Brainstorming with Google

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated October 24, 2013)

4

There are many times when I need to brainstorm similar terms. For instance, I may want to develop a list of holidays or pull together a list of actors and actresses. (You never know when you need to invite an actor or actress over for a holiday.) For just such times, Sheets provides a very cool feature that can help with the brainstorming. Try these steps:

  1. Open a new spreadsheet.
  2. In cell A1 place a holiday name, such as "independence day."
  3. In cell A2 place another holiday name, such as "labor day."
  4. Select A1:A2.
  5. Hold down the Ctrl key and drag the fill handle downward. (If you are using a Mac, hold down the Option key as you drag.)

When you release the fill handle, after a short time you'll see a bunch of other holidays appear in the selected cells. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Google helps you brainstorm similar concepts.

Note that all the terms provided by Google are lowercase. Note, as well, that steps 2 and 3, above, indicated that you should enter the holiday names in lowercase. While you can enter them in uppercase or with the initial letters capitalized, Google will likely (in that instance) return the same holiday names in lowercase, thereby ensuring duplicates in your list.

This approach doesn't just work with holiday names. You can pick just about any two or three related terms or phrases and use the same technique to generate related terms and phrases. (For instance, put a few actors' names in the cells and let Google brainstorm. Or a couple of Star Trek character names. Or a couple of car models. Cool stuff.) Apparently Google pulls these related terms and phrases from its vast collection of search terms and web crawling experience, using a technology dubbed "Google Sets."

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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Comments for this tip:

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What is three minus 1?

2013-10-24 23:03:32

Glenn

Great tip, this will be handy for quickly generating random names/text for use in Excel (VBA testing etc).


2013-10-24 12:42:28

Juston

Cool tip!


2013-10-24 10:57:09

Brian Handly

Edward: This tip is for Google's "Sheet" software, not Microsoft's Excel software.


2013-10-24 09:06:16

Edward Bucnis

I have Excel 2010 and this tip doesn't work for me. What do I need? Thanks.


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