Chapter 8 Searching Annoyances
Quick, answer this question: do you spend more time on the Internet searching for things or actually finding them?
I thought so searching. After all, its easy to type a few words into a search box, but its tough to actually find anything you want. And thats no surprise. The internet is a big, big place filled with billions of pages of text, not nice, neat, indexable database records. Crafting the right search criteria for each different search engine, accommodating their quirks and limits, learning their arcane syntaxes, pawing through paid results looking for the real thing, is
well, bloody annoying. Its amazing we ever find anything! Theres a wealth of information out there, though, and the tips within this chapter will show you how to bend the search engines to your will and track down whatever youre looking for.
General Search Annoyances
Weed out sponsored search results
The Annoyance: Call me an old fogey, but I remember the days when you used a search site and got back results based on relevance to your query. These days, the results are skewed sponsors get top billing while everything else falls off the screen, and its not always easy to tell sponsored results from really relevant results. How can I filter out these ads masquerading as search results?
The Fix: Use the AdSubtract utilitys Search Sanity feature. AdSubtracts main job is to block ads while you surf the Web, but its Search Sanity feature is even more useful it eliminates annoying sponsored and paid results so that you can only see pages that match your search.
You can get AdSubtract from adsubtract.com (Its free to try for 30 days and costs $29.95 if you keep it.) When you install it, youll have to turn on Search Sanity. Double-click the AdSubtract icon in the Windows System Tray, choose Search Sanity, and check the boxes next to the search engines whose results you want to filter. Click OK, and sponsored results and ads will be banished!
Search The Past With the Wayback Machine
The Annoyance: My favourite web site crashed and burned several years ago, never to be heard from again. I desperately need a piece of information on that site. Am I out of luck?
The Fix: Maybe not. The Internet Archive at archive.org has been saving web pages since 1996, and the site youre looking for might be there. Search the archives Wayback Machine for any web site address of phrase, and youll get a list of relevant pages, organized by year and month. Click the links to view the pages well, at least what the Archive was able to get its hands on. Graphics are often missing, but the text is usually there. Links on retrieved pages dont always work, and occasionally youll find a page thats largely blank. But when it comes to finding the remains of the Web, the Archive is about your only option.
Google Toolbar Alternatives
The Annoyance: The Google Toolbar is way convenient but I dont just use Google. Surely the competition has kept up! Do sites like HotBot and AltaVista have toolbars? Where can I get them?
The Fix: These days, any search site worth its salt has its own toolbar. Here are some of the notable ones:
Ask Jeeves Toolbar
HotBot Quick Search Toolbar
Teoma Search Bar
Yahoo! Companion Toolbar
These toolbars offer an array of features some (such as Yahoo!s) go in for pop-up blocking, while others (such as HotBots) offer the ability to search files on your PC. They dont conflict with each other, either, so yes, you can pile em on.
Change IEs Default Search Engine
The Annoyance: Whenever I search from Internet Explorers Address Box, it always defaults to MSN Search my least favourite search engine. Please tell me I can change this!
The Fix: You can indeed use other search sites, including Google and Yahoo!, among others. Heres how:
1. Click the Search button in the IE toolbar. A vertical Search window will open on the left.
2. Click the Customize button. In the Customize Search Settings dialog, click the Autosearch Settings button.
3. From the drop-down list in the Customize Autosearch Settings dialog box, choose the search service you want to use. (If the search engine you want isnt on the list, check the next annoyance for a semi-fix.)
4. Click OK and OK again. From now on, when you search the Web from the Address Bar (or click IEs Search button), IE will use this service.