The internet has become an incredible resource for people who are blind. It places an enormous amount of useful information, merchandise and services at our fingertips if we know how to find them. This guide will briefly discuss the internet, then it will talk about the Google search engine along with its various features and show how to search the web using Google.
Before we get started, here's a list of definitions of important terms that are used with the internet that you should be familiar with.
A gigantic network of millions of computers all over the world connected together by telephone line, cable, high speed lines and satellite. The services available on this network include the world wibe web, email and FTP to transfer files between computers in the network.
The world wide web (www)-
One of the largest parts of the internet, is a collection of billions of web pages of information stored as files on computers connected to the world wide web.
One of billions of documents stored in computer files and made available on the world wide web by individuals, businesses,, government agencies and organizations. These web pages can contain text, images, music, sounds and files that you can download. You access these documents with a web browser such as Internet Explorer.
Many companies have a web site which typically has one home page, and then links to other pages that have more detailed information on the company's products and services.
Web address (URL)
The web address or URL (uniform resource locator) is a unique name assigned to each web page that allows you to request access to a particular web page by typing in its web address.
One of the many free services on the web such as Ggoogle.com. These search engines frequently scour the entire web for all web pages that they can find. They extract the information from the web pages and compile it into a gigantic index which you can search to find the information you are interested in.
Words and phrases representing the information you are looking for that you type into an edit box on a search engine's web page. Those words and phrases are then searched for in the searche engine's index to find web pages that match your query words and phrases. A list of the matching web sites is then displayed for you to read. You can click on a link to these web sites if you wish to visit (view) the web page.
When you use a search engine, the list of web sites that match your search query are typically listed 10 or 20 at a time on a separate result page. After reading the information on one result page you may click on a link to read the next result page to see more search results.
Why use the internet
There are many good reasons for using the internet, and I can just barely scratch the surface of what's available. But I'll just give you a few examples.
Up to the date news.
Web sites like www.cnn.com are constantly updating national and international news stories. On television or radio you have to listen to the news that is presented to you. On the internet you can listen to the news stories that are of most interest to you, and also get more detailed coverage than on TV.
Weather forecasts and current conditions.
On sites like www.weatherunderground.com you can get current weather conditions and forecasts for U.S. cities and towns and for major international cities also.
You can get up to the date reports and scores at sports.yahoo.com, and team standings at www.nfl.com and www.nba.com.
There are great travel bargains to be had if you know where to look. I took my family to Mexico this year and saved hundreds of dollars on airfare alone. Check out:
Maps and driving directions.
Are you going to be traveling by highway? at mappoint.msn.com you can enter your starting address and city, your destination address and city, and you will be shown detailed maps and driving directions of your route along with distances and driving times.
You can find residential telephone numbers and addresses for anywhere in the country at people.yahoo.com, and businesses for the whole country at yp.yahoo.com.
Many American businesses have their own web sites that you can visit and quickly find product and service information, contact information etc.
Shopping comparison sites.
At www.shopper.com you can find out which online stores are currently offering merchandise at the lowest price.
at www.eBay.com you can find just about any merchandise you can imagine for sale by individuals and businesses. Here you can find new and used items that are sold to the highest online bidder.
All of the sites I've listed above are reputable, and provide accurate information. On the whole I'd say that at least 95% of all web sites fall into this category.
Unfortunately however, there are also many spammers (unsolicited advertisements), including those dastardly popup ads that try to sell you some product. Porn sites may appear when you don't expect it. There are get rich schemes and people that commit hoaxes and outright fraud. You need to be careful therefore, to try to deal with reputable web sites whenever possible, and to be wary of whatever information you obtain from the internet.
One of the best ways to find information on the internet is through search engines, and the Google search engine, www.google.com in my opinion, and in a lot of other people's opinions, is the best of the best as far as search engines go. Nearly half of all web searches in the world are submitted to Google, with Yahoo coming in at second place.
Why has Google become so popular? First of all it is a leader in number of web pages searched, which is now in the billions and climbing. Another factor is the quality of search results found by Google. It has built up a data base of millions of web pages that have been reviewed by humans, and which have been selected as reputable sources of accurate information, and these web pages have llinks to other web pages which in turn gives those pages a higher rating with Google. The theory is that quality web pages tend to link to other quality web pages. Also, web pages that are visited by many people are assumed to be more popular than those visited by few people. Google carefully analyzes what you type as your search query, and uses a formula to determine the most relevant web pages based on your search. All web pages are given a score based on all of these factors, and the ones that have the highest overall score are listed first in your search results. Many times it does a good job in finding the information that you are interested in, and other times you'll need to refine your search in order to zero in on what you are looking for.
How Google works.
Google is constantly sending out what are called spiders (or robots) that scour the web for all of the web pages that can be found. They read the content of all web pages and add the words found on the pages to an enormous index. When you search on Google, you are searching that index, and Google shows you a list of the pages that contain the words that you have searched for. The index is constantly being added to and reshuffled. Your search results for one day won't be exactly the same as your search results for the next day, even if you have typed in the same query.
On some search engines, you can pay to have your web page listed high in the rankings, but Google doesn't do this. The first pages listed in your search results are based on the merits of the pages alone, and how relevant they are to your search query. Google does list some sponsored links on another part of their home page that point the the web sites of paid advertisers.
You don't have to be a computer wiz in order to learn how to do power searches with Google. And actually, although Google has many search features, many times you only have to use a few of those features to be able to find what you are looking for. In this section I'll describe the most important basic search features, and in the following section I'll go over some of the more advanced features if you're interested in learning them.
Google is not case sensitive. It doesn't matter whether you type your search words in capital letters or lower case. It's easiest just to type everything in lower case.
When typing in a search query, you should think of a few key words that best describe what you are looking for. Let's take a look at an example here. Feel free to try out these searches yourself. Let's suppose you want to find some information on the life of Abraham Lincoln. We're going to start out with a vague one word search to illustrate a point. In this guide I will place each search query on its own separate line so that you can see exactly what to type. Our first search will be with the query on the following line.
After submitting the above search, you will find that well over 10,000,000 search results will be returned. Some of the web sites listed are dedicated to Abraham Lincoln, but the majority are things that you are not looking for such as The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, and many businesses that have the word Lincoln in their names such as Lincoln Mercury car dealers.
Whenever you have thousands or even millions of search results, that tells you that you have a lot of room to narrow (or refine) your search.
So what we are going to do is add additional words to our search query. Google allows you to have up to 10 words, which is normally more than enough to find what you are looking for. this time we are going to submit the following search query.
The above search tells Google to find all web pages that contain the word Abraham and also the word Lincoln. Well, now we've narrowed it down to about 2,000,000 search results, and Google is smart enough in this case to show you the results for Abraham Lincoln first, but a page that contains Abraham Potoc and Lincoln Elementary School would show up in the search results as well.
That brings us to one of the most important and powerful search tools, the phrase search. And by the way, this is the most widely used search tool used in Google searches. You use a phrase search by placeing a quotation mark at the beginning and end of a phrase of two or more words. For example:
which would search only for web pages that contain the name Abraham Lincoln. You should use the phrase search whenever possible, such as in people's names and song titles. Here are some more examples of phrases:
"chicken and dumplings"
"most reliable cars"
Your phrases should be short,
and try to use phrases that would commonly be used by other people. If you submit the following query:
"the city and state where abraham lincoln was born"
you'll end up with zero search results. The phrase is too long and nobody's web page happens to have that exact combination of words. You get much better results with the following:
"abraham lincoln" born
which searches for all pages that contain the phrase "abraham lincoln" and also the word born anywhere on the web page.
Now, how can we limit our search to pages whose main subject is Abraham Lincoln instead of those that only mention his name in passing? The answer is the title search which is a tool that lets you really take command of what search results are displayed. I use the title search in over half of my queries. Every web page has a title, and if the web page is designed properly, the title describes the main subject of the web page.
To use the title search, you type the word intitle followed by a colon (:) and then the word or phrase that must appear in the title of the web page. Here's an example:
which would search for pages that have the name "Abraham Lincoln" in their title.
Now suppose that you notice as you are reading your search results that quite a few of the sites listed are selling books on Abraham Lincoln and you don't want to buy a book. How can you remove those from your search results? You can exclude any page that contains a particular word or phrase by placing a minus sign directly in front of that word or phrase, for example:
would exclude all web sites that contain the word price, and it turns out that many of the sites selling books are excluded this way. All right, let's put it all together and see what our final query would look like.
intitle:"abraham lincoln" born -price
The query above would find all web pages that have the name Abraham Lincoln in their title and the word born anywhere on the web page, and any web page that contains the word price is not included. After submitting the above query, you'll get a couple of thousand search results, many of which will have brief Lincoln biographies, with very few commercial sites.
You should certainly be able to find the information you are looking for within this list of web sites.
Just a couple of other things to keep in mind. Google gives highest priority to the first words that you type in the search box, and a lower priority to the words that are typed afterwards. You should type the main subject of your search first followed by any qualifying words as we did in the example above.
Also, Google gives higher priority to web pages that contain your search words grouped together in close proximity to each other.
Here's one more quick example. The internet is the world's largest recipe book. It has millions of recipes, many of which are excellent. You can use Google to not only find a recipe, but you can also tell it some of the ingredients you'd like to use in it.
For example, suppose you want to find a carrot cake recipe, and you want one with raisins and cream cheese frosting. I used the following query:
intitle:"carrot cake" raisins "cream cheese frosting"
And Google found hundreds of recipes matching that description.
I'm feeling lucky.
Every time you do a Google search, an I'm feeling lucky button is displayed along with the search results. If you click on this button, your browser will immediately take you to the web site of the highest ranked result that Google found. I personally don't use this. With the Google scripts it's easy to read through the list of search results and choose those that best suit your needs.
You can do a lot with the basic features that we discussed in the last section. But Google offers other advanced features that can be useful at times and that you might want to use.
Google uses what is called implicit,
when analyzing your queries. As an example, if you type the following query:
panasonic sharp jvc sony
Google will only find matching web pages that contain all four words panasonic and sharp and jvc and sony.
You also have the option of using the word
And notice that the word OR, should be typed with capital O and capital R, which is one exception to the lower case rule discussed in the last section. If you submit the following query:
panasonic OR sharp OR jvc OR sony
Google will find any web page that contains any of the four words. If a page contains only one of the four words, it will still be displayed.
Google usually doesn't pay attention to the most widely used English words such as:
the, is, or, do, for, as, etc.
You can force Google to include those words by using the + sign in front of the word such as:
Another way to do the same thing is to include the word in a phrase such as:
"Easy as pie"
Google doesn't support partial word wildcards like some other search engines. Instead it uses what's called automatic stemming. If you submit the word "child" Google will search for pages that contain child and children. You can override this feature by using the plus sign in front of the word like this:
which forces Google to search for only the exact word child.
Google does allow whole word wildcards. You can use a * (asterisk) in place of any word in a phrase. For example:
"the computer * my life"
will find matching web pages that contain:
The computer changed my life.
The computer saved my life.
The computer runs my life.
Google ignores most punctuation. Both of the following are treated exactly the same:
The synonym operator
You can place a ~ (tilde) in front of a word, and Google will search for that word and all of its synonyms. For example, if you type the following:
Google will search for:
Here are a few other keywords that you can use with an example for each one:
allintitle:computers monitors printers
This will find web pages with the words computers, monitors and printers in the title, and it doesn't matter in which order the words appear or in which part of the title they occur.
will search for all web pages that contain the word "mp3" as part of the URL, which is a way to search with a different twist.
will search for only Adobe PDF documents, which often give a more in-depth discussion than an HTML page.
You can also restrict your search to a specific domain type such as .com, .org, .gov and .edu as follows:
which searches for web pages with a .gov (government) extension.
The Advanced Search page
You can access the Google advanced search page by clicking on the Advanced search link on the Google home page. I don't use this very often, because most of the features offered can also be typed directly in the basic search box as we've discussed up to this point. However it does offer some additional features that are worth looking at. When you use the advance search page, the options you choose stay in effect for the current Google session only.
You can specify how many results you want to appear on each search result page. The default is 10, and you can also change that to 20, 30, 50 or 100.
You can choose to have your results displayed only in a certain language, English for example.
You can choose to display web pages that have been modified within the last 3 months, 6 months or 1 year. This can help you to avoid pages that are old and out of date.
You can restrict your search to only one domain such as microsoft.com, or the exact opposite, you can exclude a domain from your search results.
You can check an option to turn on safe search which excludes most Adult and explicit sites. It does quite well, but it's not guaranteed to filter out 100% of those sites.
Additional Google services
By clicking on the preferences link on the Google home page you can permanantly set some options that will stay in effect whenever you use Google. You can specify which language to search in, and the number of search results to display on each result page. I have mine set at 20 results.
You can choos the level of Safe search filtering for Adult and explicit sites that you want to exclude from your searches. You can choose to have result pages displayed in a separate browser window.
You access the language tools by clicking on the Language tools llink on the Google home page. Here you can restrict a search to web sites from a particular country. You can also type in a short paragraph and get a translation of the text in another language.
You can type in the URL of a web page and then let Google translate it from one language to another.
Everything that we have discussed up to this point has been directly related to the Google web search which is by far the most commonly used service on the Google web site. However, Google offers you some other services that can come in handy at times. They are accessed by clicking on links on the Google home page.
This is Google's directory which is a data base that contains millions of web pages that have been hand selected by humans. Therefore, The quality, accuracy and reputation of these web pages tends to be good.
This is how it works. First, you are presented with a list of about 70 main categories. You click on the one that best fits whatever you are looking for. The category that you selected is divided into subcategories, which are listed. As you arrow down the list, you will hear the names of the subcategories and also the total number of web sites that are found within that subcategory.
You click on one of the subcategories, and again you are presented with another list of even finer subcategories. You continue this procedure for a total of three or four or even five levels, and finally you will arrive at a list of web sites that are found in the final category that you selected, and you can click on and visit any of these web sites.
I do use the directory search now and then. Sometimes it's difficult to find a quality web site with the information you want using the regular web search and you may have better luck with the directory search.
Its disadvantages are that sometimes it's difficult to figure out in which category your information may be located. Also, it takes considerably more time than the web search, because you have to navigate through various levels of subcategories, and arrow down the list, while listening to each subcategory name. Also less than one percent of the actual web is found in the Google directory. Nevertheless, you can find some excellent web sites this way.
Google has a huge index of links that point to images on the internet. There are currently over a billion images in the index. This can come in handy if you, for example, would like to find an image to include on a web page that you are creating.
To find an image you simply type a word like:
and Google will show you all of the sunset images that it has in its index along with the size of the image and which format it is in. Most of the images are in the .jpg or .gif format. Be aware that many of these images may be copyrighted and if you want to use an image, you may have to ask for permission from the owner of the web site where the image is located.
This is a huge index of archived postings of news groups and forums. If you have ever subscribed to any of these groups, then you are familiar with what kind of information they contain.
Each group focuses on one particular topic, and the members of the group post their opinions, tips and answers to questions for the benefit of other members of the group.
If you want to use this service, you may want to use its advanced groups page to help you narrow down your search to one specific group, or only the most recent postings.
Google constantly monitors thousands of news sources from all over the world and displays the top stories in national and international news, business and financial news, entertainment, sports, science, technology and health among others.
Dealing with popup ads.
If you've been browsing the web for any length of time, you know that quite often you will be confronted with popup advertisements (spam), and sometimes they are difficult to get rid of once they have appeared on your screen.
There are quite a few free and low cost software products available, and while they're not infallible, they greatly reduce the number of popup ads that you receive. They constantly monitor your browsing sessions, and when they detect popup ads they immediately close them.
The software that I use is the Google Tool bar. It's free and you can download it at:
It works quite well for me. It makes a distinctive click whenever it blocks a popup ad. It is a thin strip of buttons that runs along the top of the Internet Explorer window. While using the Virtual PC cursor you don't even know it's there, but nevertheless it's working for you behind the scenes. The tool bar buttons allow a person using a mouse to access Google's search features from any web page. For a nonsighted person it's much easier to just go to the Google home page to access those search features. Now and then the Google Tool bar will try to block a web page that you really intend to visit. You can override the Google Tool bar block by pressing Shift+enter.
Here are strategies you can use to get rid of an ad or any other web page that you don't want to see:
1. The normal way is to use the back key, alt+LeftArrow. Unfortunately, sometimes the designer of the web page disables the back key and you have to use other strategies.
2. If Jaws announces "New browser window" it is safe to close it by pressing alt+f4.
3. Otherwise the next thing to try is alt+tab to see if you can switch back to your primary browser window.
4. If that doesn't work you have two choices. You can use alt+f4 to try to close the web page, but you risk shutting down Internet Explorer. Or you can press WindowsKey+m which leaves Internet Explorer open but breaks the grip of the web page and places you on the desktop and then hopefully you can move back to the ad to get rid of it.