Various ways to search on Android phones

Android makes searching a breeze, thanks to built-in settings and tools and third-party apps. Jack Wallen discusses some of the search options for Android phone users.

One of the tasks IT pros most likely do more than any other is searching -- whether it's on Google, through our contacts, documents, or music, or (dare I say it) the cloud.

For most people, the act of searching on a mobile device just involves going to Google or manually scrolling through their contacts. With an Android-based mobile device, the act of searching takes on new meaning thanks to the various ways you can search. The only issue is that most Android users are unaware of the power they have at their fingertips. From built-in settings and tools to third-party apps, Android makes the act of searching a breeze.

Configure the default search

By default, most Android phones have a Search button on the handset. When you press that button, the default Quick Search application will open (Figure A); this is where you can enter your search string. Figure A

You can tap the Mic button in order to enable to voice search feature.

Out of the box, your Android search will jump immediately to a browser instance with the Google search results. You can enable this search to do much more than just web searches; in fact, you can configure the Android search to show multiple results from multiple sources. To do so, follow these steps:

1. Tap the handset's Menu button.

2. Tap the Settings button.

3. Tap the Search entry.

4. Tap Searchable items.

5. Check all of the items you want to be able to search (Figure B).

6. Tap the Home button to close the settings.

Figure B

Note: The more searchable items you enable, the slower your searches will be. When you enter your search string, the results will start to populate below the text area (Figure C). Figure C

Each type of search result will have a different icon associated with it. When you see the result you want, simply click it to open the result.

Add a Search widget

If you don't want to always press the Search button on the handset, you can add a search widget to the home screen. This widget will always be ready for you to enter a search string for even quicker searches. To add this widget, follow these steps:

1. Go to the screen where you want to add the widget.

2. Tap the handset Menu button or long-tap the home screen.

3. Tap Add (this is only necessary if you tapped the Menu button).

4. Tap Widgets.

5. Locate and select Search.

You should now see the Search widget on your home screen (Figure D). Figure D

Now type your search string or press the Mic button to use voice search.

Use the Gesture Search app

There is a free Android application called Gesture Search that makes searching even easier. After installing Gesture Search, you start the app and then begin using gestures (you basically "draw" the letters you want to search for); as you draw, search results will appear (Figure E). Figure E

Some names have been removed to protect the innocent.

Gestures are fairly straightforward; if you can draw a letter or a number, you can draw a gesture. And if you make a mistake or if you want to delete a letter, you can simply draw a horizontal line from right to left to erase a recorded gesture. Tip: This erases the most recent recorded gesture first.

You can also configure Gesture Search to search for specific items. To do this, follow these steps:

1. Open Gesture Search.

2. Tap the Menu button.

3. Tap Settings.

4. Tap to select which items you want to include in the search (Figure F).

5. Click the Home button to exit out of Gesture Search or click the Back button to go back to the Gesture Search main window.

Figure F

From here you can also adjust your gesture speed.

I recommend that you do not enable the Activate With Motion option, as it only works with a limited number of handsets and consumes battery much faster.