Posted on 26 August 2014.
Have you ever wished you could look at webpages on a particular topic…but only from the last month? Identify books about FDR, but only those written during his presidency? Find pictures of One Direction, but only those posted during their X Factor days?
Google’s Date range filter allows you to specify a time period from which you want content. It works in general Web search, Images, Videos, News, and Scholar, and comes with automatic settings for items ranging from the past hour to the past year. So, for example, if you want only the latest help pages for using Google Drive, you can limit them to the past year and not get information that was last relevant in 2011.
Even cooler is the Custom range option, where you can tell Google from exactly what dates you want to see pages. Custom range allows you to tell Google that you want to see content from between two specific dates, such as pictures of One Direction posted to the web specifically between July 23, 2010, and December 12, 2010. Your can select a range of a single day, decade, or century. So, you could look for mentions of President Obama, but only before he announced he was running for president. Or take a snapshot of the reaction from the scientific community on the very day when Stephen Hawkings announced he no longer believed black holes existed as we have been thinking about them.
This tool came in very handy recently, when I was writing a blog post about cool things authors do in addition to writing their books. I wanted to look at author Scott Westerfeld’s first blog post about parasites.
(1) I knew Westerfeld’s web address, so I did a site: search for [site:scottwesterfeld.com parasite], asking Google to only look within that one website for any pages containing the word parasite.
(2) By clicking on the Search tools button at the end of the menu appearing below the search box, I open a set of options, which appear in a new row. In general Web search, I get: Any time, All results, and my location.
(3) By clicking on Any time, I open a list of possible time filters:
- Any time
- Past hour
- Past 24 hours
- Past week
- Past month
- Past year, and
- Custom range
I click on Custom range.
(4) A Custom range box pops up, and lets me chose the dates I want my range to start and end. Since I know that Peeps was published in 2005, I ask for any pages from Westerfeld’s site that mention parasites, and which Google found before 2006. Google will auto-correct who years entered into the To box to the last day of the year–in this case, 12/31/2006.
(5) I am now only seeing pages Google found before December 31, 2006. It tells me that the date filter is on right there in the menus under the search box. Also, each result showing on the page now also tells me the date on which Google first visited it.
(6) Another cool option has now appeared: there is a Sort by relevance drop-down menu, which allows me to change the order of my results. Now, I can Sort by date, instead. Note that pages sorted by date will be in reverse chronological order, meaning that the most recent pages will come first.
(7) Finally, it is simply a matter of going to the final result, or the earliest page on Westerfeld’s website that mentions parasites. Note that Google found it on August 21, 2005, which was actually the same day it was posted to the web.
I find that I use date range filtering a lot when I search. It can help me isolate a desired point in time, and using the date range filter in combination with the Sorted by date feature turns out to b very useful if I am trying to find the original source of an idea or an image.
How might you use it?