Thursday, 6 October 2016

Search deeper THAN THE WEB

Search deeper THAN THE WEB

Typing search queries into Google only gets you so far. Robert Irvine explains how to find information, people and content that doesn’t appear in web search results

Search across legal streaming services

There are so many streaming services these days that by the time you’ve searched them all to find a particular film or TV show, you’re probably ready to go to bed. Typing Watch [title] into Google isn’t much help because it yields lots of irrelevant results, including YouTube trailers, dodgy torrent sites and silly ‘clickbait’ articles. A much better option is to use the marvellous JustWatch (, which lets you search all the main video-on-demand services in one place. Enter the title of a movie or TV series and JustWatch will scour providers including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Now TV, ITV Hub, Apple iTunes, Google Play and Prime Instant Video, and tell you exactly where you can stream, rent or buy it. Click a result to open it on the relevant service or add it to you Watch List to view later.

Just Watch also offers free apps for Android and iOS ( that let you set price-drop alerts for specific rentals and purchases.

Search across social networks

Although Facebook posts and Twitter tweets often appear in Google search results, the ‘walled garden’ approach of the big social networks makes it difficult for Google to find specific content. But if you’ve ever tried using Facebook’s own search facility, you’ll know how frustrating it can be, despite the company’s promise last year to make every public post searchable. Other social-media sites aren’t much better, but fortunately help is at hand from Social Searcher ( This lets you search across all the main social networks from one place and filter your results to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Just type your query into Social Searcher’s search box to see matches on services including Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Reddit, Tumblr, YouTube, Flickr and more, which you can then sort by date or popularity. Further options let you deselect networks you’re not interested in, view only certain types of content such as photos or status updates, and even filter results according to their sentiment – positive, negative or neutral.

You’ll notice that we didn’t mention Facebook. That’s because Mark Zuckerberg no longer allows thirdparty search tools unlimited access to his site. However, you can get Social Searcher to scour Facebook by entering the URLs of specific pages.

The free version of Social Searcher limits you to 100 searches a day, but if you need to make more, you can buy a subscription from £3 a month. This also adds useful features such as socialnetwork monitoring.

Search across online-storage accounts

Do you know exactly which of your files are saved in Google Drive, Dropbox and other cloud services? We bet you don’t, and neither do we, which means you need to visit each individually when looking for a specific item. Unless, that is, you sign up with the excellent Xendo (, which lets you search multiple online accounts simultaneously and find any file in seconds.

Simply register with the site, select the services you use from the list – which includes Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, Box, Pocket, Evernote and Gmail – and Xendo will index the contents of your accounts. Once it has built an index, Xendo automatically keeps it up to date by adding, removing and updating content as it changes.

To search across all your services, either type a search query into the Xendo website or install the Chrome extension ( to look for files from anywhere on the web. Matching documents, photos and other items appear instantly in the results list, and can be filtered by date, type and service. Double-click a result to open it.

Xendo is free to use, but if you want to search back further than the last 30 days of uploads, you’ll need to subscribe for $9 (£6.99) per month. It uses AES-256 bit encryption and has no direct access to your files, which are still stored on each service’s servers.

Search within apps on your phone

Google has owned Android since 2005, so it’s surprising that the search giant has taken so long to apply its powers to mobile apps. Similar to the Spotlight feature in iOS, Google’s handy new In Apps search mode ( makes it easy to find content that’s stored within apps on your phone or tablet, without you needing to open them first. To use the feature, either open the Google app on your search device or tap the Google search-box widget and type or speak your search query as usual. When the results appear, swipe the menu bar to the left and tap the In Apps option to view matches from your apps. These include contacts in your People app, messages in your Gmail and Messaging apps, posts on Facebook and Twitter, songs and videos on Spotify and YouTube, TripAdvisor reviews, BBC News stories and much more.

You can control exactly which apps are included in the search by going into Settings, selecting In Apps and deselecting any you want the feature to ignore. You don’t need an internet connection to use In Apps, and only you can see the results. Google says its search capabilities will be extended to more apps over the coming months.

Get an instant answer to any question

Google is constantly refining its responses to properly phrased questions, such as: ‘what’s the time in Rio?’, ‘is it going to rain today?’ and ‘what noise does a cow make?’, but it still can’t compare to the amazing computational power of Wolfram Alpha ( Ask this brain box virtually anything, and rather than returning a list of possibly relevant web pages, it gives you the answer instantly. Its knowledge spans everything from mathematical equations and scientific facts (the largest known star is V1489 Cygni, apparently) to showbiz trivia and Scrabble scores for specific words, making Wolfram Alpha the tool you wish you’d had to hand during exams.

Secret features that you certainly don’t get in Google include an anagram maker (type anagrams followed by a word), image-editing tools such as cropping, filters and colour processing (see for the full list), a rhyming dictionary (type words that rhyme with [word]), a Morse Code translator and much more.

Wolfram Alpha also has an Image Identification Project ( that goes further than Google’s reverse-image search by guessing the subject of a picture – with varying degrees of success!