Search engines are a terrific tool for researching and problem solving, and are useful to software developers as much as they are to everyone else.  Here are seven ways that I use Google to help me with my technical life:

1.    An obvious and common use of Google is as an online function lookup.  Google for a function to find your way to the documentation.  For example “Console.Write” will lead straight to the Microsoft MSDN page ( defining all the C# console methods.


2.    Error lookup. You can put quite obscure strings in as the search criterion; Google spiders and indexes a lot of stuff that you can’t find in dictionaries.  For example if I paste in part of an SS7 trace: "s00 e00000000 p0600", it leads me to one of our own Dialogic Developer Forums.   If your search criteria contain both what you’re trying to do and the response, you often find other users that have exactly the same problem, and with any luck a discussion and/or a solution. For example, Google for: "yum install nothing to do".   This finds quite a few forums to read about this topic.  Sometimes there is no definitive answer to your question, but knowing that you have hit a truly difficult problem is a help in itself.

3.    Searching for websites.  Not all the world’s websites are ".com", and sometimes Google is the quickest way to find the right suffix.  For example “99 bottles of beer” leads to

4.    For tracking down vaguely remembered technical articles from the past, e.g. "martyn davies ddj isdn" leads to a historic document from my past:

5.    For looking algorithms or mathematical techniques, e.g. "de morgan laws".  This wasn’t true a couple of years back, but increasingly now Wikipedia turns up at the top of the search list (e.g.  Wikipedia itself is becoming a primary source of technical information.  In Google you can also use wildcards (e.g. leibniz invented *) to find matching texts.

6.    Can’t remember what an acronym stands for?  Get Google to look it up for you, e.g. "Define MSML" returns several articles to Media Server Markup Language.  Usefully, Google has some kind of soundex algorithm to aid lookup, which often allows it to suggest the correct spelling.  For example, Google "anasthesa", and it will helpfully suggest "anaesthesia". 

7.    Google have a specific tool for searching publicly available source code:  You can look for a symbol (e.g. DLT_MTP3) or even a free form string like "we should never get here".

Do you have any more search-engine tips?