Advanced Search

The Google Advanced Search goes well beyond the capabilities of the default simple search, providing a powerful fill-in form for date searching, filtering, and more.

Google’s default simple search allows you to do quite a bit, but not all. The Google Advanced Search ( page provides more options such as date search and filtering, with “fill in the blank” searching options for those who don’t take naturally to memorizing special syntaxes.

Most of the options presented on this page are self-explanatory, but we’ll take a quick look at the kinds of searches that you really can’t do with any ease using the simple search’s single text-field interface.

Query Word Input

Because Google uses Boolean AND by default, it’s sometimes hard to logically build out the nuances of just the query you’re aiming for. Using the text boxes at the top of the Advanced Search page, you can specify words that must appear, exact phrases, lists of words, at least one of which must appear, and words to be excluded.


Using the Language pull-down menu, you can specify what language all returned pages must be in, from Arabic to Turkish.


Google’s Advanced Search further gives you the option to filter your results using SafeSearch. SafeSearch filters only explicit sexual content (as opposed to some filtering systems that filter pornography, hate material, gambling information, etc.). Please remember that machine filtering isn’t 100% perfect.

File Format

The file format option lets you include or exclude several different Microsoft file formats, including Word and Excel. There are a couple of Adobe formats (most notably PDF) and Rich Text Format as options here too. This is where the Advanced Search is at its most limited; there are literally dozens of file formats that Google can search for, and this set of options represents only a small subset.


Date allows you to specify search results updated in the last three months, six months, or year. This date search is much more limited than the daterange: syntax [Hack #11], which can give you results as narrow as one day, but Google stands behind the results generated using the date option on the Advanced Search, while not officially supporting the use of the daterange search.

The rest of the page provides individual search forms for other Google properties, including news search, page-specific search, and links to some of Google’s topic-specific searches. The news search and other topic specific searches work independently of the main advanced search form at the top of the page.

The advanced search page is handy when you need to use its unique features or you need some help putting a complicated query together. Its “fill in the blank” interface will come in handy for the beginning searcher or someone who wants to get an advanced search exactly right. That said, bear in mind it is limiting in other ways; it’s difficult to use mixed syntaxes or build a single syntax search using OR. For example, there’s no way to search for (site:edu OR site:org) using the Advanced Search.

Of course, there’s another way you can alter the search results that Google gives you, and it doesn’t involve the basic search input or the advanced search page. It’s the preferences page.

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