Image: 123RF/ lightfieldstudios
Image: 123RF/ lightfieldstudios

Google Search is turning 20 this month. To celebrate, the tech giant has released a list of "20 things you didn't know you could do in Google Search". We road-tested them and gave them a rating out of five for speed and usefulness.

1. Tip calculator

Next time you want to work out what tip you have to pay at a restuarant, type "tip calculator" into your phone and Google will do the maths for you. But wait! There's more! It also splits the tip and the bill among those paying, which is really useful.

RATING: 5/5

2. Time conversion

You can quickly work out what the time is anywhere in the world. Ask Google and you will get the result with the bonus of daylight saving already calculated. We tried Lagos and it worked.

RATING: 4/5

3. Currency conversion

Quickly work out what you are really paying for that online transaction by converting another currency to rand. We searched "R20 in USD" and got the exchange rate for the Indian rupee, which was not very useful. Search "20 rand to the USD" and you get the right result. You also get a useful - or perhaps, depressing - graph of how your currency is weakening by the day.

RATING: 2/5

4. Weather forecast

A quick search will give you the weather anywhere in the world for the next week. This really works and we checked outside - it was actually "mostly sunny".

RATING: 4/5

5. Sports schedules

To find out when your team is playing, type "team name" and "game" into Google Search and you should get the schedule. But Lions fans, be warned, you will get the Detroit Lions in the NFL and not the team in white and red. If you type in "Gauteng Lions", you get directed to the team's website, which helps a little.

RATING: 2/5

6. Set a timer

Want to time how long you are boiling that egg for? Set the timer by typing in "set a timer to 3 minutes and 14 seconds", and Google will sound the alarm when the time is up. This is really useful if you want a perfect soft-boiled egg. 

RATING: 5/5

7. Internet speed search

Google says you can check the speed of your internet connection by searching "internet speed test". Well, this did not go well when we tested it. After several minutes of jumping dots, Google said "The test can't be completed due to a problem with the network. Try again later." 

RATING: 0/5

8. Find newspaper articles from the 19th century

Google says you can find a newspaper article about your great grand-aunt by searching its archives going back more than 200 years. This search seems to take you to US newspapers, so not much use at the bottom tip of Africa. Still, it's interesting to see America's old newspapers, so it's not a total loss.

RATING: 1/5

9. Find similar websites

Google says it can help you find "similar websites" to those you love by typing in "related:yourfavesitehere.co.za". Another bust, we are afraid to say. When we typed in "related:timeslive.co.za" – looking for something like the giant SA news site – we drew a blank. When we tried "related:nyt.com", we got a long list of the US's top news sites, though.

RATING: 1/5

10. Search by file type

Google says you can search by file type by adding "pdf", for example, after what you are looking for. Being serious persons fascinated by serious documents, we looked for "national development plan pdf" and were immediately directed to the PDF version. Impressive.

RATING: 5/5

11. Find unknown words in phrases

Google says if you've forgotten parts of a phrase, you can just replace the missing words with asterisks and you will get the full phrase. We tried out "a stitch in * saves nine" and got a result along with a passable explanation of the phrase.

RATING: 4/5

12. Find word definitions

Google offers a dictionary service. By searching with "define" before a word, you are supposed to get a result "pretty much like a dictionary". We tested it with a home-grown South African  word and typed in "define kwaito". The result was impressive.

RATING: 5/5

13. Translate words or phrases

Google says all you have to do is type in "translate (word) into (language)" and you will be immediately helped. We typed in "translate mannetjie into English". The result was accurate, in a scientific sense. It picked up that the word was Afrikaans, but we were hoping for a more expressive translation.

RATING: 3/5

14. Track stocks

Google says all you have to do is to enter your stock's name to check on its performance on the amorphous markets at that time. We tried out "SGL" for Sibanye Gold and hit paydirt. An impressive little tear-sheet with a graph and some basic data accompanied the share price.

RATING: 4/5

15. Stopwatch

Google claims that is stopwatch function means "you don’t need fancy applications on your phone" to do your training. Just search "stopwatch". It's pretty basic, but it works.

RATING: 3/5

16. Flight status

Google says it can check the status of your air trip if you key your flight number into its search bar. Would it find information on a Kulula flight from Joburg to Cape Town? Yes, it would. Although the information on terminal and gate was blank. 

RATING: 4/5

17. Image search

Google says you can search images as well as words by selecting Google Images, clicking the camera icon and inserting an image or its URL. It tried but called our white-faced duck a mallard, which was a little insulting.

RATING: 2/5

18. Search between two numbers

Google says you can find information between two numbers, say by searching "Nelson Mandela 1938 ... 1998", you would get information relevant to that period. We tried it with "Bafana Bafana 1995 ... 1997" and got a snapshot of those brief glory days.

RATING: 3/5

19. Etymology

By searching 'Etymology:word', you will get the word's origins, according to Google. We tried with "skokiaan" and were impressed by the outcome for this somewhat obscure word.

RATING: 4/5

20. Find out what others are searching for

Google says you can snoop on your fellow searchers by going to Google trends and toggling the country location. We were interested in what the good folks of Poland were searching for right now. Fascinating. Google says they are all searching for something called "Acta 2". Which we have no way of disproving.

RATING: 4/5