For many weeks I have been playing around with the “Advanced search” feature of the forum. I suspect that most members just use the basic Search feature and give up it doesn’t produce the desired results. Or they don’t use any search feature and just ask questions, hoping that a member will help out. After using the Advance search feature, I have concluded that it may be one of the best—yet most underutilized tools—on the forum. Maybe the following discussion will convince our members to use the feature when the basic search feature does not produce the desired results.
To get to the Advanced search feature, one only needs to click on the search
icon/button to the left of the Search box on any forum page. (It is also possible to use the SEARCH button to the left of a forum page but it will then be necessary to click on the Advanced search link.) If the regular search box on any given page is used instead of the Advanced search, it is possible that only a small subset of all the relevant posts will be found, or possibly none at all. The only way to be sure of getting all relevant posts is to use the Advanced search feature.
The first option that will appear is a Search for
heading. This is where you enter the terms or terms you wish to search. The only thing to be concerned with here is that the proper terms be inserted. The entries are not case sensitive (e.g., “Autolyse” will get the same results as “autolyse”), but spelling is important. For example, “autolyse” will produce a different set of results than “autolyze”. To get both sets of results, you will have to enter the different spellings, even misspellings. This means having to remember terms like Caputo, Caputto, and other spelling variations. It is not necessary to put search terms in quotes, although doing so will produce the posts using the exact terms in quotes. The way the Advanced search feature works, it is quite possible that more posts will be produced than those containing the quoted phrase but the posts with the exact phrase will show the phrase highlighted in yellow. For example, searching for “Calvel autolyse” (in quotes as shown), using the Match all words
option, will produce posts showing Calvel and autolyse in combination and highlighted in yellow. Any other posts can be ignored.
There may be other search tricks that will work, but I have not identified them as yet. However, I would not use commas or periods or similar characters in the search box, as you might do, for example, when conducting Google searches. I found using the expression pdf is helpful as a search term for finding posts referencing pdf documents that I recalled being posted on the forum.
If multiple search terms are entered, then there are two choices: Match all words
and Match any words
. These are self-explanatory, but if Match any words
is used, the terms should be distinctive enough as not to turn up hundreds of matches. A good example of this is a search I did recently for posts that relate to high altitude/high elevation dough applications. I used the terms “elevation” and “altitude”, which got me all of the posts containing those terms. Interestingly, the search engine turned up results that included the word “elevation “ as a subset, such as the misspelled term “relevation” (instead of “revelation”). In most cases, the incorrect search results will be obvious very quickly.
To the right of the Search for
heading, there is the additional heading and box by user
. If you are looking for a post of a given member, this is where you would enter the forum name for any given member to find the posts of that member including the search term(s) entered in the Search for
box. If the by user
box is left empty, the search feature will search the posts of all members. The by user
entry is not case sensitive, but it has to be spelled correctly. I use this feature often to find posts of pizzanapoletana on Neapolitan pizzas, scott r's posts on just about anything, November's posts on technical matters, or Randy’s posts on American style recipes using honey (of which there are quite a few), just to cite a few examples. I use the same approach with my own posts, using my forum name, to find posts that I recall posting and where I remember the wording I used in the posts. Fortunately, I have a good memory for the words that I use in my posts on just about any subject.
Below the Search for
box, there are two options for showing the search results: Show results as messages
and Topic subjects only
(see the pull-down menu to the right of the search box). Depending on which of the two options is selected, the search engine will produce full messages or only the headings of posts that include the search terms entered in the Search for
box. Clicking on both options will give both results, i.e., where the search term appears both in the heading and the text. Unless I am looking for a post that I recall included the search word(s) in the heading, I tend to use the Show results as messages
It is also possible to search for results on the basis of age of posts, from 0 to 9999 days, using the Message age
option that appears to the right of the Options
feature. The Message age
feature is especially useful if you are trying to find a recent post or a really old one.
The results of a search can be ordered in several different ways. As will be noted from the pull-down menu under the Search for
option, these are: Most relevant results first
, Largest topic first
, Smallest topic first
, Most recent topics first
, and Oldest topics first
. Of these, I have found the Most relevant topics first
, Most recent topics first
and Oldest topics first
options to be the most useful. The choice Most relevant topics first
is a good starting point because it will produce the results that most closely match the search terms in terms of their proximity to each other. A good example of a search I did recently using the Oldest topics first
search option was to find the earliest post on the forum referring to “autolyse”. Using the Oldest topics first
option, I discovered that the first member to mention autolyse in a post was YoMomma, on Aug. 9, 2003. Randy was next, with a post on Jan. 20, 2003. I was third, on Aug. 13, 2004, shortly after I joined the forum. After that, the floodgates started to open on the topic of autolyse.
The last feature on the Advanced search page is Choose a board to search on or search all
. This choice allows you to narrow your search. For example, if you know that a particular member tends to post on a certain board (e.g., pizzanapoletana on Neapolitan Style), or you recall that a post you are looking for was posted on a certain board, then using this option allows you to narrow the search significantly and not have to wade through pages of search results. To select a particular board, one should first de-select the Check all
box at the bottom of the page and then select the particular board or boards of interest. I have encountered instances where the search function did not find posts that I knew existed on the forum. That appears to be most likely if I use only a single search term or a brief phrase and search all of the boards. Apparently the search engine can't always do a search of such a global nature as well as narrower searches. So, using an acronym like FDA or some other abbreviation all by itself is unlikely to produce the desired posts with those terms. So, my advice is to expand the number of search terms (e.g. FDA rules and regulations rather than just FDA).
I should also point out an oddity of the forum's search feature. For some reason, it does not do a complete job of finding posts where a keyword includes an apostrophe s (e.g, Gino's). To get all of the desired posts, I suggest dropping the apostrophe s from the keyword (e.g., use Gino rather than Gino's).
Another search tip that I have found helpful in finding posts in threads containing certain keywords is to use the general search box at the top of a particular thread to be searched. For example, if I recall that a certain term was used in a particular thread and I want to find all of the posts in that thread with that term, I simply enter the term in the search box above the thread. This is not part of the Advanced search feature but it is a very useful search feature nonetheless.
With time and experience, I have gotten better at finding posts using the Advanced search feature. I never use the basic search feature anymore because I have learned that I can narrow the search results down to a more manageable level by entering more data into the Advanced search engine.
Finally, I should mention that after this post was originally composed, a second forum search feature was added to the forum's tools. It is a custom Google Search feature that is used just like any other Google search. That custom Google Search feature can be accessed at the bottom of the forum's main page at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php
. I will sometimes use the Google Search feature when I cannot find what I am looking for using the other forum search features.
Edit (7/6/2012): Updated the content of the post and added a discussion of the Google Search feature that was added to the forum after the post was initiated.