Google Search URL Request Parameters

You may already be using advanced Google Search operators like inurl: and ext: and site:, but here is a chance for you to sharpen up your search efficiency even further. Did you feel the need for a search operator like “img:” or “pat:” to specify that you wanted to search among images or patents? Unfortunately those operators don’t exist. So how can you instruct Google to do an image search or a book search without pressing a lot of buttons on Google’s search page?

Google uses a number of URL request parameters that carry information about for example the type of content that the user wants to search, or the time frame of the last update of the content. The two most important parameters are called TBM and TBS. These parameters don’t work like search operators – that is, you can’t type them in the search field as an instruction to Google. If you do, they will be treated like a plain search term.

The way you could use these parameters is if you create links from within a site or an application where you want the Google search to be of a specific kind. Another usage is to create a clean URL that produces very specific search results, which in turn you use in some service that lets you build an RSS feed from any URL. You could also use it if you like searching by typing a URL in the search field of the Windows start menu, or type the same thing in the address bar of your browser. Of course, this means more typing than you are used to if you use Chrome and search by putting the search term directly in the address bar. However, there will be less mouse clicks.

You can read more about the available search operators on GoogleGuide.com. You will also want to learn everything that Google lists here: http://www.google.com/insidesearch/tipstricks/all.html 

If you prefer video tutorials, check out these courses from Google on advanced searching: http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/

The TBM URL request parameter in Google

So far, I have failed in my attempts trying to find any kind of documentation – from Google or elsewhere – on this parameter, so I don’t know what TBM stands for. TBM will be added to the Google search URL and have a certain value when you select any of the “special” searches, like image search or video search. These are the possible values of TBM that I have found:

  • Applications: tbm=app
  • Blogs: tbm=blg
  • Books: tbm=bks
  • Discussions: tbm=dsc
  • Images: tbm=isch
  • News: tbm=nws
  • Patents: tbm=pts
  • Places: tbm=plcs
  • Recipes: tbm=rcp
  • Shopping: tbm=shop
  • Video: tbm=vid

Special search types not controlled by TBM

There are some types of searches which are not controlled by setting one of the TBM parameter values listed above. Instead, they run under their own sub directory under the google.com URL. These search type in turn have various special URL request parameters which I will cover in a coming update. Examples found so far are:

  • Flight tickets: google.com/flightsgo there
  • Movie shows: google.com/moviesgo there
  • Financial info: google.com/financego there
  • Political info: google.com/electionsgo there
  • Hotels: google.com/hotelsgo there
  • Directions and transportation: google.com/transitgo there
  • Academic research: scholar.google.comgo there
  • Phrase frequency in books over time books.google.com/ngrams - go there

There is also a page that provides guidance to doing an advanced search for many of the search types defined by a TBM value. These sites can be useful when you need help constructing a very specific search URL, since the settings you make will be reflected in the URL.

The TBS URL request parameter in Google

Another Google URL request parameter is TBS. Like with TBM, I have not found any info on what TBS might stand for. TBS is a request parameter that shows up in the Google search URL if you do a search of any kind and then press the Search Tools button at the upper end of the search results page, right below the search query field, and select something. TBS is like a general container of many different types of parameters which in turn have values that follow a colon sign. Those parameters are picked up and treated internally by Google’s servers. For example, following a regular search, you can change from “Any time ” and “All results” to “Past week” and “Sites with images”. Regarding the time frame of the latest update, TBS can have the following values.

  • Any time: tbs=qdr:a
  • Last second: tbs=qdr:s (Read more about this “real time search” on Lifehacker)
  • Last minute: tbs=qdr:n
  • Last 10 minutes: tbs=qdr:n10 (and so on for any number of minutes)
  • Last hour: tbs=qdr:h
  • Last 12 hours: tbs=qdr:h10 (and so on for any number of hours)
  • Last day: tbs=qdr:d
  • Last week: tbs=qdr:w
  • Last month: tbs=qdr:m
  • Last year: tbs=qdr:y
  • A specific time range, for example from March 2 1984 to June 5 1987: tbs=cdr:1,cd_min:3/2/1984,cd_max:6/5/1987
  • Sort by date: tbs=sbd:1
  • Sort by relevance: tbs=sbd:0

Content specific TBS parameter values

TBS can also have other values that are not specifying update time frames. Some such TBS values only apply for certain types of conent.

TBS parameters valid for any regular search

When you search on Google without specifying any particular type of search, i.e. you have no TBM parameter, you can use the following TBS parameter values to fine-tune the search:

  • Sites with images: tbs=img:1
  • Dictionary search: tbs=dfn:1 (Note: this will give a different result than define: )
  • Results from a verbatim search: tbs=li:1 (tell Google not to guess alternative spellings etc)
  • Results by reading level, Basic level: tbs=rl:1,rls:0
  • Results by reading level, Intermediate level: tbs=rl:1,rls:1
  • Results by reading level, Advanced level: tbs=rl:1,rls:2
  • Results that are translated from another language: tbs=clir:1
  • Set the language to translate from (“translated language“): tbs=clirtl:fr (in this example, French)
  • Set the language to translate to (“search language“): tbs=clirsl:sv (in this example, Swedish)
  • Indicates that the language to translate to was explicitly selected: tbs=clira:s
  • Automatically set language to translate from: tbs=clira:t
  • Indicates that one or more languages to translate from have been added: tbs=clira:a
  • Indicates that one or more languages to translate from have been removed: tbs=clira:r

Note! The above TBS values cannot be combined! You must do either a search for pages with images, or a search by reading level, or a translated search etc.

Example URL: Search for “unit 61398″ in simplified Chinese, and present results translated to English, where the content was updated during the past month, and sort results by date:

http://www.google.com/search?q=”unit 61398″&tbs=qdr:m,sbd:1,clir:1,clirtl:zh-CN,clirsl:en,clira:s

TBS parameters valid for application search (TBM=app)

When you search for applications, TBM=app, you can also use the following TBS values:

  • Free applications: tbs=app_price:free
  • Paid applications: tbs=app_price:paid
  • Applications for Android: tbs=app_os:1
  • Applications for iOS: tbs=app_os:13 (please note this subtle signal: Android= nr 1, iOS = 13…)
  • Applications from a specific source URL: tbs=srcf:<some_cryptic_string_of_exactly_98_characters> (Note: this option is difficult to use on-the-fly, since you must look up what the cryptic text version is of the URL you want to specify, for example apple.com. Moreover, this option gives you the same result as the site: search operator, where you can supply the URL in clear text)

Example URL: Search for iOS  applications that are about Microsoft Office and Word on Apple.com that are free:

http://www.google.com/search?q=microsoft+office+word+site:apple.com&tbm=app&tbs=app_price:free,app_os:13

TBS parameters valid for blog search (TBM=blg)

When you search for blogs, TBM=blg, you can also use the following TBS values:

  • Blog homepages: tbs=blgt:b
  • Blog posts: tbs=blgt:a (or leave it out competely)

TBS parameters valid for book search (TBM=bks)

When you search for books, TBM=bks, you can also use the following TBS values:

  • All books: tbs=bkv:a
  • Preview and full view books: tbs=bkv:p
  • Full view books: tbs=bkv:f
  • Type books: tbs=bkt:b
  • Type magazines: tbs=bkt:m
  • Books from the 19th century: tbs= cdr:1,cd_min:1800,cd_max:1899
  • Books from the 20th century: tbs= cdr:1,cd_min:1900,cd_max:1999
  • Books from the 21th century: tbs= cdr:1,cd_min:2000,cd_max:2099
  • Books from a custom time range, here from March 2 1984 to June 5 1987: tbs=cdr:1,cd_min:3/2/1984,cd_max:6/5/1987

Example URL: Search for the phrase “wife swap” in books and magazines available in full view, from the 20th century:

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22wife+swap%22&tbm=bks&tbs=bkv:f,cdr:1,cd_min:1900,cd_max:1999

TBS parameters valid for discussion search (TBM=dsc)

When you search for discussions, TBM=dsc, you can also use the following TBS values:

  • Discussions of type Forums: tbs=dtf:f
  • Discussions of type Q&A: tbs=dtf:q

Example URL: Search for all of the words gun, safety, kill, amendment in Discussions Forums that were updated withing the past day, and put the newest on top:
http://www.google.com/search?q=gun+safety+kill+amendment&tbm=dsc&tbs=dft:f,qdr:d,sbd:1 

TBS parameters valid for image search (TBM=isch)

When you search for images, TBM=isch, you can also use the following TBS values:

  • Large images: tbs=isz:l
  • Medium images: tbs=isz:m
  • Icon sized images: tba=isz:i
  • Image size larger than 400×300: tbs=isz:lt,islt:qsvga
  • Image size larger than 640×480: tbs=isz:lt,islt:vga
  • Image size larger than 800×600: tbs=isz:lt,islt:svga
  • Image size larger than 1024×768: tbs=isz:lt,islt:xga
  • Image size larger than 1600×1200: tbs=isz:lt,islt:2mp
  • Image size larger than 2272×1704: tbs=isz:lt,islt:4mp
  • Image sized exactly 1000×1000: tbs=isz:ex,iszw:1000,iszh:1000
  •  Images in full color: tbs=ic:color
  • Images in black and white: tbs=ic:gray
  • Images that are red: tbs=ic:specific,isc:red [orange, yellow, green, teal, blue, purple, pink, white, gray, black, brown]
  • Image type Face: tbs=itp:face
  • Image type Photo: tbs=itp:photo
  • Image type Clipart: tbs=itp:clipart
  • Image type Line drawing: tbs=itp:lineart
  • Group images by subject: tbs=isg:to
  • Show image sizes in search results: tbs=imgo:1

Example URL: Search in images for “michael jackson” as a phrase, and limit results to 4 megapixel images or larger, color images, face images, and group the results by topic:

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22michael+jackson%22&tbm=isch&tbs=ic:color,isz:lt,islt:4mp,itp:face,isg:to

TBS parameters valid for news search (TBM=nws)

When you search for new, TBM=nws, you can also use the following TBS values:

  • News from blogs: tbs=nrt:b
  • New from all sources: tbs=nrt:a (or leave it out completely)

Note! The above is valid when you search for news (TBM=nws) on Google.com main search site. If you use new.google.com/news, the mechanics work differently, and the TBS parameter does not have any effect. Instead, there are a few other URL request parameters, specific to news search:

  • Search for news on one of the topics defined by Google, for example Technology: topic=tc [w, n, b, e, s, snc, m, h]
  • Search for news relevant to a national context (news edition), for example Australia: ned=au or Argentina: ned=es_ar

TBS parameters valid for patent search (TBM=pts)

When you search for patents, TBM=pat, you can also use the following TBS values:

  • Patent office United States: tbs=ptso:us
  • Patent office Europe: tbs=ptso:ep
  • Patent filing status is application: tbs=ptss:a
  • Patent filing status is issued patent: tbs=ptss:g
  • Patent type Utility: tbs=ptst:u
  • Patent type Design: tbs=ptst:d
  • Patent type Plant: tbs=ptst:pp
  • Patent type Defensive publication: tbs=ptst:t
  • Patent type Additional improvement: tbs=ptst:ai
  • Patent type Statutory Invention Registration: tbs=ptst:h
  • Sort by filing date latest first: tbs=sbd:1
  • Sort by filing date oldest first: tbs=sbdo:1

Example URL: Search for granted patents than contain the phrase “capacitive touch screen” and the word handheld, registered with the US patent office, in the category of Utility patents, and sort the results with the oldest on top:

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22capacitive+touch+screen%22+handheld&tbm=pts&tbs=ptst:u,ptso:us,ptss:g,sbdo:1

TBS parameters valid for recipe search (TBM=rcp)

When you search for recipes, TBM=rcp, you can also use the following TBS values:

  •  Cook time less than 15 min: tbs=rcp_tt:15
  •  Cook time less than 30 min: tbs=rcp_tt:30
  •  Cook time less than 60 min: tbs=rcp_tt:60
  •  Calories less than 100: tbs=rcp_cal:100
  •  Calories less than 300: tbs=rcp_cal:300
  •  Calories less than 500: tbs=rcp_cal:500
  • Included and Excluded ingredients – this value included Basil and excludes Cucumber: tbs=rcp_ing0:basil,rcp_ing1:-cucumber (Note: each ingredient specified is enumerated starting at ing0, then ing1, ing2 and so on. Note the minus sign or dash signifying “exclude”).

Example URL: See what you can cook in under 30 minutes that is spicy, and uses garlic, lime, avocado and cumin:

http://www.google.com/search?q=spicy&tbm=rcp&tbs=rcp_tt:30,rcp_ing0:garlic,rcp_ing1:lime,rcp_ing2:avocado,rcp_ing3:cumin

TBS parameters valid for shopping search (TBM=shop)

When you search for shopping, TBM=shop, you can also use the following TBS values:

  • In stock somewhere nearby: tbs=local_avail:1
  • Free shipping: tbs=ship:1
  • New items: tbs=new:1
  • Search for items is a specific price span (USD): tbs=price:1,ppr_min:50,ppr_max:100 (Note: omitting ppr_min implies min=zero)
  • Search for items in a specific category of goods: tbs=cat:<a number>
  • Search for items from a specific store: tbs=seller:<a number>
  • Search for items of a specific brand name: tbs=brand:lego [samsung, victorinox etc etc etc]

Example URL: Check if you can buy a new Gant shirt with free shipping for under 40 USD:

http://www.google.com/search?q=shirt&tbm=shop&tbs=local_avail:1,ship:1,new:1,price:1,ppr_max:40,brand:gant

TBS parameters valid for video search (TBM=vid)

When you search for videos, TBM=vid, you can also use the following TBS values:

  • Duration short: tbs=dur:s
  • Duration medium: tbs=dur:m
  • Duration long: tbs=dur:l
  • High Quality: tbs=hq:h
  • Closed captioned (subtitled): tbs=cc:1
  • Videos from a specific source URL: tbs=srcf:<some_cryptic_string_of_exactly_98_characters> (Note: this option is difficult to use on-the-fly, since you must look up what the cryptic text version is of the URL you want to specify, for example youtube.com. Moreover, this option gives you the same result as the site: search operator, where you can supply the URL in clear text)

Example URL: Search for videos about “9/11″ that are of long duration (> 20 min) and high quality, dated between Jan 1 2011 and Dec 31 2012:

http://www.google.com/search?q=9%2F11&tbm=vid&tbs=dur:l,hq:h,cdr:1,cd_min:1/1/2011,cd_max:12/31/2012

Topics for further research

Through readers comments on this article, I have found the following Google URL request parameters that need further research and explanation. If you can contribute, please do:

  • tbo=0, tbo=1
  • tbo=d
  • tbo=u
  • tbs=ctr:countryXX , XX = some country code
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10 thoughts on “Google Search URL Request Parameters

  1. Thank you very much – very helpful and comprehensive collection of parameters. Helped me out today when I was searching how to set the requested image size.

      • You don’t need pws=0 to turn off personalised search. Just enter through a different front end, and Google have absolutely no way to link your searches to you at all. For example, I have to be signed in through the UK top level domain to sync my emails and access the Play Store. This means I can’t search through google.co.uk or google.com if I don’t want my searches to be tracked back to me. So I go to either google.co.nz or google.bs, and although I’m still searching on Google’s UK servers, because it’s through a different front end, I’m technically not signed in when I do so and Google have no idea it’s the same person.

  2. Hi Sheogorath. I guess hiding from Google tracking is off topic in relation to this article. However, what you write is true; Google.co.uk cannot read the cookies placed by google.co.nz for example. Still, beware of the tracking that Google does through Doubleclick cookies. This can be avoided by setting your browser privacy settings to block third party cookies.

  3. I’m not actually bothered about the tracking Google does as long as there’s no chance of my name and other highly personal details being sent to webmasters, which I ensure by making it impossible to link my search history to my account. As for DoubleClick cookies, they’re the same as other cookies in that they can only relay what they can capture, basic device info, browser info, and one or both of my shared static IPs, nothing else. Simples!

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