With the exception of a few yahoos, when most of us think about searching the web, we’re thinking about Google. While Mountain View may be able to fulfill the bulk of our search-related needs, there’s no harm in mixing it up a bit. When looking for an alternative to Google, you could do a lot worse than giving Bing a try. Only a few years old, Microsoft’s upstart information-seeking darling has managed to incorporate a number of user-friendly features into the service’s already impressive set of capabilities. Care to give Bing a spin? We’ve put together 10 of our favorite Bing tips for you to trick out your browsing experience with.
As any fanboy will tell you, Superman’s powers are only realized when he is in the presence of a yellow star like the Sun. Bing’s got the same thing going on with the United States: While there are many Bing regionalized portals, only the one enjoyed by default in the U.S. unlocks all of the search engine's features. If you’re living in America, no doubt you’re already good to go. If you live outside of the country, chances are you’ll need to do a little ticker work in order to get all the goodness out of Redmond’s search engine offering. Navigate to Bing.com, and look to the top right of your browser window. Click the name of whatever country you see up there—chances are that if you live in Ireland, by default the country you’ll click on will be Ireland. Doing so will open a page filled up with the various locales that Bing caters to. Click on United States - English, or United States Spanish if you hablan español. Boom! Welcome to the U-S-of-A.
It’s a little known fact that Bing’s user interface was designed with the mullet in mind: Business up front and party in the back. Sure, the search service’s pages are pretty, but all of those high-definition pictures can be something of a distraction when there’s hardcore searching to do (or searching for hardcore. We won’t judge you). To rid yourself of Bing’s colorful backgrounds, navigate here and savour Bing in all of it’s minimalistic grey, white and orange splendour. Dulling up the joint can save you a few kilobytes of data every time you load the page moving forward. That might seem like small potatoes, but it adds up over time. This is a great solution for road warriors with a limited cellular data plan or individuals with slower rigs purchased at the dawn of the millennium.
Can’t get enough of Bing’s gorgeous background imagery? Then you're really doing to dig Bing Downloader, a free jewel of a program that allows users to download those sexy Bing homepage backgrounds to their PCs. At this time, Bing Downloader is able to procure the background pictures from a wide variety of the search engine’s international portals including Canadian, American, Chinese, the United Kingdom and Germany. To snag yourself some new desktop wallpaper, simply locate Bing Downloader’s executable file, double click it and let the program run its course. For best results, fire up the program on a daily basis. In no time at all, you’ll have accrued a massive collection of Microsoft-approved background images to bend to your will. What you opt to do with them is entirely up to you.
With Bing on your side, there’s no need to hop on an airline’s status page in order to find out whether or not your flight’s on time, cancelled or lost somewhere in the Bermuda triangle. Instead of entering your airline’s website URL, type Track Flight Status into Bing’s search field. At the top of your returned search results, you’ll find entry fields for your airline and flight number. Just pull the information off of your ticket or confirmation email, click Get Status and you’re in business.
If that’s not easy enough for you, simply enter your flight number, sans any other information. More times than not, Bing will understand what you’re getting at and provide you with the data you’re looking for courtesy of flightstats.com . While this might be great news for people that need to be on time for a flight, the flip-side of the coin is that thanks to Bing, you’ll never have an excuse for being late to pick up your in-laws at the airport again.
Being able to look up information on the web is great. Trying to read that information while away from your browser? Not so much. While you can opt to peruse your search results on another device with the help of services like Instapaper, Read It Later or Evernote by the time you get around to doing so, the results Bing returned to you might be cold. Instead, savvy Bing users might want to consider taking in their Bing searches in the form of a live RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed that can be viewed via any RSS reader. To rock this hack, simply add &format=rss to the tail end of any of the search results returned by Bing. Doing so will provide you with a live RSS feed version of your results that is automatically updated in real-time. Now that’s useful.
You are an important individual who considers their time to be a precious commodity. There’s not enough hours in the day to quibble over the masses of data that comes as a result of most web searches. Fortunately, Bing understands and endorses your picky data-scoffing ways. In an effort to keep you happy and provide discerning types such as yourself with only the most pertinent of information, Bing makes searching for particular file types online easy. If you know the information you’re looking for is contained in a PDF file, for example, type the topic of the file into Bing’s search field and add filetype:pdf to the search parameters. You’ll find that your search results contain only links that include PDF files. While this trick can be used with any just about any file extension, we’ve found Bing’s returned on searches for .mp3, .wpa and other oft-times DRM protected file types are pretty weaksauce.
In many parts of the world, sadomasochism has been an illegal practice for centuries. Luckily for those of you that derive pleasure from inflicting torment upon themselves, tracking a package over the internet was still a go the last time we checked. While you could waste your time navigating to your shipping company’s website and then hunting down the page’s tracking utility, if you’re looking for some immediate satisfaction, we suggest cutting to the chase by entering your package’s tracking number directly into Bing along with the shipping company’s name. For example, if Big Brown’s got your goods, you’d enter:
ups # [tracking number]
This trick works with the majority of the world’s major shipping companies. You’ll find the returned results to be as comprehensive as anything you’ll find on the FedEx, DHL or UPS’ websites. More than this, with all the time you’re saving on data entry can be used to get in some kinky kicks from other sources, like balancing your checkbook, getting your taxes done early, or comparing long distance rates.
No matter whether it’s converting kilometres to miles, gallons to litres, or parsecs from a measurement of distance into one of speed—sometimes the math can escape us. Fortunately, Bing is more than willing to carry the two for its bleary-minded users. Using the search engine’s conversion capabilities is absolutely the bomb when it comes to planning your next Canadian road trip or sizing up the dimensions of a cabinet from Scandinavia to see if it’ll actually fit in your living room. To get the conversion party started, simply enter the measurement you’re being boggled by and the standard you’d like to see it converted to. For example, if you’re dying to what 5.65 cm works out to once converted over to the Imperial system of measurement, you would enter convert 5.65 cm to inches . The same trick can be applied to international currencies: to get the current exchange rate of a Canadian dollar to its U.S. Counter part, enter CAD to USD as a search.
Less ghetto than Windows 7’s baked-in calculator application and easier to find than that old TI-89 calculator of yours that’s been packed away in a box since your graduated from college, Bing’s built-in calculation capability is a reliable tool in the fight against confusing math equations. Similar in function to its Mountain View situated nemesis, Bing allows users to crunch numbers by entering their math questions as a search. For example, if you wanted to know where 47 multiplied by 33 would get you, you’d enter
47 * 33
and click the search icon. The search engine understands a wide variety number nerd operator mainstays such as percentages
, square roots
and higher power
. Need answers to some troubling equations? Bing’s got it going on, and can handle a respectable share of middle-of-the-road calculus and algebra computations.
While Bing’s extensive functionality makes it a worthwhile addition to anyone’s laptop or desktop internet search toolbox, the search service also offers up some pretty impressive search functionality for use on smartphones and dumbphones alike. By accessing Bing via your handset’s web browser, you’ll be able to utilize all of the the same search functions we’ve talked about in this article from anywhere you can pick up a cellular signal. If you happen to be rocking an Android or iOS device, you can also opt to download the service’s free application. For those out there who refuse to take part in the smartphone revolution, Microsoft also offers a lesser known Bing 411 phone number that can be called from any landline or cellular telephone. Just dial
1 (800) Bing-411
, and you’ll be given voice driven access to, street addresses, movie time and up to the minute weather information, as well as other sweet features such as turn-by-turn navigation over the line—a definite bonus for folks without a GPS receiver.