Five search engines you should get to know

December 12, 2006

My gosh, did he say five? Turns out, all web browsers are not the same. With the amount of information exploding on the web–and your ability to put things together in a novel way one of the greatest tools in your toolkit–finding ways to access a variety of info is key part of your toolkit.

1) Google (of course). Not the oldest, but the best general purpose search engine. There are tricks to using any search engine efficiently, and Google has a nice tutorial, or you can use this cheat sheet. To keep up with things, its a good idea every once in a while to click Google’s more button just to see what craziness they’re up to. Like, fer example,

2) Google scholar (yeah, I’m cheating, but everything’s interconnected on the web anyway). This a powerful tool for finding recent articles on very precise subjects. I mean, Google Scholar can be scary dead-on good. Use it with Firefox (yes, I use two web browsers, more on that later) to quickly access at least the abstracts and citations of stuff you need to know. Use it side by side with your library’s website (and its built-in subscription access) to access the PDFs.

3) Ask, formerly Askjeeves, is a stripped-down search engine that is Travelocity to Google’s Expedia, a competent competitior that excels at some stuff. For some reason, seems to do image searches a bit better. Now, if you want a whole new type of image search….

4) Retrievr is a Web2.0 app, which basically means “new technology, unique task, potentially cool” that allows you to sketch what you’re looking for and then searches Flickr for a match (for that matter, you can use Flickr’s own search window to explore its enormous photo stash in a more traditional (Web1.0?) word-based way). Not yet particularly useful, but a view to the future.

5) Casual Visualization is another Web2.0 app (boy, these guys seem to be having fun) that presents its search retreival in a 2-D space, so as to better describe relationships among the resulting images and text. Want to visualize a scientist’s personal brand? This is the app to do it. Until Google buys them out. Again, mainly just a toy at this point, but it smells like things to come. Or teen spirit. Maybe both.