Search engines: Smooth operators

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Listed below are five operators (or search filters) that can help you better search the web when using the major search engines.

1. Quotes (“ ”). Using quotes returns webpages that contain the exact phrase encapsulated within the quotes. For example, searching Microsoft Bing for the phrase “2015 1040 form” returned 3,390 results with the quotes, compared with 9.36 million results without the quotes. (The exact number of search results you find will vary as webpages containing these search phrases are posted and deleted.)

2. Minus sign (-). Inserting the minus (or hyphen) sign in front of a search term excludes all webpages that contain that search term. For example, searching Bing for CPA CPE courses -tax returned nearly a million fewer webpage results compared with performing this search without the minus sign (131,000 rather than 1.03 million).

3. OR. Including the OR operator in a search phrase returns webpages that contain any of your search variables, rather than all of them. For example, searching Google for accounting software OR ERP returned 63 million webpages compared with just 3.3 million webpages without using the OR operator.

4. DOT DOT DOT (…). The insertion of three periods allows you to search a range of numerical values. For example, searching FASBs 1989…1996 will help you identify those FASB pronouncements that occurred during that time frame, without having to search each year from 1989 to 1996 separately.

5. Site:. Adding the phrase Site: followed by a domain name limits the webpage results to that specified domain name. For example, searching Google for Schedule A form site:IRS.gov returned just 30,600 webpages compared with 800 million webpages when the IRS.gov site was not specified.


About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@ asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor. Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2013, 2010, and 2007 versions, unless otherwise specified.

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