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Techdocs search tips

Tips and techniques for searching Techdocs are below. Here is an active search form for practice or for real searches:
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Help for Search

The Techdocs search engine is very powerful and flexible, but does have a few quirks that need to be taken into account in order to have the most success in searching for the documents you need. The most important point to consider is this first one:

  • The words you enter are treated as a PHRASE (as if "quotes" surround them) unless you use logical operators (see next item). This is unlike such search engines as Google, that treat each separate word as a separate keyword (unless "quoted").

    So, for example, if you enter these words in the search box (without using the quotes): web server, the search engine will only look for documents with web server in it. It will not return documents with just web or just server, or even with web and server on other parts of the page. They must be together.

  • Logical operators are used to separate or connect keywords:

    OR is used to search for all pages with ONE out of a set of keywords to appear on the page. In the example above, if you want all pages that have either web or server on them, you would enter: web OR server into the search box.

    AND is used to search only for pages with all of the keywords on it (no matter where they appear on the page). Once again in the example above, if you want only pages with both web and server on them (together or not), you would enter: web AND server into the search box.

    NOT is used to tell the search engine which keywords you do NOT want on a page. If you do NOT want pages with web on them, enter NOT web in the box. Or similar to the example above, if you want only pages with web on them, but not server, you would enter: web AND NOT server into the search box. Or to be more specific, you might want pages about the web, that may talk about servers, but not WEB servers. In that case you'd enter: web AND NOT web server into the box. (Remember, web server is treated as a phrase here.)

    Note! If you need to use AND, OR or NOT within an actual search phrase (not as a logical operator), put the phrase in quotes. For example, to search for rock and roll, enter: "rock and roll" into the search box.

  • Parenthesis will group logical parts of the query. For example in the slightly complex case where you want pages with either web or net on them, but only if they do not mention database or server, the query would be: (web OR net) AND NOT (database OR server)

  • Wildcards are available:

    An "asterisk" ("*") will find any number of letters that fit that spot in a word. For example, to find any document that talks about any Version 3 level of a product (where there could be versions 3.2.1, 3.2.2, 3.3, etc) you could enter version 3* into the query box.

    You can wildcard SINGLE letters within words using the question mark ("?") . For example, in a case similar to the one above, where there are versions 2.0, 2.0.1, 2.5, 3.0, 3.0.2, 4.0, 4.5, of a product available. If you ONLY want the ".0" versions, you could enter version ?.0 into the search box.

  • "Word variants", when selected, will automatically find "plurals" of words without listing them separately. For example, if you want documents with both test and tests, just enter test and check that box. This will also find other variants like testing, so use with care.

  • "Fuzzy search" is used when you think that an author may have misspelled some words you're looking for. For example, if you enter Palo Alto in the search box, it would find Paloalto in a document. It's recommended that this option not be used except as a last resort, as it seems to sometime cause valid hits to be missed.

  • Case. The Techdocs search is not case sensitive. You can enter your search query as Palo Alto or palo alto and you will get the same results.

Hits and Sorting Order -- and a potential problem

The default sort for search results is "relevance" order. This ranks search hits that most closely meet your search criteria at the top of the list. When you get more hits than requested (e.g., 75 hits when you asked for 50), just use the "Next" button to see the rest. The sorted ranking will continue to be correct as you page forward.

A problem can arise when you ask for the search results to be shown in "most recent" or "document ID" order. The database search technology within Techdocs is not able to accurately sort the search response when you get more hits than requested. For example, when you request 50 hits in date order, but the search returns 75. The hits you see on the response page WILL all be in date order. But when you page forward, though the second page's dates will also be in order, you will probably find hits that SHOULD have been on the previous page. (Same applies for "doc ID order" sorting.)

The best way to avoid that misleading behavior is to refine your search arguments (see above) so that the search finds fewer documents. Or you can select a larger "Show ___ hits" option. For example, when doing the same example search, if you select "Show 100 hits", you will get back all 75 responses in the correct sequence. You could even ask for 200, if you expect to get a large number of hits. But in general, it's best to refine your search arguments to match fewer documents.

When "most recent" order is selected, an effective technique is to limit the responses to the last few months using the provided control for doing so.

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