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Google offers free directory assistance with GOOG-411

Not too long ago, I gave a presentation to the Downtown Milwaukee Chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals. I love speaking to groups. Not only can I share some of my expertise, but I always learn something as well. This particular lunch program focused on Google and some of its features. I believe it is important to learn as much about a search engine’s functionality as possible, then it can be used to its fullest potential.

One feature I use often is GOOG-411. If you aren’t familiar with this service, it is free business directory assistance from your cell or land line. Just dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411). It is an automated system relying on voice recognition. Give the city and state, then the name/type of the business, and it will announce the top “hits.” I have had some problems when the business name is a bit unusual, but the service does support keypad spelling. Sharing this with my husband has seen an immediate reduction in our cell phone bill.

Another feature that Google and some other search engines offer is “Define.” By placing the define operator (define: ) before a word or phrase, the engine will search the Web and locate online definitions. The authority of a site is important so the source of definition is included. Try “define: declaratory judgment.” Six results are produced, three from court web sites. This is often a great way to find a launching point for unfamiliar research.

Google also supports Currency Conversion searches and can perform mathematical operations with the Calculator. Check the Web Search Features page for all the great shortcuts. In a future post, I will introduce a few of the many other Google services.

Remember, the key is to learn all you can about your favorite search engines. Read the “About” and “FAQ” screens. I also recommend an excellent website that reviews and discusses search engines — Search Engine Showdown. Greg Notess, a librarian at Montana State University (located in my all time favorite area – Bozeman), maintains the site.

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