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Smarter searching

December 17, 2011
English: It's a simple picture of a magnifying...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

We’ve enhanced our search capabilities to help you find what you’re looking for quicker than ever. Here’s a breakdown of all the advanced features you can take advantage of:

  • ?  –  Single character wild card
    Using a question mark will match any single character at that position. For example, searching with “te?t” would match the words text, test and tent in any pages you’ve saved.
  • *  –  Multiple character wild card
    Using an asterisk will match 0 or more characters at that position. For example, “test*” would match the words test, tests, testing and testers.
  • “word1  word2″~#  –  Proximity search
    Ending a two term quoted phrase with a tilde and a number will find those two words within the given distance of each other. If you were looking for pages about Amazon’s Kindle, you could use “amazon kindle”~5 to find pages where amazon and kindle are within 5 words of one another. This way you would find an article with Amazon’s tablet, the Kindle, but not an article with how to kindle a fire in the great jungle known as the Amazon.
  • ^#  –  Raising term priority
    Using the caret character followed by a number will give a word a higher priority in the search. If you want to bring up all your saved pages about books, but want to focus on the sci-fi ones, you could use a search like “books sci-fi^5” to give 5 times greater weight to sci-fi. The default weight is 1.  So, anything above that will add weight to the importance of a word.
  • AND  –  Including both terms
    Use “AND” when you want to ensure search results have both terms you’ve used. For instance, searching for “hotel AND 5-star” would only bring back pages that have the words hotel and 5-star in them; one or the other isn’t good enough.
  • OR  –  Including either term
    Use OR to broaden a search between terms. If you were looking at pets, a search for ” “corgi OR husky” puppy” would bring back results that mention corgi puppy or husky puppy, or both corgi puppy and husky puppy.
  • +  –  Requiring a term
    Begin a word with a plus to make it required in the results. All the results for a search of “tesla +roadster” would mention roadster, but not necessarily tesla. This would exclude any articles about Nikola Tesla (unless he happened to drive a roadster) while returning pages about roadsters, particularly the Tesla Roadster.
  • ( )  –  Grouping terms
    If your queries are getting complicated, you can group terms together with parentheses to make it clear which terms are getting paired. Revisiting the earlier pet example from above, the search could have also been written as “(corgi OR husky) puppy” and it would have returned the same results.
  • \  –  Escaping characters
    What if you want to look for your favorite Atari game, Q*bert? Earlier, we said the asterisk character acts as a multi-character wildcard.  So, searching with “Q*bert” would potentially match all kinds of crazy words. You’ll need to do what’s called “escaping” the asterisk with a backslash. If you want an asterisk to just be an asterisk, put a backslash in front of it. So, to search for Q*bert, you would enter “Q\*bert” into the search box. The same goes for the question mark (\?), tilde (\~), caret (\^), parentheses(\(, \)), or plus sign (\+) when you don’t want to activate any special search behavior.

That’s the quick overview of the search syntax.  If you want a technical explanation of what’s going on behind the scenes you can check out the documentation for our search engine here.

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