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7 easy ways to get more from Wolfram Alpha

4. Spel carefuly

We've found Wolfram Alpha to be quite tolerant of simple spelling errors, but if you get two or more letters wrong then the system starts to get confused.

If you're using Firefox, then, right-click the Wolfram Alpha query box and select Check Spelling to verify whatever you've typed. (Choose the Add Dictionary option first if you've not used this before.)

Internet Explorer doesn't have its own spell checker yet, but the veteran ieSpell does a very capable job. It works in the same way: install it, then right-click any text box and select Check Spelling.

GET IT RIGHT: ieSpell checks your spelling in a couple of clicks

5. Explore sources

Sometimes you'll enter a Wolfram Alpha query that gets you tantalisingly close to what you need, but isn't quite good enough. This probably means the system doesn't have your data, but don't give up.

Scroll instead to the bottom of the Wolfram Alpha page, and click Source Information. This contains links to the places where Wolfram Alpha found this data, and perhaps one of these will answer your questions.

And even if not, they're usually all trusted sources of high quality data, so you're not wasting your time by browsing them.

6. Save your results

You've found the information you were looking for? Don't copy and paste the text, or save it as a web page. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the PDF link to create and display a PDF file of your data, then click File > Save a Copy to save it.

7. Wolfram Alpha everywhere

Wolfram Alpha isn't just for experts, and comes packed with simple functions to answer the queries everyone has from time to time.

Try "$29.95" to see what that US dollar amount is in your local currency, perhaps; "time in Nairobi" to find out the time in another part of the world; "28 degrees centigrade" to convert a temperature to Fahrenheit; "mortgage" to calculate repayment amounts for different interest rates; "cheesecake calories" for depressing dietary advice, and more. (Explore the examples for the full selection.)

To make full use of this you need instant access to the site when a thought occurs, then, and to help with this Wolfram Alpha provides a number of free add-ons.

You can enter your queries into a Vista desktop gadget, a Firefox toolbar, a bar on your Windows desktop, and more. Browse the Wolfram Alpha download page for the full list and grab whatever you need.

EASY ALPHA: Toolbars and gadgets help you access Wolfram Alpha from almost anywhere