Better answers

Yesterday, I had mused a bit about search engines.  I got some interesting questions – Dogpile?  Why certainly!  Why just “Go” when you can “Go Fetch”?

Many people just stick with the default search engine that comes with their browser and that’s OK.  Search engines generally all do a wonderful job of bringing back good results from your search query.  This can be frustrating, at times, if you don’t know how best to ask for that search.  Enter a single word like “house” and you’ll get all kinds of diverse results that may not even close to what you’re looking for.

I just did it on Google and got some interesting results.  First, it knew I was searching from Canada and so I got the Canadian Election Doodle.  My results included the television show by that name followed by real estate agents in this area.  It’s Google’s way of trying to guess what I was looking for, given my search parameters.  Bing landed on a beautiful graphic and its results actually gave pictures of houses before getting into television shows.  There were links to the election and tonight’s baseball game so it definitely had a Canadian feel.  Yahoo! had the same landing page as any other days and it featured some election stories.  When I did my search there, I got results about the television show.  I don’t recall ever actually watching it.  Are these search engines telling me something?

The actual answer is that my search was so vague, I didn’t really have a chance of easily getting what I might be searching for.  I’m a sucker for reading stories to help the cause like this one “11 Google Tricks That Will Change The Way You Search“.  If only I could remember them all.  Plus the tricks and tips from all of the other related articles.  In the Bing world, there’s actually a website called Bing tips and tricks.  Am I going to have to memorize those as well?

Apparently, searching for “house” on the landing page just doesn’t cut it.

Quite frankly, I don’t have the mind capacity (or the will) to memorize all of these tips and tricks. 

Fortunately, most search engines have me covered there.  There’s a relatively well hidden better solution.  It’s called “Advanced Search” and you do have to go looking for it.  And I’ll tell you, the search <grin> is worth it.

In Google, go here instead.

Or Yahoo! Advanced

Bing used to have an advanced search feature but I can’t find it.  You can still learn the tips and tricks to get better results.

Duckduckgo uses advanced search terms and bangs

I’m such a fan of the advanced search feature.  For too long, I saw students fumble with the basic search interface in search of results and then compromised on what they could find instead of finding exactly what they’re looking for.  There really is a difference.

When at the school district, I had located all of the advanced search links and pulled them together into a page that we called the Student Reference Portal.  This was set as the starting page for all students so that they could immediately launch into a search environment that gave them a better chance of finding what they were looking for.  Of course, it still requires the proper use of data to be submitted to the search engine but that just goes to that element of digital literacy.  That’s always worth teaching.

If you’re looking for that “one click” experience to get you to the advanced search, you can do it right now.  Find that advanced search feature for whatever search engine that you elect to use and bookmark it.  It will remain there quick and easy for future use.

Now, when you need to be productive in your searching, instead of crossing your fingers and typing www….. (which is a skill in itself), just click on the bookmark and away you go.  I like to have a couple bookmarked because, as we all know, the exact result you’re looking for may be easier found in one search engine than another.

Starting New

I never really thought about this for the longest time.  A new tab was just a new tab and a place to start browsing anew while not losing the original focus on the previous tab.  I really bought into the concept of multiple tabs so that I could do and work on a couple of things at once.

Time moves on and I do my best to become efficient.  Because I always check into Twitter, Facebook, my Gmail account, it made sense to save these tabs and load them automatically when I load my browser.  Then, I got hooked on Alltop.  It was a great way to have the commonly read web resources load every time I got started.  For me, I got the sense that I was working smarter and that really made a great deal of sense.  Just the menial task of manually opening tabs seemed to rob me of productivity time.

I think my philosophy changed the first time I loaded the Opera browser and saw Speed Dial for the first time.

You could turn the new tab experience into an ever greater launch point for productivity.  I started looking around and ended up with the Incredible Start Page and I shared it on this blog here.  It just because like a pair of comfortable shoes.  It was there when I started a new tab – had a notepage for quick notes to myself, access to my bookmarks, the apps I had installed, and a list of the most visited sites for me.  For my Google Chrome browsing experience, it was great!  Oddly, I didn’t make the same effort to change the new tab page in the other browser of choice – Firefox, the default always did the job for me.

Then, about a week ago, I read a couple of articles about applications and extensions to bring more functionality to the browser.  The nice thing about blogging was that I could go back to the original post and realize that I hadn’t changed the new tab function for two years.  That’s an eternity to changes made on this computer!  So, I devoured these two articles.

…and then started to explore.

I had really bought into the Rockmelt philosophy that there should be something new every time you load a browser.  I was motivated to look for something with the concept that Rockmelt will stop functioning on August 31.  I really hope that Yahoo! finds some way to keeping it alive but that’s fodder for another post.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was just something new when I opened a new tab?

I’ve been curious about active tiles and how it works within Windows 8.  Not enough to buy it but the whole metro interface thing seems to be a new model for getting to the latest and greatest and having it right on your Windows desktop.  Could it not happen in a new tab instead?

To that end, I downloaded and installed the new metroTab.  It had that new metro experience but after poking around I realized that I could do some great customization to suit my needs – including the philosophy that everything looks better in green.  I had access to recently closed tabs but am really drawn to the active content on the desktop.  I liked what I saw and kept it.  It did seem a little wrong to have it running on Ubuntu so I changed the background colour to orange and it does seem to fit nicely there.

I continue to poke around and see what I can do on a regular basis.  The only think that’s seemingly a void in the upgrade was a missing notepad.  But having a tile to Evernote was a no-brainer – I really had gravitated there for the most part anyway.

What to do to refresh Firefox?  There wasn’t a metro interface in the second article but New Tab Tools gives a very nice customization ability to getting started.

In both cases, access to recently closed tabs helps out with those “D’oh” moments.

I’m liking the current new tab modifications.  I haven’t forgotten the past and they may well return but such is the life of an ever evolving search for the ultimate productivity tools.  In the classroom, what a great way to make it easy for students to get to web resources for those computers progressive enough to be using web applications.

Speaking of ever changing, you can’t be complacent.  I read this today.  Changes to Chrome’s New Tab Page.

Who can’t handle a little change?