Internet search engines that use boolean search?
April 7, 2011 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Are there high quality internet search engines that recognize boolean rather than a natural language search queries?

I hate natural language search. Well, sometimes I hate it. Often, I want to search using complex boolean-stlye queries, rather than the less focused method of just plugging a few terms in. I know that I can add precision to a Google or similar search by using quotation marks and other operators. However, often what I want is to use a more complex boolean string, for example: (((A or B or C) and D) or (E)) and not F. These are the sort of queries I learned to use on Lexis, Nexis, and Westlaw. I have not found a way to get Google to recognize this search syntax.

Ideally I would like to find something very similar to Google, that could search the internet or within particular sites, which would recognize my boolean search strings. Ideally, this search engine would also have defenses similar to those that Google uses to weed out content farms and other SEO gaming. Also, I'd like the search engine to be as "good" as possible, in terms of how many pages it reaches, speed, etc.

Apologies in advance if I am not using correct terminology here. This is an area where I know just enough to get myself in trouble...
posted by dredge to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yup. The utterly awesome Duck Duck Go.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:21 PM on April 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


Google understands a limited and rudimentary amout of boolean search terms. "OR" is there, and has higher precedence than the implicit AND. "-" means NOT. Your example, "(((A or B or C) and D) or (E)) and not F" would have to be done in two searches in Google-ese: "A OR B OR C D -F" and "E -F"
posted by zsazsa at 1:23 PM on April 7, 2011


Was going to say Duck Duck Go, but DarlingBri beat me to it. Great search tool. Takes a little getting used to, but it's super useful and versatile--especially once you start learning the bang operators.
posted by willpie at 1:40 PM on April 7, 2011


Jumping in on that, Lexis and West have search terms such as /n, where "n" is some specified number of words. So, for example, "insurance /5 subrogation" means the two words within five words of each other. There's also /s and /p for words in the same sentence and same paragraph.

This is incredibly useful, but Google doesn't seem to play ball.
posted by valkyryn at 1:42 PM on April 7, 2011


zsazsa: "Google understands a limited and rudimentary amout of boolean search terms. "OR" is there, and has higher precedence than the implicit AND. "-" means NOT. Your example, "(((A or B or C) and D) or (E)) and not F" would have to be done in two searches in Google-ese: "A OR B OR C D -F" and "E -F"

Spot on, though I prefer the more aesthetically pleasing pipe "|" over "OR". Combining pipes with quotes and minuses usually gets me a long way with google.
posted by turkeyphant at 2:06 PM on April 7, 2011


You can do those kinds of searches in Google by using the square brackets around your query.

And, as I just learned, you can do the thing valkyryn mentions by using "word AROUND(n) word" where n is the number of words.
posted by grapesaresour at 2:08 PM on April 7, 2011


grapesaresour: "You can do those kinds of searches in Google by using the square brackets around your query."

I don't think so. Or, at least, that's not what your link says at all. Its just using square brackets to denote their query example from the rest of their text. Google doesn't have a mechanism for precedence overriding, as far as I know...

Looking into DuckDuckGo, so thanks for the tips above! there's a lot to like, here. Will use for a few days and see if the results are good quality.
posted by gilrain at 2:30 PM on April 7, 2011


Ah, you're right about the square bracket part. That did seem weird since I've done plenty of boolean searches without them. :)
posted by grapesaresour at 2:38 PM on April 7, 2011


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