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Google Pocket Guide Tara Calishain, Rael Dornfest and DJ Adams
Published by O'Reilly and Associates
140 pages
£ 6.95
Published: 24th June 2003
reviewed by Gavin Inglis
   in the March 2004 issue (pdf), (html)

The joy of a web search engine is that it is intuitively easy to use and immensely powerful: type a couple of words, click the Search button and you are offered results from anywhere in the world. Of course effective searching of a 4.2 billion page database is a different matter.

Google Pocket Guide is a short instructive guide to the Google search engine. It is sensibly broken down into four sections: what Google can do, how to ask for what you want, how to interpret the results you get, and additional services.

Primarily the book is concerned with Google syntax and features. This begins from basic Boolean concepts and works through negation, wildcards and grouping. Experienced users can skip a few pages but then will likely come across something they are unaware of, such as using the date range: syntax to find only fresh content. The examples are useful, and occasionally entertaining - such as the beautiful story of John Doe who sets a world record for eating hotdogs and immediately afterwards rescues a baby from a burning building.

The text in fact promotes intelligent thinking about searches, and encourages the narrowing down of search results to a manageable number of more relevant links. One interesting idea is to use regional slang as an informal filter. For a newcomer these concepts alone are probably worth the low cover price. The more advanced user will be interested in the various forms of specialised syntax, and how to combine them.

With a nod to this book's big sister, `Google Hacks', the third section briefly describes how to modify the URL directly. This can make changes which normally require a trip to the Advanced Search or Preferences pages. The remaining section considers Google's other services, such as Groups, Images, News and language tools. Finally, the five page appendix summarises syntax for the various filters. This would make a decent quick reference card.

Less a pocket reference and more a short introduction, this inexpensive book is a good choice for anyone who wants to improve their web searching with a light investment of money and time.

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