You know you use it. So do I—a lot. Over the past several years, information on the Internet has become increasingly difficult to find. This difficulty is due primarily to the burgeoning garbage on the Internet. Secondarily—and oddly, as many big companies such as Microsoft and IBM tweak their sites, I've noticed that their own search engines become less useful. Googling is my answer to both these problems. In this Top 10, I share my favorite Google search tips.

10. Use the Google Toolbar—An add-on to Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE), the Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com) incorporates Google's search box in IE's toolbar, letting you do a search from any Web page. As a bonus, the Google Toolbar blocks pop-ups.

9. Use quotation marks to enclose strings—Narrow your Google searches by enclosing the exact search string that you're looking for within quotation marks. For example, to find references to only this magazine, you might type

"Windows & .NET Magazine"

8. Use the plus sign (+)—A note below the Search box on the results page after you perform a search tells you if Google has excluded a word or character from the search. Google ignores some common words and characters because they slow down searches without typically improving the results. You can force inclusion of the word or character by preceding it with a plus sign.

7. Use the minus sign (-)—The minus sign has the opposite effect of the plus sign. Use the minus sign to tell Google not to return pages that contain a certain string. The following search string omits results that contain the value 2003:

"Windows 2000" DNS forward -2003

6. Use the tilde (~) to search for synonyms—Use the tilde to return pages that contain words that have the same meaning as the word that follows the tilde. For example, the search

Windows Error ~setup

returns results that contain synonyms for setup (e.g., install).

5. Use the intitle keyword—Google's intitle keyword lets you restrict searches to the titles of Web pages, ignoring the page content. For example, you can enter

intitle:Microsoft

to search for Web pages whose title contains the word Microsoft.

4. Use the intext keyword—Similarly, the intext keyword restricts your Google searches to the text of Web pages, ignoring the information in the title bar. To search for the phrase Windows 2003 only in the text, type

intext:"Windows 2003"

3. Use the site keyword—Google's site keyword restricts your search to a particular domain. For example, to search for SSL in only the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN), you'd use the search string

SSL site:msdn.microsoft.com

2. Use Google's Preferences page—In consideration of my severely limited linguistic skills, one of the first things I do is tell Google to return only Web pages that are in English. To set this value and several other preferences, go to http://www.google.com/preferences.

1. Use Google Groups—When you're tracking down the answer to some arcane problem, don't forget to search newsgroups as well as the Web. Chances are that someone who needed help with the same problem went to newsgroups for an answer. By default, Google searches Web pages, but you can make it search newsgroups by clicking the Groups tab on Google's main page.