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ATPM 9.05
May 2003




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Review: Google Hacks (book)

by Kirk McElhearn,

Author: Tara Calishain and Rael Dornfest; published by O’Reilly.

Price: $24.95

Trial: Some sample hacks.

As many Web users know, Google is the ultimate search engine. With the largest number of pages indexed and one of the fastest interfaces, Google is the search engine of choice for most serious Web searchers. I personally use it dozens of times a day, and only rarely use other search engines. Google offers powerful search syntax, cached pages, a directory, newsgroup searches, and the recent Google News service, which has quickly become one of the Internet’s most essential sites. Unlike most other search engines, Google is not a portal; if you want to search Yahoo, you have to suffer its cluttered page layout, irritatingly frequent advertisements and oh-too-many bright colors. In contrast, Google offers a minimalist interface with maximum usefulness.

You can search for a lot of things by just typing a few keywords into a search field, and you’ll get useful results. But the real value of any search engine, and especially Google, is doubled when you learn the search syntax, or language, that allows you to refine your searches. The first part of this book begins with the basics of Google searching, and goes on to explain all the fine points of its syntax. You’ll learn how to restrict your searches to different types of documents, languages, domains, or dates. You’ll discover how to search for certain types of files, such as PDFs, Word files (.doc), PowerPoint files (.ppt) or others. And if you want to hack some HTML, you’ll learn how to make your own Google search form to put on your Web site or personal search page.

The bulk of this book, however, is not for casual searchers. Some 200 pages talk about integrating Google searches with more complex tools such as SOAP and Perl, XML, and using the Google Web API with PHP, Java, Python, C#, .NET, and VB.NET. Google’s real strength for programmers is the possibility of integrating it into other tools, and fine-tuning the results to provide the highest possible level of pertinence. There are also tips for webmasters, telling them the best way to set up their pages to get better and more targeted rankings.

Programmers and webmasters who want to work with Google and exploit its results will find a wealth of material in this book. Simple Web searchers will also learn to save time and get the most precise results from Google searches. The section on search syntax and the tips for getting the right results are worth far more than the cost of this book in the amount of time you can save and the quality of results you’ll get from Google. This is a valuable book, full of useful tips, and one that will enhance anyone’s use of Google.

Reader Comments (1)

Gregory Tetrault (ATPM Staff) · May 6, 2003 - 15:29 EST #1
I disagree with the phrase "Google is the ultimate search engine." It is the most popular search engine, but it has significant limitations. Altavista surpasses Google in a number of ways: superior indexing, page ranking based on content (not on linkage importance weighting), support for wildcard characters, full support for boolean operators (advanced search), nesting of search results, support for specific date range limits, and support for country limits.

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