By Harry McCracken | Thursday, October 1, 2009 at 11:23 am
Google has added some new features to its Search Options feature, a list of search-refinement features that you can choose to turn on over on the left-hand side of search results pages. They include the ability to increase and decrease the number of shopping sites that appear in results; to filter for blogs, books, or news; and to see only sites you’ve already visited, or only sites you’ve never visited. But the new features I find most intriguing are two that involve restricting results to a specific timeframe: either the last hour, or any range you specify.
This latter one is an enormously helpful research tool–it lets you, for instance, instantly find articles about Osama Bin Laden published prior to September 11th, 2001. It’s not like the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which can call up cached versions of old sites as they once appeared; pages only come up if they’re still in a site’s current version. But I’m already giddy thinking about the time this feature will save me when I dig into old stories, and the items it’ll help me find which I would otherwise have missed.
Google clearly has an ongoing interest in understanding the Web based on the factor of time: For instance, it added a timeline search feature to Google News a few months ago. I’d love to see it meld all these tools together into one cohesive time-based search feature.
I’m also curious whether it’ll ever leave the Search Options panel open in search results’ default view. (Both Bing and the new Yahoo Search have left-hand menus.) Search Options is increasingly full of good stuff–but it’s way too easy to forget it’s there, and as far as I can tell there’s no way to tell Google that you want it open all the time.