The Search Engine

When the Search button is enabled, it indicates that the database has been loaded. Enter your request—see entering a search request—in the Enter query: box. You may have to click in the box first before the cursor appears, and then click the Search button.

Upon terminating the search, all resulting documents are listed in the Results box. If no matching documents were found, a message appears to this effect. The Results List is ordered by the number of word hits; that is, the number of matching words in the document, from the highest to the lowest. Double-clicking on any of the listed documents causes the browser to load that document. To continue searching after loading another document, you must first return to this page.

Finding a word on a page

Once a page is displayed by the search engine, use the Web browser’s search tool to find the word on the page. Press Ctrl-F to start the Web browser’s search tool.

Entering a search request

A search request consists of words and boolean operators. Don’t let the terminology frighten you: you don’t need a Computer Science degree to use this applet. All words are not case-sensitive, which means that Hello, HELLO, and hElLo are all considered the same. The Boolean operators listed below have the same mathematical and English meanings.

Boolean Operators Symbol to use Comments Searches for…


+ or &

The word “AND” cannot be used.  Searches for all occurrences of one word AND another word. Documents having only the one, or only the other, or having neither are excluded.


– or |

The word “OR” cannot be used. Searches for all occurrences of one word OR the other word. Documents that have neither word are excluded.



The word “NOT” cannot be used. Searches for all occurrences of any word except the given word. Documents that contain the given word are excluded.

There is also the wildcard symbol * that means “and ending with anything”; for example, word* could be word, or words, or wordsworth, and so forth.

For the computer scientists—more than one operation can be applied, though they are implemented as read—from left to right; that is, they have equal precedence and left associativity.

Let’s try a few examples. 

Say you’ve found a space agency site and you want something about the Sputnik or Sputnic or … how is that word spelled? Type Sputnik | Sputnic meaning “search for the word Sputnik OR Sputnic”. You could also try using the wildcard and type Sputni* meaning “search for anything beginning with Sputni”. 

Now let’s say you’re looking at an animal interest site, and you want to find something on birds, or bees, but not lions. You would type bird* | bee* & !lion* meaning “anything beginning with bird OR anything beginning with bee AND NOT anything beginning with lion”.

Advanced requests

You can fine-tune your search, specifying where the engine should look, by selecting one or more of the radio buttons above the Results Panel.

  • The title button searches words within the of the document.
  • The headings button searches words within standard HTML heading tags, , or .
  • The lists button searches words within standard HTML list tags, , or
  • .
  • The body button searches words not in title, heading, or list tags.

Copyright:   © 2002 École Polytechnique de Montréal