Google Instant Supports Search Operators

When Google Instant was launched, many power users noticed that they need to press Enter after typing a query that included advanced search operators like site: and filetype:. Most likely, these queries are resource intensive and it’s difficult to return the results very fast.

Now you can use these operators without having to press Enter or click the search button. The main advantage is that you can adjust your query and see the results as you type. Unfortunately, the results aren’t displayed instantly.

Google Search: Esc to the Rescue

Google’s search engine is already fast, but what if you could save more time?

Let’s say that you’ve typed a query and pressed Enter, but the results aren’t great. How to quickly delete your query and type something else? Press Esc and start typing the new query. Another option is to click on the small “x” icon from the search box.

If you want to add some new keywords to your query, there’s no need to scroll to the top of the page and find the search box. Just type the words you want to add. Google is smart enough to insert a space since this key is used for scrolling.

This only works if Google Instant is enabled, just like the other Google search shortcuts and Google Instant shortcuts.

Google Instant Brings Back Search History Suggestions

One of the most useful Google Suggest features missing from Google Instant was the Web History integration. Google Suggest used to show a list of previously typed searches if you were logged in to a Google account, so you could quickly select the query without having to type it again.

This feature is back in Google Instant and it hasn’t changed too much. You’ll still see up to 3 suggestions from your Web History, but the “Remove” link is more visible and personalized suggestions have a different color.

Unfortunately, Google’s implementation is not great because it shows too many suggestions from your Web History and your previously typed searches are very likely to become predictions. For example, if you’ve searched for [Microsoft Tellme] two days ago and you now start to type “micros”, Google will display the results for [Microsoft Tellme].

Keyboard Shortcuts for Google Instant Previews

You don’t need to use your mouse to enable Google’s visual previews for search results. Just press the right arrow key to show a small screenshot for the currently selected search result. You can navigate using the up/down arrow keys to highlight a different result and use the left arrow key to hide the previews.

Google Instant Previews can’t be disabled from the settings page and, despite having a similar name, it’s not related to Google Instant. If you disable Google Instant, you’ll still see the magnifying glasses next to the search results, but the keyboard shortcuts are no longer available.

This feature is not yet available to everyone, but you can try it using this special page or by adding &esrch=instantpreviews to the URL of a search results page.

Beyond Instant results: Google Instant Previews

With Google Instant you get results as fast as you type, but your search doesn’t stop there. Once you get results back, you choose a site to visit based on the information in each result—like the title, a snippet of text and the URL. Over time we’ve made steady improvements to our search results and snippets to help you pick a great page. Now we’re making a leap to image-based snapshots—a new kind of visual search result we call “Instant Previews” which makes it even faster to choose the right result.

Instant Previews provides a graphic overview of a search result and highlights the most relevant sections, making finding the right page as quick and easy as flipping through a magazine. To use it, click once on the magnifying glass next to the title of any search result and a visual overview of the page will appear on the right. From there, hover your cursor over any other result to see a preview. For those of you who’ve recently stopped using your mouse to search, now you can navigate to a result, hit the right arrow key to see the preview, and hit the down arrow key to keep browsing. Here’s a video showing Instant Previews in action:

In our testing, we’ve found that people who use Instant Previews are about 5% more likely to be satisfied with the results they click. The previews provide new ways to evaluate search results, making you more likely to find what you’re looking for on the pages you visit. Here are some of the things you can do to get the most out of Instant Previews:

  • Quickly compare results – A visual comparison of search results helps you pick the one that’s right for you. Quickly flip through previews to see which page looks best.
  • Pinpoint relevant content – Text call outs, in orange, will sometimes highlight where your search terms appear on the webpage so you can evaluate if it’s what you’re looking for.
  • Interact with the results page – Page previews let you see the layout of a webpage before clicking the search result. Looking for a chart, picture, map or list? See if you can spot one in the preview.

Instant Previews can be helpful for many kinds of tasks. For example, say you looked at a page before and need to find it again—with a preview, you can tell if any of the results look familiar. Or perhaps you’re looking for an official website—look for a logo and formal style and you’ll probably be able to identify it. Or maybe you’re looking for a how-to guide—it’s easy to spot a page with clear illustrations and step-by-step instructions.

We realized early on that this kind of experience would only make sense if it was lightning fast. Not long ago simply downloading an image could take 20 or 30 seconds, and even today many websites take four or five seconds to load. With Instant Previews, we match your query with an index of the entire web, identify the relevant parts of each webpage, stitch them together and serve the resulting preview completely customized to your search—usually in under one-tenth of a second. Once you click the magnifying glass, we load previews for the other results in the background so you can flip through them without waiting.

Well, I think that’s enough of a preview—soon you can try out the real thing for yourself! The new feature is rolling out now and should be available in more than 40 languages in the next few days.

Update 6:50AM: We removed the YouTube video to update it. We’ll be back shortly.Update 4:35PM: Added updated YouTube video. Thanks for your patience!

Posted by Raj Krishnan

The power of Google Instant, now in your pocket

Google Instant makes search faster by displaying not just predictions but actual search results as you type. This saves valuable time on a desktop browser, but wouldn’t it be great to have Google Instant on mobile devices, where each keystroke and page load is much slower and you frequently have just a moment to find the information you need?

In September we announced that we were working to bring Google Instant to mobile, and today we’re making a beta version available to most iPhone and Android devices in the U.S. To try it out, go to in your phone’s browser and tap the Google Instant “Turn on” link beneath the search box (if you don’t see the “Turn on” link, try waiting a moment and then refresh the page).

Like the desktop version of Google Instant, when you type on your mobile device you’ll see predictions of what you might be searching for. If you type [anse], for example, you should see [ansel adams] along with other predictions. Results for the first prediction appear automatically, and tapping on the other predictions will display those results. Pressing the enter key or the search button skips the predictions and will display results for exactly what you’ve typed. Check out our demo video:

With Google Instant on mobile, we’re pushing the limits of mobile browsers and wireless networks. You will probably notice a big improvement in speed when you search thanks to a new AJAX and HTML5 implementation for mobile that dynamically updates the page with new results and eliminates the need to load a new page for each query.

Google Instant for mobile works best on 3G and WiFi networks, but since the quality of any wireless connection can fluctuate, we’ve made it easy to enable or disable Google Instant without ever leaving the page. Just tap the “Turn on” or “Turn off” link.

We hope you’ll enjoy using Google Instant for mobile as much as we enjoyed making it. It’s currently available for Android 2.2 (“Froyo”) devices and iPhones and iPods running iOS 4 in the U.S. in English. We’re working to support additional countries and languages and more devices in the coming months, so stay tuned.

Posted by Steve Kanefsky

Google Instant and Special Characters

Google usually ignores special characters from queries, so you can’t search for 🙂 or x^2. There are some exceptions: popular terms that include special characters (c#, c++).

Google Suggest is less smart than the search engine and doesn’t offer relevant suggestions if you type c# books. Google ignores the hash sign and shows the suggestions for c books. To find results for your query, you need to press Enter or to select the last item from the suggestion list.

Another example: type $1 and Google shows suggestions for 1. Instead of showing relevant results for the query, Google displays the search results for [1 corinthians 13].

Bing’s suggestions are actually useful:

While Google Instant helps you type popular queries faster, sometimes it’s slowing things down because it shows the results for a different query.

{ spotted by Sundararajan S. }

Web History Suggestions in Google Instant

There are many missing features in Google Instant. The classic interface suggested searches from the Web History, so you could select previously typed queries.

It seems that this feature will be available again. Google tests a version of Google Instant with Web History suggestions. For some queries, 3 of the 4 suggestions are from the Web History and there’s only one general suggestion.

Maybe it would be a better idea to only show one or two personalized suggestions, since they aren’t always useful.

Google Instant Promotional Message

Google shows a large promotional message below the list of search suggestions: “Love Google Instant? Make Google your Homepage.” Since this feature is not yet available in your browser’s search box or in Google Toolbar, it’s a good opportunity for Google to promote its homepage.

Gary Price from ResourceShelf wonders if this is one of the larger promo ads ever seen in a drop down. I remember that Google displayed a similar message when Google Instant was launched: “Welcome to Google Instant. Feelings of euphoria and weightlessness are normal. Do not be alarmed.”

I wouldn’t be surprised to see that Google starts to show AdWords ads below the suggestions, a feature that has already been tested in Google Suggest.

{ thank you, Gary Price. }

Try Google Instant Search

Google will soon release a new interface that shows the results as you type a query. If you want to try the new feature before it’s officially released, use this URL:

My first impression: you can now get useful results after typing a few characters. Google has never been so fast.

To watch a webcast of Google’s search event where streaming search will be launched, visit

Update: The feature is called Google Instant. “Feelings of euphoria and weightlessness are normal. Do not be alarmed.”

“Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. The most obvious change is that you get to the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term, or even press ‘search.’ Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want. In time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way.”

{ via Zorgloob and Jérôme. }