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.

Submit a question

Do you have technology questions for this column? Or, after reading an answer, do you have a better solution? Send them to jofatech@aicpa.org. We regret being unable to individually answer all submitted questions.

SPONSORED REPORT

Get your clients ready for tax season

Upon its enactment in March, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) introduced many new tax changes, some of which retroactively affected 2020 returns. Making the right moves now can help you mitigate any surprises heading into 2022.

100th ANNIVERSARY

Black CPA Centennial, 1921–2021

With 2021 marking the 100th anniversary of the first Black licensed CPA in the United States, a yearlong campaign kicked off to recognize the nation’s Black CPAs and encourage greater progress in diversity, inclusion, and equity in the CPA profession.