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by JB Burke

Q. When I search for something on Google, I often do not find anything helpful. Any hints?

A. Search in Google for “Google guides” and you will see websites providing several suggestions. Use a similar search for other search engines like Bing, Yahoo,, Altavista, Dogpile, etc. A common suggestion is to use multiple words. For example, if you are thinking of building a pergola for your backyard, putting in “define pergola” will highlight websites that provide a definition and pictures. On the other hand, “Pergola plans” will highlight sites that offer plans for you to build one. “Pergola plans free” will highlight those with plans available at no cost.

If you are not sure of the spelling, take a guess. Unless your version is a common word, Google will ask if you meant the word with the correct spelling while giving any references for the misspelled word. Bing will tell you it used the correct spelling and ask if you really want sites that use the incorrect one. If there are similar words to the one you want add the symbol ~ before the word [it is usually in the upper left of your key board]. You will receive results with related words . Usually, you receive too many listings. Read the brief reference from several of the listings to see which seems to best fit what you are seeking. The most important tip is to persevere – keep trying variations and eventually you should find a useful website.

Published: Courier 2/7/10 - Page 5C