There are quite a few ways to generate a random number. Direct from the Google address bar; in spreadsheets; using dedicated websites; even on an Echo. Here, we’ll concentrate on how to do it if you’re sitting on a laptop or using a phone.
How to generate a random number direct from Google or Chrome
This one is simple. Type “random number 1 500” directly into the Google Chrome search bar (or the search box on google.com) and it will pick a random integer between 1 and 500.
It’s quite flexible with the phrasing too. You can say “random number 1 and 500” or “random number between 1 and 500” and still get the results.
If you all you want to do is flip a virtual coin or roll an imaginary dice, Google still has you covered. “Flip a coin” and “Roll a dice” will both work. And yes, pedants, “roll a die” works too.
How to generate a random number in Excel or any reputable spreadsheet
Excel has two different ways to produce random numbers. The first function is =RAND(), which will generate a number between 0 and 1.
The more user-friendly version is =RANDBETWEEN, which generates an integer between the two numbers you set. So, =RANDBETWEEN(1,500) will generate a number between 1 and 500 inclusive.
How to generate a random number on a phone
Google’s shortcuts still work on mobile phones, but there are also dozens of apps available on the App Store and Google Play.
Random Number Generator Plus (aka RNG Plus) is a popular choice, in part because it does more than the basics.
For example, it can generate several different random numbers at once, and add them up. You can also exclude certain numbers.
Pro-level dice throwers will be pleased to know that, unlike Google, you can also roll up to four dice at once.
How to generate truly random numbers
One issue with all these random number generators is that they’re psuedo-random. “This is fine for many purposes,” writes random.org, “but it may not be random in the way you expect if you’re used to dice rolls and lottery drawings.”
Random.org claims to solve this by offering “true randomness” via atmospheric noise, rather than algorithms running on a computer. It was built by the excellently named Dr Mads Haahr of Trinity College, Dublin.
There’s a simple random number generator at the top of random.org’s homepage, but dig into the other offerings for games and random draws. In particular, you might appreciate the comprehensive lottery draw page.
In case you’re wondering why this question occurred to me, it’s because over the past two months we’ve given away prizes to random followers of The Big Tech Question on Twitter. I needed a way to pick a winner.
If you want a chance to win in the future, make sure you follow our Twitter feed, where we also produce quick tips that don’t need a full article.
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