatim. If you are carrying out in-depth research it is worth using Verbatim even if your “normal” Google results seem to be OK. You may see very different content in the Verbatim list.
  3. Combine advanced search commands such as site: and filteype: to focus your search on types of information (PDF reports, PPT presentations, spreadsheets containing data) and websites (government, academic, individual sites). Also try using the minus sign to exclude documents containing specific terms or sites that are irrelevant.
  4. Phil Bradley’s UK Newspapers Google Custom Search Engine.
    A relatively new tool that enables you to search all of the major national UK newspapers and regional newspapers. A real time saver if you are searching for local information on a local business or entrepreneur and don’t want to have to track down all the local papers and search them one by one.
  5. OFFSTATS – The University of Auckland Library A good starting point for official statistical sources by country, region subject or combination of categories. All of the content in the database has been chosen and quality assessed by staff at The University of Auckland Library.
  6. Zanran A tool for searching information contained in charts, graphs and tables of data. Enter your search terms and optionally limit your search by date and/or format type. Zanran comes up with a list of documents that match your criteria with thumbnails to the left of each entry. Hover over the thumbnail to see a preview of the page containing your data and further information on the document.
  7. Advanced Twitter Search. Essential tool if you are using Twitter to look for news on product developments, announcements, conferences, discussions on technologies/companies, or how companies interact with customers.
  8. Wayback Machine Want to see what was on a website a few years ago or trying to track down a document that seems to have vanished from the web? Try the Internet Archive Wayback Machine at Enter the URL of the website or document and you should then see a calendar of the snapshots that the archive has. Choose a date from the calendar to view the page. The archive does not have everything but it is worth a try. See also the UK National Archives of old government websites and pages at
  9. OUsefulInfo, “Trying to find useful things to do with emerging technologies in open education and data journalism”. Maintained by Tony Hirst, this blog has useful information and descriptions of what can be involved when dealing with and manipulating open data.
  10. DuckDuckGo This was not covered in the workshop but one of the participants recommended it as a useful alternative to Google. Aside from the absence of tracking and personalisation it provides different and a greater variety of results when compared with Google.

Edited highlights of the workshop slides can be found on authorSTREAM and Slideshare.

My next business information related workshop is Discover Open Data on  the 7th April.  The  next advanced Google workshop (New Google, New Challenges) is on the 13th April and the Essential non-Google search tools is on  the 12th April.

Business information resources and search strategies

Statista_2I’ve finally finished “updating” my slides and notes for the first of this year’s workshops on business information, which takes place next week. It was not so much an update, more  a rewrite. With all the changes at Google, UK government website transfers and disappearances, the “right to be forgotten” and the many website design changes by business resources to make them mobile friendly I was virtually starting from scratch.

Next week’s workshop is being organised by TFPL in central London on Tuesday 8th March.  TFPL have made the event the “Course of the Week” and reduced the price to £249, but you have to book by  midnight on Friday 4th March to get the reduced price.

The topics I shall be covering include:

How the legal and regulatory environment is affecting search and the provision of information

Starting points, evaluated listings and government sources

Company information: share prices, financials, official data

Statistics, market and industry data, open data

News sources and alerting services

Essential search techniques for tracking down business information

How to use social media and professional networks for business intelligence

Where to find older, archived material

As usual, there will be practical sessions for people to try out resources and search techniques for themselves.  If you are interested go to the TFPL website or contact their learning time on 020 7378 5477.

Google advanced search – get it right!

When running advanced search workshops, and especially Google sessions, I prefer not to dwell on commands and search options that are no longer supported. They are gone and that is that, and it is far better to concentrate on how to get the best out of what is left. Of course it is unavoidable when your slides have been prepared several days before the event and  Google decides to pull the plug on one of your favourite search features just before you start! Similarly I tend not to show “this is how NOT to use….” a command  or incorrect syntax. It is often the incorrect format that one remembers.  Recently, though, I have added slides  to my presentations that cover both defunct commands and errors in syntax and format.

The problem is that not only are many people unaware that some search options are no longer available but also some fact sheets and articles covering advanced search are getting it wrong. The recent Guardian article on top search tips for Google almost got it right  but referred to the tilde, which was dropped in 2013, and did not really understand how Google automatically looks for synonyms and variations on a term (see my earlier blog posting Guardian’s top search tips for Google not quite tiptop). I have also seen a couple of recently produced Google  fact sheets riddled with mistakes.

The wonderful thing about Google is that it can take the most tortuous and error ridden search string and still come back with something that is sensible – most of the time.  The downside of this is that one assumes the search query has worked as intended when in fact Google has totally rewritten the search for you.  At some point, though, Google will rewrite the search in such a way that it brings back rubbish. So, it is important to know what commands are available and how they should be used.

Let’s get started.

Plus (+) sign before a word to force an exact match.

This was discontinued in October 2011 because Google intended to use it as a way to search for Google+ pages. That has been abandoned and it is now a searchable character.  If you want to force an exact match search on a term precede the term with intext: for example intext:agriculture.

I have also seen examples claiming that a plus sign between words acts as a Boolean AND. No, it doesn’t.  If you do get different results when using + it is because Google is searching for that as well as your terms.

Tilde  (~) for synonyms

This was withdrawn in  June 2013  because not many people used it and it was no longer needed. Google now looks for synonyms by default.

thesaurus: for alternative terms

‘thesaurus:’ sort of works because Google treats ‘thesaurus’, having ignored the colon,  as a search term. So ‘thesaurus:eclectic’ will give you links to pages and websites of dictionaries and definitions that give synonyms for eclectic. It does not give you a straightforward list of alternatives in the same way that ‘define’ does. If you use thesaurus  you have to go the websites in turn to view the synonyms.



The asterisk *

The asterisk (*) is a placeholder for terms between two words e.g. solar * panels finds solar photovoltaic panels, solar PV panels, solar thermal panels. It is NOT a truncation symbol. Again, you might think it is because Google ignores the asterisk and automatically looks for  words that begin with the letters you have typed in.

The example I gave in my earlier blog posting was a search on phenobarb*. I expected Google to pick up references to phenobarbitone. It picked up 76,000 results including phenobarbital but there was no mention of phenobarbitone in the first 100.  Phenobarb without the asterisk picked up the exact same results.  A search on phenobarbitone, with and without the asterisk came up with 241,000 results. I have no idea how or when Google decides to stop looking for variations on your string but it is obvious from the above example that the asterisk is not a truncation symbol.

Do NOT capitalise the first letter of commands, and NO spaces

Commands such as intitle:, intext:, filetype: and site: must be all lower case and NO spaces between the colon and the search term. Capitalise the first letter or add a space after the colon or both and Google treats the command as an ordinary searchable word.

The correct format for an intitle: search is, for example, intitle:caversham and finds the following:


Capitalise the first letter of the command or insert a space or both and you find:

Google_Intitle_WrongI do understand why so many fact sheets, and presentations, show commands with an initial capital letter. You spend ages preparing your information and when you have sent off your slides for printing or converted your document to a PDF you discover that Microsoft Office has changed the format of the command. Because your search example is on a separate line with the command at the start Office, bless it, decides to auto-correct and capitalise the first letter. I know, it has happened to me! So, please, check and double check your support materials.

Google searches for all of your terms by default

Not always. If your search, as it stands, finds zero or a low number of results then Google will drop one or more terms that are usually shown as strikethroughs.  In the above screenshot you can see that the third entry in the results has a “Missing: caversham” at the end of the snippet.

If Google is dropping a term that is essential to your search then prefix it with intext:, for example intext:caversham. If you want all of your terms to be included, and without any variations, then use the Verbatim search option.  If you are using a desktop or laptop run your search and then click on the Search tools option at top of your results. A second line of options will appear. Click on All results and select Verbatim.  The layout and location of Verbatim on mobile devices will usually be different.

Double quotation marks around phrases

Double quotation marks around phrases, titles of papers, song titles, famous sayings etc. works most of the time. But, again, if Google finds zero or only a handful of results it will ignore the marks. Google may also alter the spelling of one or more words within the double quotation marks. Use Verbatim if you are sure that the phrase is correct and you want to bring Google to heel.

Full nested Boolean search

Google has NEVER supported full nested Boolean search. I still meet people who are adamant that Google does, but when pushed they admit that they often get unexpected results.  You can , though, use OR for alternative terms and the minus sign before a term to exclude documents containing that term.

This is how Google interprets the search (confectionery OR chocolate) AND (production OR manufacture) AND (france OR Germany OR UK OR switzerland) NOT belgium


Note that pages containing Belgium are included rather than excluded.

Remove the ‘NOT Belgium’ and this is what we see:


Add ‘-belgium’ to the end of the search instead of ‘NOT belgium’ and we get:


Running Verbatim on our original Boolean search shows that Google is treating AND and NOT as lower case, searchable words:


If you really want to use full Boolean, then get thee hence to Bing.

If you want to learn more about Google search Dan Russell, who works at Google,  is currently running an online course on Power Searching with Google.  Alternatively, if you want a more business or academic research and UK/European oriented workshop on what Google can do I am running an advanced Google workshop with UKeiG on April 13th, 2016.

Google’s Knowledge Graph a total fruitcake

Many thanks to Emily Scott who alerted me on Twitter to a priceless example of Google Knowledge Graph getting it totally wrong.

For those of you who don’t know what the Knowledge Graph is, it is the box that sometimes appears on the right hand side of your results, which pulls together information on your topic from a variety of sources.  To quote Search Engine Land it is “a system that Google launched in May 2012 that understands facts about people, places and things and how these entities are all connected“. The problem is that Google quite often gets it wrong, although usually it is just one fact that is incorrect. One of the more well know examples is when Google decided that the American author Robert Greene was born in 1959 but died in 1592. It had confused him with the the 16th century English writer of the same name. As I always say in my Google workshops, never trust the information that appears in the Knowledge Graph.  The data comes from different sources that may be referring to entities that are not related at all.

The example that Emily encountered, though, is in a league of its own. She was searching for frugivores (fruit eaters) and this is what Google’s Knowledge Graph suggested:


As far as I am aware fruit is not the preferred food of wolves, cats or lions.  Clicking on the “View 45+more” option for representative species we see that Google is under the impression that cheetahs, killer whales, polar bears and leopards are also frugivores.


I’ll allow raccoons although I wouldn’t say that fruit is their preferred food. But, hey, what do I know about raccoons other than that my US friends tell me the little s***s raid trash cans and will eat anything they can get their paws on.

No doubt someone has already reported the error via the feedback link and someone at Google is busy correcting it. Enjoy and take screenshots while it is still there.

News and comments on search tools and electronic resources for research