From a tipping calculator to checking the status of a flight: 20 helpful Google search hacks

Business Insider SA
(Google Search)
  • Google sees some 3 billion searches per day.
  • But the engine behind it has some rarely-used features that can be very handy, if you know about them.
  • These are some of our favourites, including a tipping calculator and checking the status of a flight.

Google Search's usefulness in present day society cannot be underestimated, with over three billion searches carried out across the globe ever day.

But there is more to Google than just plain search. These are some of its lesser-known functions.

These are 20 cool Google Search hacks

1. Set a timer 

Google Search timer set to 1 minute. (Google)

Just put a dish in the oven or need to time yourself for a work/school-related task? Just type into the Google search bar 'set timer for 10 minutes, hours or seconds' and Google will beep when the time is up.

2. Internet speed search

Internet speed search. (Google)

Testing internet connection bandwidth and latency is as easy as typing 'internet speed test' into the Google search engine bar and Google will generate both upload and download speeds.

Internet speed test. (Google)

3. Flight status

The status of a flight including terminals and estimated times of departure and arrival. (Google)

If you have a flight coming up and need to check up more info, all you need to do is type the flight number like we did for a 'BA6249' trip from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth the following morning.

4. Find a super old newspaper 

Google News archives: The British Colonist newspaper, 1 May 1823. (Google)

History-mongers will appreciate articles from over 100 newspapers dating as far back as the 19th century on Google News' ample archives (

5. Currency conversion

R10 converted to Botswanan Pula via Google search. (Google)

Currency conversions are much more straight forward by simply inputting the amount and currency followed by the currency you'd like to convert to, for example '10 rands to pula'.

6. Weather forecast

8 day weather forecast for a small tourist town in Mpumalanga, South Africa. (Google)

Google search can generate weather forecasts for up to eight days by just typing in 'weather' followed by the location.

7. Sports schedules

Fixtures for football team, Orlando Pirates. (Google)

To check fixtures for any sports team like we did for football club Orlando Pirates, all you need to do is type in the name and next game: 'Orlando Pirates next game'

8. Quick dictionary

The definition of the word 'gargantuan'via Google Search. (Google)

If ever you need to quickly check the definition of a word, it's as easy as typing 'define' followed by the particular word into Google Search. Search results can get as comprehensive as also providing word origins and pronunciation.

9. Track shares

Trading chart and share prices for Steinhoff International Holdings obtained via Google Search. (Google)

One doesn't need a sophisticated trading platform to obtain information on a particular share including the trading chart. If you know the code, all you have to is just enter it into Google Search like we did for Steinhoff, 'SNH'.

If you don't know the share code then the company name and 'share price' will also do the trick.

Old Mutual's share prices and trading chart. (Google)

10. Etymology of words

The origins of the popular local word 'Voetsek'. (Google)

The origins of words like the popular and widely-used local voetsek can be quickly summed up by typing in 'Etymology: voetsek' to read up on how they came to be.

11. Google trends

Top 5 local google searches on 10 September 2018. (Google)

Google trends ( is similar to Twitter trends but based on what South Africans are searching for on Google.

12. Searching between two numbers

Google Search results on Johannesburg focusing on the years 1890 to 1900 only. (Google)

When you want your google search results focused on specific years, the ellipsis is your friend. In our instance, we wanted search results for Johannesburg but between the years 1890 and 1900 — by placing three dots in between the years: 'Johannesburg 1890... 1900'.

13. Find similar websites

Websites similar to Buzzfeed. (Google)

If you like a website's content and would like to visit similar sites to it like we did for Buzzfeed, all you do is type in 'related sites: Buzzfeed' and Google will do all the digging for you.

14. Search by file type

A PDF document of the Budget Speech from Google Search results. (Google)

Specifying the type of file you'd like for whatever document you're google searching at the end of the search terms will present you with download links to it — like the National Budge Speech that we wanted in a downloadable PDF format: 'National budget speech pdf'.

15. Find unknown words in phrases


Asterisks can come to one's rescue if you can't remember all the words to a popular phrase like: 'teach a man to fish *' which Google then completed for us in the search results.

16. Stopwatch

Google stopwatch. (Google)

Typing 'stopwatch' into Google Search generates one and all you have to do is tap start to begin timing yourself, person(s), an activity or whatever.

17. Instant translator

A quick translation from English to isiXhosa on Google Search. (Google)

You can translate words or phrases instantly, without having to visit Google translate by simply typing the word/phrase followed by the language you'd like it translated into: 'Really in isiXhosa'.

18. Time converter

The current time in a different timezone than us. (Google)

Finding out the current time in a different timezone than you're in e.g. Vancouver, Canada is found by searching: 'time in Vancouver'.

19. Image search

Google image search. (Google)

Google image search works pretty much like the normal search feature except that you upload images or insert the URL of the image into the search bar instead of typing words into it by clicking on the camera icon.

A google image search returns results of what the photo's about and where it's been used on the internet. (Google)

20. Tipping calculator

Google Search tipping calculator. (Google)

Working out the tip at a restaurant or wherever can be quite the challenge. Google Search's tipping calculator simplifies this process by allowing you to input the total bill amount, percentage of the tip and number of people/diners then works it out from there.

Google Search's tipping calculator results with amount to pay per person. (Google)

Though in dollars, the math applies across all currencies. Google Search's tipping calculator lays bill wars to rest by working out the amount each person has to pay, like how we worked that out based on South Africa's standard 10% of the bill tipping rate for three people who consumed R1,200 worth of food and drinks.

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