Advanced Search Tips
“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.” Samuel Johnson, 1744
A lot of people have problems navigating through Microsoft’s knowledgebase as well as general difficulty with finding information on the Internet. This page might help you do a better job.
The Internet is basically the world’s largest knowledge dump. Why do I call it a dump? Because you know that what you’re looking for is inside there, but you need to have a method of searching it and asking the right questions in order to extract that information out of it.
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Finding the Web documents (a.k.a. Web “pages” or “sites”) you want can be easy or seem impossibly difficult. This is in part due to the sheer size of the WWW, currently estimated to contain 3 billion documents. It is also because the WWW is not indexed in any standard vocabulary. Unlike a library’s catalogs, in Web searching you are always guessing what words will be in the pages you want to find or guessing what subject terms were chosen by someone to organize a web page or site covering some topic.
When you do what is called “searching the Web,” you are NOT searching it directly. It is not possible to search the WWW directly. The Web is the totality of the many web pages which reside on computers (called “servers”) all over the world. Your computer cannot find or go to them all directly. What you are able to do through your computer is access one or more of many intermediate search tools available now. You search a search tool’s database or collection of sites – a relatively small subset of the entire World Wide Web. The search tool provides you with hypertext links with URLs to other pages. You click on these links, and retrieve documents, images, sound, and more from individual servers around the world.
There is no way for anyone to search the entire Web, and any search tool that claims that it offers it all to you is distorting the truth.
Search engines break down into two categories: directories and indexes.
- Directories, such as Yahoo!, are good at identifying general information. Like a card catalog in a library, they classify websites into similar categories, such as accounting firms, English universities and natural history museums. The results of your search will be a list of websites related to your search term. For instance, if you are looking for the Louver museum website, use a directory.
- But what if you want specific information, such as biographical information about Leonardo da Vinci? Web indexes are the way to go, because they search all the contents of a website. Indexes use software programs called spiders and robots that scour the Internet, analyzing millions of web pages and newsgroup postings and indexing all of the words. Indexes like AltaVista and Google find individual pages of a website that match your search criteria, even if the site itself has nothing to do with what you are looking for. You can often find unexpected gems of information this way, but be prepared to wade through a lot of irrelevant information too.
Search results may be ranked in order of relevancy – the number of times your search term appears in a document – or how closely the document appears to match a concept you have entered. This is a much more thorough way to locate what you want.
It’s beyond the scope of this article to explain all the search methods available. I will try to focus on those that are relevant to our case.
Where should I start looking for answers?
The Internet has spawned tons of search engines. I’ll try to bring you a list of some of the ones that are most useful to us. This list is NOT a complete list and it is NOT sorted in any logical order.
General search engines
Whether you want to search for information about a specific computer problem, investments or any other subject, here are my favorites. Remember, all search tools are not alike. Each uses a slightly different methodology, so your results will vary. You may not always find what you’re looking for on the first try.
Create a folder called Search Engines under your Bookmarks or Favorites menu. Now add these engines to the folder so you can easily access them whenever you want to do a search.
Quickly Search the web
Searching the web for specific articles, sites and links can be quite tiresome as you go from one search engine to another. If you make a habit of always using the same search engine, be it Google, MSN Search, Yahoo! or any other site, here is a tip that will allow you to quickly and easily perform the search from Internet Explorer’s address bar.
After getting acquainted with this method you will no longer need to open the search engine’s website prior to performing the search, thus enabling you to perform the search much quicker and with less mouse clicks.
Read the Quickly Search the Web article for more info.
Looking for a technical term?
Ask Jeeves – Where you can ask questions in a natural language. Nice for beginners.
NetLingo – NetLingo is an online dictionary about the Internet. It contains thousands of words and definitions that describe the technology and community of the World Wide Web.
Webopedia – Online dictionary and search engine.
Whatis – Online hardware and software dictionary and search tool.
Looking for Microsoft Related issues?
The list of potential knowledge resources can be a long one. I’ll try to focus on the links that are the most used, the most useful, my personal favorites – or all of the above.
JSI INC Reghacks – Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Exchange 2000… Thousands of tips, tricks, KB articles and more.
Microsoft Help and Support page – Portal to the Microsoft support site, including the Knowledge Base search tool.
Microsoft TechNet Online – Besides the Knowledge Base, this is the number one place to visit if you’re looking for Microsoft related issues. Most content is now freely available online, but you really should consider buying a TechNet subscription.
Microsoft Public News Server – Requires Outlook Express or other news client. Portal to hundreds of newsgroups, all related to Microsoft Products.
Wayne’s Windows 2000 NT Administrator Tips – Hundreds of NT and Windows 2000 tips and articles.
LabMice – Great site with tons of useful articles and links.
Windows 2000 FAQ – (Formerly NTFaq) is yet another great site with thousands of Microsoft related tips, tricks and articles.
This list is but a fraction of the tools and sites we can use to find what we need. As I said before, I cannot maintain a full-blown list of my own. I simply don’t have the time for that kind of task. But with the links provided here anyone could simply find his own way across the never-ending sea that is the Internet. Anyway, if I find the right link and the time to add it – I promise I’ll post it here.
Also see the MS Knowledge Base Search Tips page for more detailed info.
Other Search Tutorials
For a good search tutorial you should go to “Bare Bones 101“, but any decent search engine (like Google) can give you quite a few good results for the phrase “how to search the Internet” or “how to search Microsoft Knowledge Base“. You can carry on from there, can’t you?