Modern hardware, software, and web services are loaded with useful and customizable features, but figuring out how to use them is usually time consuming. Traditionally, people learn new features or resolve tech issues by following some combination of these time-consuming steps:
- Read help files or manual.
- Call the most knowledgeable person or relative you know.
- Call Tech Support, if available. Wait on hold a long time then talk to someone who may or may not be able to help you.
- E-mail Tech Support. Hope that the reply comes soon and actually resolves your issue.
Thankfully, there’s a much faster, more reliable way: Google it.
Google for help first, and you can save yourself tens of hours per year. In this post, I provide specific examples and helpful tips on how to quickly get tech help using Google.
Examples of Googling for Tech Help
The following examples are all from actual experiences. Note that if you try these searches yourself, the exact results may vary with different search engines or at different times. For each example I’ve created an amusing Google demo using this tool.
I own a Garmin Nuvi 660 GPS device. Before purchasing a Blackberry Curve 8320, I wanted to know if I could pair these two devices with Bluetooth so I could use my Garmin to have phone conversations in the car. I spent 10-15 minutes searching Garmin’s site, and another 10 minutes on the phone with Garmin tech support, to no avail. I found the answer in less than 1 minute with Google:
- Google: Garmin nuvi 660 bluetooth blackberry curve
- Click on the top Google hit, Bluetooth sync problem with Garmin Nuvi 680
- Done (The clearly explained 11 step procedure explained by ggraves took 10-15 minutes to implement, but it worked.)
For demo, click here.
Web Service Example
My sister Esther Golton is a talented singer–songwriter who wants her music to be listed with Pandora. How? After spending 10-15 minutes looking for the answer on Pandora’s site, she gave up. I found it in less than a minute, as follows:
- Google: submit pandora music
- Click on the top Google hit, FAQ (on Pandora’s web site)
- Use your browser’s find command to find the first instance of the word “submit”
- Type control-f
- Type “submit”
- Done (Esther has the instructions)
For demo, click here.
My father-in-law upgraded to Safari 4.0 Beta at my recommendation. He instantly hated the picture slices of web sites on his bookmark page. He spent 20 minutes tinkering with Safari 4.0 to try to completely get rid of it. I was in the next room and couldn’t stand his pain, so I went to a different computer, and found how to get rid of it in less than 5 minutes, as follows:
- Google: Safari 4 interface
None of the top hits mentioned these web site picture slices. My query was not specific enough, as I did not know the name for these picture slices. I figure the feature is so prominent it must be mentioned in a review of Safari 4. So . . .
- Google: Safari 4 review
- Click on second Google hit, MacWorld’s First Look: Safari 4 Beta
- Skim article until I find a picture of the feature—it’s called Cover Flow
- Google: Safari 4 remove cover flow
- Click on second Google hit, Safari 4: How to Remove Cover Flow from the Bookmarks View
- Done (I showed my father-in-law the instructions and 2 minutes later the cover flow was gone.)
For demo, click here.
Searching for Tech Help with Google: Tips
The following collection of tips is geared specifically towards finding tech help using major search engines Google, Bing, or Yahoo!
- Choose keywords carefully, as follows
- Provide words that you expect to be in the answer
- Be specific, not general (cover flow versus interface)
- Use the model name and/or model number
- If you can’t find a useful search result in the first 20 hits, then
- Try additional keywords
- Try different keywords
- Try visiting a forum specific to your product, and then conduct the search from there
- If you hardly know anything about the subject, and need additional ideas for key words, then
- Read a Wikipedia article
- Read a review of the product
- Read the product specifications on the vendor’s web site
- Ask someone who does know the subject for some keywords to use in a Google search
- If you land on a long page, use your browser’s find command from the menu (or control-f) to find the key word on the page
For more general help with search, the following two links from Google are good starting places.
While most people are used to using Google to search for information in general, I have noticed that people still spend many hours getting tech help using the traditional help filters described at the beginning of this post. Traditional tech help methods have failed to keep up with increasingly complex and feature rich technologies.
FilterJoe is all about replacing old filters (that stop working well) with better filters. Googling for tech help is one such filter. More generally, effectively using search engines is an important skill to master in the new millennium.
When in doubt, google it.