Not a day passes by without doing an online search. You may know of basic search operators like AND, OR, etc. but an increasing number of web applications support even more keywords that’ll help you fine tune your search to the core. Here are some you may have never heard of.

This is a guest post by Shankar Ganesh

1. Google: Use AROUND(n) for proximity search

Chances are you’ve never heard of Google’s AROUND(n) search operator. Using the AROUND(n) operator, you can specify the distance between two search terms.

For example, searching for obama AROUND(5) osama will return only those web pages that contain both these terms at a distance of five words. Could come in handy when you’re searching for name aliases, among other things. If you’re interested, check out this list containing relatively lesser known Google search operators.

2. Gmail: Search super-starred emails

Starring emails is one indispensable feature in Gmail and you’ve probably enabled Superstars labs addon. This feature gives you additional star icons to mark your messages so that you can differentiate important emails.

What many people don’t know is that you can search and find messages that have been marked by a specific star. For example, has:blue-info will restrict search results to those emails that are marked with a blue info star and not others.

Here are other search operators that you can use to find super-starred emails in Gmail:

has:yellow-star (or l:^ss_sy)
has:blue-star (or l:^ss_sb)
has:red-star (or l:^ss_sr)
has:orange-star (or l:^ss_so)
has:green-star (or l:^ss_sg)
has:purple-star (or l:^ss_sp)
has:red-bang (or l:^ss_cr)
has:yellow-bang (or l:^ss_cy)
has:blue-info (or l:^ss_cb)
has:orange-guillemet (or l:^ss_co)
has:green-check (or l:^ss_cg)
has:purple-question (or l:^ss_cp)

You really should thank the Google Operating System blog for bring these to light.

3. Gmail: Add Instant Search with CloudMagic

Gmail search simply leaves a lot to be desired. At least, in terms of speed. It’s pretty slow, especially if you have archived plenty of messages in your Gmail account. Enter CloudMagic – an addon for Firefox and Chrome that adds an instant search bar to Gmail.

Give your Gmail account credentials (don’t worry, they’re stored locally) and then click Ctrl + / to put the focus on the CloudMagic search bar. Start typing. Matching emails show up instantly as you type. If you live and die by Gmail, you gotta have CloudMagic installed. No excuse!

4. Bing: Find a new wallpaper in seconds

Google lets you use the imagesize operator to specify a resolution for image search results. You might have used this operator to search for wallpapers that satisfy your screen resolution. For example, searching for [nature imagesize:1366×768] will return pictures that are of that size.

Bing fares better in this arena. Just visit, type in your search term and choose Size > Wallpapers from the left panel. Bing will now show pictures that match your screen resolution. You needn’t explicitly specify it. One caveat: it doesn’t work if you have dual monitors. Hat tip: Labnol.

5. Evernote: Search notes based on the source they came from

If you’re an Evernote junkie, chances are you use it to dump stuff from a multitude of applications. What if you want to restrict searches to notes from a particular source? It’s easy, thanks to the built-in source operator.

For instance, source:mobile.* matches notes that were created in any mobile client and* matches notes that were pasted into Evernote from a Microsoft application like Word, Excel, etc. Check out more advanced Evernote search parameters here.

6. Search the links you share across social networks

Do you share a dozen links on Twitter and Facebook every week and find it pretty hard to trace and find that particular article you shared even a week ago? can help you find one link in seconds.

Go to and connect your Facebook and Twitter accounts. The app then indexes the links you’ve shared and makes them all searchable. You needn’t pull your hair to find that article you shared some time ago – just type a few words you remember about it and will bring it up in seconds.

There’s support for Delicious, Instapaper, RSS feeds, Pinboard besides just Twitter and Facebook. If you’re a social media junkie, you definitely need to have a account.

7. Windows: Exclude files and search only for folder names

The default Windows search feature is pretty good at finding your cluttered files across partitions. You might frequently use it to do searches if you often forget where you save your files. What if you want to restrict searches to only folder names?

It’s pretty easy, thanks to the in-built kind: operator. The next time you search for mp3 kind:folder, Windows will show only those folders that have mp3 in their names. Files will not appear in search results, even if they contain mp3 in their name.

I’m Shankar. I’m just another geek and I share all I know on my blog, Killer Tech Tips. If you’ve got a minute, check out my tips ranging from unpopular keyboard shortcuts to a guide on blocking Facebook. Talk to me on Twitter!

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Lowell is the founder and CEO of How-To Geek. He’s been running the show since creating the site back in 2006. Over the last decade, Lowell has personally written more than 1000 articles which have been viewed by over 250 million people. Prior to starting How-To Geek, Lowell spent 15 years working in IT doing consulting, cybersecurity, database management, and programming work.
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