by April 1, 1999 0 comments

Looking for a good book, a new job, an old
friend or someone to chat with over the Internet? Well, these searches involve using a
search engine. Many of you must be using these quite often and at times must have ended up
wasting precious time, following useless URLs which didn’t lead you to the right
place.

To avoid this, you’ve to know what
you’re looking for and how to get it.Do you want to gather all possible data on a
broad subject say, “fine arts in Asia” or are you looking for a specific topic
like the “award winning paintings of Asia”?

If you are looking for a broad subject, the
best place to look for is a search engine, which is in the form of a Web directory like
“yahoo.com” or “hindustan.net” (for Indian Websites). And for
something more specific, go to one of the specialized search engines.

Some search
engines are designed for specialized searches. These search for a particular topic only.
For instance, “dejanews.com” is a search engine, which searches exclusively for
newsgroups. “devSearch.com” and “NetSearcher.com” are search engines
particularly for Web developers and Internet professionals. “Filez.com” is for
searching files on FTP sites and “mwsearch.com” allows you to search within a
number of medical sites. “Mp3.com” lets you find mp3 files and
“arribavista.com” lets you search for images.

How do search engines work?

Finding relevant data not only depends on
search engines but also on the type of keywords you search for. To do an effective search,
knowing about how search engines operate helps.

Most of the search engines share some
common features. One of the most common feature, is that all of them follow a basic
approach of relevance ranking. This means that the engine will present the results so that
the first site on the list is deemed the most relevant, and the relevance decreases as you
go down the list. This can be helpful, but remember you can only tell what is relevant by
looking at it.

The other consequence of relevance ranking
is that there may be nothing at all on the Web which answers your query, but the search
engine may still find a large number of results. This is because the search engines will
not insist that all your keywords are present in the resulting Websites. If even a single
word occurs in a Website, that site will be brought back to you as a result. The first few
results will hopefully contain all your keywords, but that may not be the case always. If
no sites contain all your words, then the best available will be presented to you as the
most relevant site.

Ways to an effective search

There are many ways to narrow down your
search.

Boolean logic is one of the most common and
effective way and involves using AND, OR, NOT, and ( ) parentheses for grouping. For
example, “computers AND pc NOT mac” will only list links containing pc computers
and exclude links regarding macs.

You can also use the “+” sign in
your statements. For example, “Indian+cinema” will give you more focused results
than “Indian cinema”. Similarly, you can use the “-” sign to exclude
certain words.

You can also give your statement enclosed
in quotes if you want it to find the pages where the words appear next to each other like
in “job vacancies”.

Multiple words give more refined results
than using a single word. Also, use similar words when you search–the more synonyms
you get the more chances of getting results. For example, if you want to search for things
to buy say, “buy purchase order shop” in the search text box instead of using
only one of these words.

Also, lowercase words will match any case.
For example, typing next will return documents containing the words next, Next, and NeXT.

Use the pipe (|) key to refine your search
results in a one-step search. For example, using “delhi|restaurants” tells the
search engine that you are searching within the broad category of Delhi for the specific
subject of restaurants.

If you are trying to look at multiple forms
of a word (like woman and women), you can indicate it with a symbol, for example, wom*n.
Search engines have different symbols for truncation. The “help” link on the
search engine will tell you the symbols to use in truncation when you are constructing
your search.

Most of the search engines offer their
“advance search” where you have all these options and more listed in pull-down
menus. But all search engines don’t offer similar options.

www.yahoo.com

Yahoo! is an extremely popular search
engine, which is in the form of a Web directory and looks for keyword matches in its
titles and categories. There are options to limit your search–within Yahoo!
categories or to search other Websites too. You can also search through the Usenet for
relative newsgroups. Yahoo search supports exact phrase matching using quotation marks,
wildcard matching, boolean logic, plus and minus signs and field search. Giving
“t:indian cinema” will restrict the search to document titles only whereas
“u:intel” will restrict the search to URLs. You can restrict your search
to documents that are more recent than a certain date. You can also adjust the number of
search results displayed on all the result pages following the summary page. Both these
features can be accessed from the “search options page” in the advanced search.

www.excite.com

Most of the
search engines have the option to add your Web page or a site to a search engine, but if
they don’t, you can do so through a site called “submit.com”, which takes
URLs and adds them to most of the search engines. You both have a free service and a paid
service in this site. The free service adds to most of the above mentioned search engines.

Excite also has a number of
categories, though not as many as Yahoo. It uses both full text and abstracts of Web pages
when conducting a search, using Intelligent Concept Extraction (ICE) to find relationships
that exist between words and ideas. So enter more than one word to get better results. It
also supports exact phrase matching, plus and minus sign and boolean search. For your
search, you can choose among the World Wide Web, Selected Websites, Current News, Excite
Germany, Excite France, Excite UK, Excite Sweden, and Usenet Newsgroups. You can also
control the number of results to be returned and the type of content you want to search
against.

www.infoseek.com

Infoseek’s database houses the
complete text of every home page it catalogs. Infoseek looks at the full text of each page
before providing results to the seeker. Infoseek allows boolean search, field searches,
exact phrase matching, plus and minus sign and pipes. Apart from searching within
Infoseek’s select sites, you can also search through WWW, Usenet, timely news,
company directory, e-mail addresses and World Wide Web FAQs. “Advance search”
includes interesting features like location search, limiting the number of search results
and options for phrase matching in the document.

www.lycos.com

Field
searches allow you to create specific searches. A field search can be done with commands
like file, link, site, url, title, alt, etc, in lowercase, followed by a colon and then
the search term without a space. For example, “link: pcquest.com”, will list the
Web pages that link to pcquest.com, “file:.vbrun” will find you files with this
extensions.

Lycos, one of the oldest search
engines on the Web, has one of the largest databases. Lycos search is based partly on the
popularity of a given site, that is, how many other links point to that site. Search
results will list the most popular sites first. Moreover, Lycos database doesn’t
house the full text of every Web page, it works from abstracts of pages, that is, headers,
titles, links and keywords in the first paragraph. It also supports exact phrase matching,
plus and minus signs and boolean search. The advance search allows you to search in
various languages, match URLs, titles, and so on.

www.altavista.com

AltaVista is another popular search engine
and its popularity stems from its reputation of speed. Also, it has some innovative search
features, such as, you can ask a question and it’ll search for an answer. Searches
like, “Where can I find books on Internet?” will find you answers not only
within AltaVista database, but also give you numerous links to other sites.

If you want
to search for friends or people around the world, you can try many especially designed
search engines. Bigfoot.com, Four11.com (Yahoo! People Search), WhoWhere.com,
Infospace.com are a few examples. All of these are listed in the “Find” option
of your “Start” menu in Win 9x and you can use them to find someone through the
“People” option or you can go directly to their sites and search from there.
Some of them even allow you to enter telephone numbers and addresses to search.

Apart from a list of usual search
categories, AltaVista also offers AltaVista Family Filter, AltaVista Photo Finder,
AltaVista Finance and many more features. The AV Family Finder reduces the chance that
you’ll view objectionable material when searching the Internet. The AV Photo Finder
helps you find millions of colorful and imaginative pictures from the World Wide Web.

AltaVista supports exact phrase matching,
plus and minus sign and also some features which narrow down your search like
“anchor:text” which will find pages that contain the specified word or phrase in
the text of a hyperlink. Say, if you enter anchor: “Click here to visit Alta
Vista”, it’ll find pages with “Click here to visit AltaVista” as a
link. Use “domain:org” to find pages from .org domain. In its boolean search, it
has a new option ,‘near or ~’. This finds documents containing both specified
words or phrases within 10 words of each other. AltaVista also has a “range of
dates” option for limiting search results.

When you see the result list displayed,
click on the “Refine” button. You’ll see the List View of the Refine
screen. Click the “Graph View” button and a map of expandable topics appears.
The percentages given at the right of each word in a topic indicates the probable
relevance of that word to your search. The higher the number, the more relevant a word for
your search.

www.hotbot.com

HotBot is another very efficient search
engine. The home page offers you properly divided categories and sub-categories. Also you
can specify the search options right in the beginning to narrow your search like matching
of words, limiting results by specifying their time, number, language, and so on. It also
offers a large number of areas where the search can be done like within Usenet, e-mail
addresses, classifieds and many more. It supports, boolean search, wild cards,
case-sensitive search and field searches.

www.askjeeves.com

This search engine offers the easiest
way to search. It does an “English search”, that is you just have to ask a
question in plain English and click on its “ask” button. Not only will it list
out the answers but will also provide you various links in pull-down menus from other
search engines. For example, if you enter, “where can I find a tutorial on Win
95?” and click on the “ask” button, it’ll provide you answers by
searching its database and also various links in pull-down menus by other common search
engines.

More and more search engines are now
incorporating Web directories and are characterizing themselves as "portals" or
"hubs". They have various categories that are further divided into
sub-categories. All you have to do is to click on any and search within them. As a result,
searching is becoming a relatively easier process than before. They not only offer you all
the categories to search in, they offer you ways to locate your friends from all over the
world, chat with different people on various topics, find relating Websites and so on.

All of the engines also provide help
features for users and make it easy for a novice to search. So the most important factor
that goes into choosing a search engine is personal preference and your needs. For
instance, if you’re not sure about a particular topic you would find it easier
through a Web directory like Yahoo!, or if you want an easy way to search you would like
to use Askjeeves. If you want to search data regarding India you’ll find it faster
with the Indian sites. If you are searching for something more specific you’ll find
it easier and faster with the specialized search engines.

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