Search Tips

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The Basic Search

To enter a query, type in a few descriptive words and press the Enter key or click the Search button for a list of relevant results.

Note: Encrypted, viewable PDF documents are converted to HTML for indexing; however, the HTML is not displayed.

Spelling

A single spelling suggestion is returned with the results for queries where the spell checker has detected a possible spelling mistake.

The spell checker feature is context sensitive. For example, if the query submitted is "gail divers," "gail devers" is suggested as an alternative query. However, "scuba divers" would not return an alternate query suggestion.

Note: Currently, the spell checker supports only US English.

Synonyms

Synonyms are other words that have the same or similar meanings. They are displayed as "You could also try..." on the results page.

 

Sorting by Date

The Sort by Date feature sorts and presents your search results based on date. The date of each file is returned in the results. Results that do not contain dates are displayed at the end, sorted by relevance.

Automatic "and" Queries

By default, the search engine only returns pages that include all of your search terms. There is no need to include "and" between terms. For example, to search for engineering product specification documents, enter:

To broaden or restrict the search, include fewer or more terms.

"OR" Searches

The search engine supports the logical "OR" operator. To retrieve pages that include either word A or word B, use an uppercase "OR" between terms. For example, to search for an office in either London or Paris, enter:

See Your Search Terms in the Results

Every search result lists one or more excerpts from the web page to display how your search terms are used in context on that page. In the excerpt, your search terms are displayed in bold text so that you can quickly determine if that result is from a page you want to visit.

Does Capitalization Matter?

Searches are not case sensitive. All letters, regardless of how you enter them, are understood as lower case. For example, searches for "george washington," "George Washington," and "George washington" all return the same results.

Does the Search Engine Use Stemming?

To provide the most accurate results, the search engine does not use "stemming" or support "wildcard" searches. Rather, it searches for exactly the words that you enter into the search box.

For example, searching for "airlin" or "airlin*" will not yield "airline" or "airlines.". If in doubt, try both forms, for example: "airline" and "airlines."

Refining Your Search

Since the search engine only returns web pages that contain all of the words in your query, refining or narrowing your search is as simple as adding more words to the search terms you have already entered. The refined query returns a specific subset of the pages that were returned by your original broad query.

Excluding Words

You can exclude a word from your search by putting a minus sign ("-") immediately in front of the term you want to exclude. Make sure you include a space before the minus sign.

For example, the search:

will return pages about bass that do not contain the word "music."

Phrase Searches

You can search for phrases by adding quotation marks. Words enclosed in double quotes ("like this") appear together in all returned documents. Phrase searches using quotation marks are useful when searching for famous sayings or specific names.

Certain characters serve as phrase connectors. Phrase connectors work like quotes because they join your search words in the same way double quotes join your search words. For example, the search:

is treated as a phrase search even though the search words are not enclosed in double quotes. The search engine recognizes hyphens, slashes, periods, equal signs, and apostrophes as phrase connectors.

Restricted Searches

You may also narrow searches by restricting queries in certain ways.

Restrict Type Query Syntax Example
to a given location on your site allinurl; allintitle; inurl; intitle allinurl:education help
see Advanced Operators for details
to specific domains site: site:education.gov.ab.ca
see Advanced Operators for details
to specific file types like Excel spreadsheets, PDF docs, etc. filetype: filetype:pdf

Directory Restricting

To restrict the directories searched, enter a URL that drills down through the directory structure to the directories or files to be searched. For example, the query [education.gov.ab.ca/manual/] restricts the search to everything at the manual level. If the trailing slash is not included, as in [education.gov.ab.ca/manual], then all subdirectories are also searched.

Advanced Operators

The search engine supports several advanced operators, which are query words with special functions. A list of the advanced operators with explanation are provided below.

cache:
The search engine keeps the text of the many documents it crawls available in a backed-up format known as "cache." A cached version of a web page can be retrieved if the original page is unavailable (for example, the page's server is down). The cached page appears exactly as it looked when the crawler last crawled it and includes a message (at the top of the page) to indicate that it's a cached version of the page.

The query [cache:] shows the cached version of the web page. For instance, [cache:www.education.gov.ab.ca] shows the cached page of the education.gov.ab.ca homepage.

Note: There can be no space between cache: and the web page URL in the query.

If you include other words in the query, those words will be highlighted within the cached document. For instance, [cache:www.education.gov.ab.ca press releases] shows the cached content with the words "press" and "releases" highlighted.

info:
The query [info:] returns all information available for that particular URL. For instance, [info:education.gov.ab.ca] shows information about the education.gov.ab.ca homepage. Note there can be no space between the info: and the web page URL.

site:
If you include [site:] in your query, the results are restricted to those websites in the given domain. For instance, [help site:www.education.gov.ab.ca] finds pages about help within www.education.gov.ab.ca. [help site:com] finds pages about help within .com URLs.

Note: There can be no space between the "site:" and the domain.

link:
The query [link:] enables you to restrict your search to all pages that link to the query page. To do this, use the [link:sampledomain.com] syntax in the search box. (No other query terms can be specified when using this special query term.)

For example, to find all links to Stanford's main page, enter:

allintitle:
If you start a query with [allintitle:], the results are restricted to documents with all of the query words in the document's HTML title. For example, [allintitle: education search] only returns documents that have both "education" and "search" in the HTML title.

intitle:
If you include [intitle:] in your query, the search is restricted to results with documents containing that word in the HTML title. For example, [intitle:education search] returns documents that mention the word "education" in their HTML title, and mention the word "search" anywhere in the document either in the title or anywhere else in the document.

Note: There can be no space between the "intitle:" and the following word.

Putting [intitle:] in front of every word in your query is equivalent to putting [allintitle:] at the front of your query. For example, [intitle:education intitle:search] is the same as [allintitle: education search].

allinurl:
If you start a query with [allinurl:], the search is restricted to results with all of the query words in the URL. For example, [allinurl: education search] returns only documents that have both "education" and "search" in the URL.

Note: [allinurl:] works on words, not URL components. In particular, it ignores punctuation. Thus, [allinurl: foo/bar] restricts the results to page with the words "foo" and "bar" in the URL, but doesn't require that they be separated by a slash within that URL, that they be adjacent, or that they be in that particular word order. There is currently no way to enforce these constraints.

inurl:
If you include [inurl:] in your query, the results are restricted to documents containing that word in the URL. For example, [inurl:education search] returns documents that mention the word "education" in their URL and mention the word "search" anywhere in the document either in the URL or anywhere else in the document.

Note: There can be no space between the "inurl:" and the following word.

Note: [inurl:] works on words, not URL components. In particular, it ignores punctuation. Thus, in the query [education inurl:foo/bar], the inurl: operator affects only the word "foo," which is the single word following the inurl: operator, and does not affect the word "bar." The query [education inurl:foo inurl:bar] can be used to require both "foo" and "bar" to be in the URL.

Putting [inurl:] in front of every word in your query is equivalent to putting [allinurl:] at the front of your query. For example, [inurl:education inurl:search] is the same as [allinurl: education search].