Cléber Zavadniak Website

Using a Web search engine is a useful skill

Recently I had the opportunity to watch a young programmer searching the Web for something and I was aghast seeing how bad it went. And then I realized how little value we usually give to this interesting skill that is searching for (and finding) some answers using a Web search engine.

I’ll use some examples to illustrate it and show some tips to improve your searching experience.

Make good use of auto-correction

Auto correction

See the “showing results for”.

Sometimes we are not sure about how to spell a word, so the search engine can give some advice.

It’s not always correct, though. Use with wisdom.

Pay atention to what is “missing:”

Missing words

See the Missing: under each result.

That was what stroke me most while watching the guy do the search: although he was searching for a specific context, he also ignored completely that the search engine already warns you about words that you searched for but are eventually missing from some results.

In this example, we were searching for grpc and tcl. Not surprinsingly, no results were found with both of these words. Thus it’s easy to know that these links will probably be fruitless and we can ignore them or, much probably, improve our search terms.

Improving search terms

Too broad search

In the above example we see a search term that is simply too generic: “no such file” can happen in a myriad of contexts and it would be too much of a lucky shot to find anything worth using only this term.

Improved term

Now we have a much better context. Also, see how we used double quotes to make sure that “no such file” would be present as is and not including results with only “no”, “such” or “file”.

You can also use quotes to tell the search engine that you are only interested in results containing that term.

Getting rid of noise


That’s a classic: there is a protocol called “WAMP”, but there’s also something much more common known as “WAMP”, the “Windows, Apache, MySQL, PHP” stack, so it’s common to get a lot of noise when searching for the protocol.

WAMP -windows

But if you exclude results containing the word “windows” (using the minus before a word or double quoted expression) you can get rid of all that noise! The WAMP protocol documentation now is the first result.

That and the double quotes are, in my opinion, the two more important tricks you can master.

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