Tech Tricks: Searching with Style
As we continue to load more and more information into our data-driven lives, just being able to find what you are looking for in a reasonable amount of time has become an art itself.
Between applications on our computers and search engines on the web, searching for information has become a part of who we are. Because of this, being good at it can save you time and stress regularly.
At a very basic level, all search engines provide the same service – find the text you are looking for inside the text or properties of other documents. Every search engine is different, but they all share a few basic principles that you can master before the end of this article!
Search Engine Secrets Revealed
Whether you’re using the search box in an application or a web service, all search engines understand the idea of literals and operators. Literals allow us to indicate we want an exact match, where operators allow you to combine your input in special ways. Some search engines provide more robust operators than others, but even the basic ones can make the difference between 1,000 iffy results and 10 good ones.
By enclosing a word or phrase in quotes, we can turn it into a literal. For example, searching ‘red roses’ (without the single quotes) will return anything that matches red, roses, or both of the terms. Searching “red roses” will return only items that have both words in that order in the result. Searching for “red” “roses” will ensure that either words are found exactly, but without any constraints on their relative position.
You can combine literals with operators like “+” or “-” to further refine your searches. “red”+”roses” will ensure that both of the words are found, rather than one or the other, in their entirety. As you could imagine, searching “red”-“roses” will search for anything that matches “red” and omit anything that has “roses” in it.
Wildcards are special operators that allow us to search for partial matches with our input term. The two main wildcards are the “*” and “?” symbols. The “*” symbol represents any amount of text, and the “?” symbol represents one character of text. Searching for “r*d roses” will return anything that starts with “r” and ends with “d roses” – such as ‘radiated roses’ or ‘rotted roses’ – while searching for “r?d roses” would return things like ‘red roses’ and ‘rad roses’ instead.
Bonus Tip: If you are using a web search engine, typing your search in as “site:website.com red roses” (without the quotes) will return results only from that website! You can combine this with the strategies above to achieve truly awesome results for any specific query.
Though many more operators are usually available, the basics here are the foundation on which all clever searches are made, and getting good at using them can make-or-break your time doing any kind of research.
Now go on and give it a shot! It’s not hard to find what you’re looking for when you know how to look.