A Beginner’s Guide to Web Searching

Even if you have been searching online for years, you may not know some basics about how to search quickly and efficiently. Often people try formulating a series of keywords for a search, when all that is needed is to type a question. On the Mac in Safari, you can choose your search engine, and sometimes skip the search results page with the suggestions provided. You can also search a specific site if you already know which site contains the information you seek.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: A Beginner’s Guide to Web Searching.

Searching is a pretty common task to do on the web. But there's some ins and outs that not everybody may know about. So to search using Safari on your Mac you use the address bar, or address box, at the top of the browser. This is the same box you use to type in the web address directly. For instance, a web address may be macmost.com and that takes you directly to MacMost.com. However, if you were to just type macmost, not with the dot com after it, you would actually be performing a search for that term. So in this case I'm getting results having to do with macmost.

Search terms look different than web addresses because you don't have dot com or dot net or dot edu or something after them. They're actually just regular words without a period in them anywhere or a series of words. So, for instance, you could search for macmost keyboard shortcuts and it knows that this is a search term not because you've said it specifically but because it knows that a series of words separated by spaces is not a web address. So it's making some intelligent guessing as to whether or not you're going directly to a specific address or you're starting a search.

Now you have some options when it comes to searching. Notice the Goggle logo here. The default search engine when you type some search terms and hit return is to search Goggle. But you can change that. In Safari Preferences, click on Search, and you get to choose from four different search engines. So, for instance, you can use DuckDuckGo or Bing or Yahoo for the search. If I switch to one of these and then I perform the same search I'm going to get results from that search engine.

Now this is only true for searches where you are using the address box at the top. If you were to go directly to the search engine, like if I were to go to Goggle.com, I can use that search engine there. So if my default search engine was set to Bing I could just say Goggle.com, go to Goggle and search there. Sometimes you get extra functionality at the home pages for the search engines as well. Sometimes it may be worthwhile to go to them and do the search that way.

Now a problem a lot of people have is knowing exactly what to type to get good search results. In the early days of the internet you may have to type just one key word or a couple different key words to get an answer. So, for instance, you might type numbers pie chart other slice to find out how to do pie charts with other slices in them. Here you get some answers. There's the macmost video, the second one and the third one. The first one is an excel video for some reason.

You don't have to go and try to figure out which key word to throw in there. You can just ask your question. Search engines are very good at figuring out what you want based on natural language. So if I type in How do I create pie charts in mac Numbers with an other slice? The results come back pretty much the same. There's an ad at the top. Another thing you should know about search engines is to look for search results that are listed as advertisements. You can see the first real result here is for the macmost video about exactly that subject.

The title of that video isn't exactly what I asked. I asked a question here and I got good search results just by using that. So if you want to find out who started the war of 1812 you could try to figure out like war of 1812, causes, you know etc. Or you could ask, like you would as a person. You usually get your answer there pretty quickly.

Now when you search in Safari in the Mac you'll get some suggestions at the top. So, for instance here when I just searched for the war of 1812, right away at the top I get the wikipedia entry, I get some other Goggle suggestions for other things you may want to look at. Like there's a timeline, a summary, there's a song apparently. You also get results in your history. So if you've recently looked at a page, instead of searching through your history, you can always just type up here and usually history results will come up in the search engine as well.

Now there are tons of search tips and tricks. I've gone over some of them in the past and planning on doing more videos in the future. I just want to share one with you now because it's the one I use the most often. If, with the Goggle search, you type site and then colon and then the name of the site with no spaces. So, site:macmost.com and the first space is right after that and then type a search term you'll get search results only from that website. So you can search any website you want. You want to just search wikipedia you can do the same thing. Site:wikipedia.com and then the search terms after it. That really helps if you are looking for something and you already know what site it's at, you just want to find the right page.

Comments: 2 Responses to “A Beginner’s Guide to Web Searching”

    2 years ago

    Hi Gary, I just wanted to say thank you for all of the “beginner” tips & tricks. My mother (in her 80s) has a new MAC and is feeling a bit intimidated. I’m helping, but often am so familiar with what i’m doing that i fail to give easy-to-understand directions. This series is great for that. It also reminds me of things I could and should be doing.

    2 years ago

    Hi Gary,
    Thank you for your final tip regarding typing a site followed by a colan and then the name of the site with no spaces, to enable you to get a search of a specific subject on only that site.
    I am a voluntary editor of an Apple/Mac User Group Newsletter in Australia and often do numerous fruitless searches on the web.
    This tip will help speed up my searches.
    Keep up the good work.
    Thank you.

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