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Keyboard shortcuts for TwitterBack in the day, whenever I was unsure about the meaning of a word, I would leaf through a battered old Oxford English Dictionary. Will Self, although he doesn't know it, probably caused the most indirect wear and tear of all my favourite writers.

My trusty tome was subsequently usurped by online dictionaries, but they too – at least for me - were soon been replaced by Google’s rather lovely ‘define:’ command. 

The ‘define:keyword’ command is surely the quickest way of finding out the meaning or spelling of a word, since Google typically returns a result in less than half a second. Try it. It’s highly useful.

I love a shortcut, and regularly make use of a range of keyboard shortcuts on Twitter. There are more of them than you might imagine. As such I have aggregated a bunch of commands to provide you with one handy cut-out-and-keep / ‘bookmark on Delicious’ guide. 

Let's skip the basics. I assume you already know how to reply (@username), direct message (D username), retweet (RT @username) and so on.

Non-search commands

Try entering the following commands into the Twitter ‘post’ field, rather than as a search query. Results will appear in a dropdown overlay at the top of your Twitter feed...

GET username

This simply grabs the last tweets from a user, for example if you 'tweet' 'GET lakey' you'll be presented with my last tweet (and you won't actually tweet anything).

WHOIS username

A quick way of checking out a user is to use the WHOIS command. Tweet 'WHOIS lakey' and you'll see the following, in a dropdown (and once again, you won't tweet anything yourself):

"Chris Lake, since Sep 2008. bio: Editor in Chief at Econsultancy, blogger and entrepreneur. location: London, UK web: https://econsultancy.com"

FAV username

This adds the last tweet by that user to your favourites. 

The joy of Twitter Search

Now let’s look at Twitter Search, and how to really get the best out of it. Let’s start with some easy, user-specific queries…

FROM

To see the tweets I have sent simply enter the following query: ‘from:lakey

TO

Who has been publicly messaging me recently? Find out by searching for ‘TO:lakey

CITATIONS

Pretty straightforward, I know, but you can search for '@lakey' to see tweets where I have been mentioned. Includes retweets, rather than tweets aimed directly at me.

Drilling down into search

In the same way that you can use various commands and operators in Google to filter results, you can tweak Twitter search queries so that only relevant results are returned...

EXACT MATCH  

Just like in Google you can wrap around some quotation marks to return exact phrases, such as:

"captain beefheart"

EITHER / OR 

Consider the above example. Since Twitter is character limited some of those Captain Beefheart fans might simply refer to him as ‘beefheart’. To look for both variations type in the following query:

"captain beefheart" OR "beefheart"

NOT / MINUS / AVOID

Use the ‘NOT’ command by adding a hyphen / minus sign. So if you want to find the captain but avoid the beefheart, and I can’t think why you would, then you can use this:

captain –beefheart 

GO LOCAL

This is pretty cool. You can filter tweets by location, to only show search results near to you. For example, you can see what people are wishing for near London.

"I wish" near:London

GO HYPERLOCAL

If the above example isn’t enough then why not target your search query by distance. You can ringfence results by applying a 'distance' parameter:

"I wish" near:London within:5km

And hey, it even does imperial measurements too... replace kilometers with miles if you want to annoy the Eurocrats:

"I wish" near:London within:5mi

NARROW BY DATE

If you need to filter results by date then you can add a range of date operators to your search query. For example, if I wanted to check out how many tweets have referenced Econsultancy in the past week (more than 1,400 as it happens) I can use the ‘SINCE’ command:

econsultancy since:2009-06-23

Alternatively I can look up tweets containing the word ‘Econsultancy’ up UNTIL 23 June as follows:

econsultancy until:2009-06-23

FIND QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Twitter’s search tool recognises the question mark, which is great if – like us – you’re in the business of helping people. For example, if you are a search wizard then you could try entering the following:

"i need" help seo ?

FIND LINKS

Use the FILTER:LINKS command to unearth tweets with third part links. I like listening to Animal Collective whenever possible and can often be found hunting for pointers:

"Animal Collective" filter:links

At this stage you might want to remember the NOT / MINUS command [-], since we’re not really interested in seeing all those spammy blip.fm links:

"Animal Collective" filter:links –blip.fm

Anything else?

I also frequently tweak URLs to jump around the search results more easily. Scrolling through page after page of results is no fun for anybody, so why not try the following:

SHOW MORE RESULTS

Search on something… anything. For example, search on my username. Here is the URL for the results page:

http://search.twitter.com/search?q=lakey

Now, scroll to the foot of the page and click ‘Older’. Note the URL string has been appended with a bunch of numbers, among other things:

http://search.twitter.com/search?max_id=2403627875&page=2&q=lakey&rpp=100

I have customised the amount of results I see by changing the default number to 100, at the end of the URL (‘&rpp=100’). That’s as many as it will show you… it beats 20 or whatever the default is. When you do this it will remember your settings for next time.

JUMP TO A PAGE

Again, the URL string can be changed to save you a hell of a lot of scrolling and pressing ‘Older’ to move forward. Simply tweak the ‘&page=2’ bit to ‘page=10’, or whatever number you choose. So...

http://search.twitter.com/search?max_id=2403627875&page=2&q=econsultancy&rpp=100

…becomes...

http://search.twitter.com/search?max_id=2403627875&page=10&q=econsultancy&rpp=100

Hit return and skip forward. Note that there is a limit on how many search results Twitter will show you… it used to go back into history but now results are time-limited.

If you can’t remember all of these keyboard shortcuts then there’s always Twitter’s advanced search form, but - just like Google’s ‘define:’ command – you can save time by learning a few of these to help you to quickly find what you need.

Hope that helps. No doubt I have missed a bunch - please let me know in the comments section below. 

Happy searching.

[Image by DeclanTM via Flickr, various rights reserved]

Chris Lake

Published 30 June, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (21)

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Trey Pennington

Thank you for sharing your Twitter-on-googloids (my mashedup word for intense searchability). Definitely useful and worth retweeting.

http://twitter.com/treypennington

about 7 years ago

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Corvus Rex

Eurocrats?  There are only three countries in the world that officially use imperial measurements anymore...

Well to be fair, I doubt many countries describe their weight in kilograms nor their height in meters...

about 7 years ago

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Lee Johnson

Great article. I have leaned a few new shortcuts.

Thanks again.

Keep up the good work....! 

about 7 years ago

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Christopher Rose

Never mind all the Twitter stuff, good as it is. I was more excited to see the name of Captain Beefheart, one of the greatest musicians and artists the USA has produced. Good work fella!

about 7 years ago

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John Salmon

Nice post, but I have to point out that:

    "captain beefheart" OR "beefheart"

will of course return the same results as simply "beefheart" as that set will contain all ""captain beefheart" references -- here's a non-redundant example of a search using OR:

    "beefheart" OR "don van vliet"

about 7 years ago

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bob willits

I assume these dont work in most 3rd party apps like Seesmic or tweetdeck?

about 7 years ago

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freemoth

Some great tips here thanks!  Do you know if there is a way to get the tweets to scroll in reverse chronological order, i.e. with the newest at the bottom?  Always find myself scrolling to the bottom and reading up ...

Thanks!

about 7 years ago

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Mary

Here is another cool addons, 6 Gorgeous Twitter Visualizations, if you too busy for your life, try the Twitter For Busy People

about 7 years ago

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Joshua Dorkin

Thanks for the shortcuts.  While my Firefox plugins help with many of the tasks that the commands you mention do, I do think I'll use one or two of them from time to time. Nice compilation.

about 7 years ago

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webber

cool info man, thanks for the tip.

almost 7 years ago

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Craig Hughes

I built a neat little search tool called tweetzi that provides quick controls for rapidly augmenting Twitter Search queries with special operators / commands.  Take a peek at:

http://tweetzi.com

almost 7 years ago

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Dan - ReTweet Graphics

Some great tips theres. Behind it's simplicity there is quite a few neat things you can do. The graphics we use on our site can even autofill readers retweets for them. Thanks for sharing this information!

almost 7 years ago

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Pat at Tweetportal

Great post--I learned some new things from this article. Thank you.

almost 7 years ago

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venkat

I don't know about these shortcuts thanks for sharing

almost 7 years ago

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Joe

Thanks for these great tips! I've just joined twitter and really had no clue about all these new terms... this has really explained it to me!

almost 7 years ago

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RitzPasha

Very nice tips... Helping.

over 6 years ago

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Sean

Thanks for the article. My two favorites were 'near' and 'within'. Go hyperlocal!

over 6 years ago

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Laura Bazile

Delightful!! It's not Google, it's ... Twitter! ;-)

Love "jump to a page", my favorite one.

Keep being so insightful EC, I am a great fan of the quality of your posts.

almost 6 years ago

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Minna

Hahahahah thanks for the geek-tionary!!! 

almost 6 years ago

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Andrew Morton

Great stuff, the twittersphere just got a bit more useful. cheers

almost 6 years ago

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bilgibank

Woow, great list. I take the first one in the list. But, before that, i download all that interest me and try it at localhost. But, i like Redoable. Many thanks!

over 5 years ago

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