28 time-saving tricks for Google, Facebook and more

Save time and money with our favorite secret tricks for Google, Facebook, YouTube, eBay, and other sites you already use.

Think you know all of the tricks at your favorite Internet sites? Think again.

Even if you're on Google, Facebook, and YouTube every day, you might not be tapping those sites' full potential. Read on to speed up your Internet abilities, unlock new features, and find a new favorite tip or two.

Google Gimmicks

Search within a site: Narrow down your search results to a single site. Type (search query) site:(domain); an example would be entering: video card tips site:pcworld.com to find pages only at that location. You can even limit results to within sections of a site, as in this example: twitter site:pcworld.com/businesscenter.

Search for file types: Maybe you want to track down a certain document that's a PDF. Enter your usual search string plus filetype:pdf to find only those pages. This method also works with PostScript (ps), Office docs (doc, ppt, xls), Rich Text (rtf), Plain Text (txt), and more. You can find a list of searchable file types here.

Exclude results: Include a minus sign to exclude certain results. Suppose you want to find news about Apple unrelated to the iPad. Type Apple -iPad. You can also combine the previous tips, such as Apple -iPad -site:apple.com and Apple -iPad -PDF.

Get local details: Forget manual time conversion; just enter time [city] (as in Time Tokyo) to get the current local time. Or try weather [city] for a forecast. For more local details, try [city] map, movies [city or ZIP code], and [restaurant name or cuisine] [city or ZIP code]. This works for a few other regular search strings, like Weather [city], stock quotes, and more--check out Google's full list.

Make conversions: Swap units of measure, such as measurements of volume or distance; this works for converting different currencies, too. Try [number and unit] in [new unit] such as 7 inches in cm or 30 Euros in USD.

Bing Bonanza

Find links to files: Find pages that host or lead to certain file types, such as music. Enter [search term] contains:[file type] such as Wilco contains:MP3 to find MP3s from the band Wilco. Try this kind of search with many other file types, such as WMA, PDF, AAC, DOC, and nearly anything else.

Remove the background image: Bing sure is cute, but its big photos can be distracting. Visit http://www.bing.com/?rb=0 for a plain, gray version of the site.

Save searches as RSS feeds: If you want to stay on top of hits to a search query, turn it into an RSS feed. After loading your results, append &format=rss to the end of the new URL, and view it in your favorite RSS reader.

Fix Your Facebook

Hide application notices: Are you sick of Farmville, Mafia Wars, and other Facebook apps cluttering your feed? Mouse over the entry, and click Hide. You'll block those alerts from your wall.

Invite a list of friends to an event: You don't have to manually click a bunch of friends to send event invitations. Instead, create a list first. Click Friends in the left column, and use Create a List on top to pick certain friends. When making an event invitation, click the Filter Friends tab to show only the list. Click Select All.

Hide content from certain contacts: Keep your mom and work acquaintances from seeing messages intended for your inner circle. Click the lock privacy icon, and choose Customize.

From there, you can hide the post from specific people, or show it only to your entourage. For more on Facebook's privacy settings, read "Protect Your Privacy With the New Facebook Settings."

Cut to the core: The Lite version of Facebook strips away most of the clutter in the main design. It's great if you're on a slow Internet connection, browsing on a netbook, or just want to avoid the usual mess.

Browse to lite.facebook.com to give it a try, and click the link at the top of the page to toggle back to the full site.

Twitter Tweaks

Schedule tweets: You can set up a schedule for your Twitter account, so posts can go up while you are asleep, or--heaven forbid--are away from your gadgets.

This way, you'll be able to tweet across time zones (so your international followers won't have to scroll all the way down to hear from you, perhaps), and keep your Twitter account active when you need to focus on a project.

Many sites offer this feature, including HootSuite, SocialOomph, and Twuffer. I like Twuffer for its simplicity, although the others have additional features, such as Facebook support.

Get deals by following companies: Some of your favorite companies might post deals to Twitter. You'll have to sort away businesses that spam followers too often, but I like following @amazonmp3, @amazongames, and @woot.

If you really want to step up your hustle, make a new Twitter account specifically for landing freebies so the spam won't get to your real one. Keep it all straight with a twitter client that manages multiple accounts, such as Tweetdeck. Also, check out "How to Win Prizes on Twitter" for more tips.

Learn about current events: Look for your local Happen.in feed, which charts Twitter chatter based on your location.

If a bunch of people in the same area post "bridge out," Happen.in will repost the details so that you keep on track of regional events and trends. The Twitter Website includes similar functionality in the right-hand column. Adjust those Trending settings to set it for your area.

Expand URLs: Shortened links could send you to a funny YouTube clip, a popular article in the New York Times, or a site designed to riddle your PC with malware. Use a Greasemonkey script (a Firefox add-on) and just hover your mouse over the cryptic URL to see the full version at the bottom of the window.

If you're in a different browser, try pbtweet or read How to Use Greasemonkey Scripts in IE, Chrome, and Safari for more details.

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Zack Stern

PC World (US online)

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