Search is Your Secret Superpower

person using computer

Anyone with a smartphone, computer, or tablet, and internet access can discover and access almost anything they want or need to know using search. Where can I get a coffee near me? How far is the drive from Denver to Atlanta? Where is the nearest bicycle repair shop? Who are the starring actors in your favorite shows and what else have they done? Who were your grandmother’s ancestors? How many teaspoons in a tablespoon? How much are flights from Tampa to Boston? 

These are examples of searchable information available online and accessed using various apps and tools. We can also search our devices for emails, documents, photos, and videos. Here are different methods for using search when you need information about practically anything.

Know the Tools

Most of us are familiar with internet search engines like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo, and specialized data-specific search tools such as Google Maps for navigation and Ancestry for genealogical information. Let’s examine some of the apps, tools, and options available for searching online.

Search Engines

Whether you’re searching for a cookie recipe or want to know the location of your local polling place, you can use search engines such as Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, or Yahoo. Google has been the prevailing search engine for over a decade and can be accessed using any web browser.

Search engines like Google can be used to answer most questions, such as how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon. How many kilometers are in a mile? Which city hosted the 1928 Summer Olympics? Who was the 17th President of the United States? How is the Dow Jones Industrial Average performing today? 

You can also search for images and videos. Microsoft and Google have also developed AI-powered search engines, though Google recently scaled back the roll-out of their AI-driven search due to serving up erroneous (and bizarre) results to users.

Genealogical Data

Specialized services like Ancestry and MyHeritage have free and paid accounts for searching genealogical records. A free account includes limited access to Ancestry’s databases and add-on services. A subscription provides full database access and access to scanned source documents such as census records, Ellis Island immigration records, military service records, and others. MyHeritage has similar free and paid accounts and add-on services.

person with smartphone

Navigation and Local Interests

Apps like Apple and Google Maps are free and useful for navigation and finding local landmarks and businesses. Turn-by-turn driving or walking directions are helpful when traveling in unfamiliar places.

You can also use mapping apps to calculate distances between locations, view local public transit options, check traffic conditions and travel times, and create custom maps for business, recreation, or travel.

Find local businesses by adding “near me” to your search query, such as “ice cream near me.”


The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) is an abundant source of information about movies and TV shows and the people who write, act, and produce those programs. Search for The Crown, then click on the actor Claire Foy under Cast. See the other productions she’s worked on and where they can be viewed. Information on current movie releases is also available, including which local theaters are screening a film, show times, and tickets.

man with headphones

Music apps like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music allow you to explore the catalog of recorded music from artists and musicians old and new. Use the search function to find a composer, musician, album, or song and start listening. You can also search for podcasts in your favorite podcast app.

Social Media

All social media platforms have a search function. Search for people, subjects, and discussion topics in groups. Depending on the platform, your search will lead you to videos, pictures, and discussion threads based on your search.

Searching for Emails, Photos, Videos and Files

The Finder, File Explorer, photos, and files apps on Mac, PC, tablets, and smartphones enable us to search for documents, PDFs, pictures, videos, and other files on our devices. Each has a search function to help us locate our files regardless of kind. 

two women looking at a smartphone while talking

Use the search features and functions discussed here to access the world of information at your fingertips. Also, advanced search techniques can help fine-tune your results. See Google’s advanced search page for examples and links to documentation on additional ways to search.

A version of this post appears in the July 2024 edition of Prime Time News.

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