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This article provides a detailed overview of Wikipedia's search feature, and instructions on using external search engines, such as Google, to find information. For a short introduction to searching Wikipedia, see Look it up.
Tips for effective searches
Go is case sensitive
The "go" function uses an algorithm to decide what page you're likely to be interested in, and this usually masks its case sensitivity - but not always. For more details about this please see Wikipedia:Go button.
Avoid short and common words
If your search terms include a common stop word (such as the, your, more, right, while, when, who, which, such, every, about), you may see many irrelevant results. Previously, Wikipedia's search function could not search for such words. Since February 2006, Wikipedia's Lucene index does not filter out stop words, so any word can be processed in search queries.
Words with special characters
In a search for a word with a diaeresis, such as Sint Odiliënberg, it depends whether this ë is stored as one character or as "ë". In the first case one can simply search for Odilienberg (or Odiliënberg); in the second case it can only be found by searching for Odili, euml and/or nberg. This is actually a bug that should be fixed -- the entities should be folded into their raw character equivalents so all searches on them are equivalent. See also Wikipedia:Special characters.
Words in single quotes
If a word appears in an article with single quotes, you can only find it if you search for the word with quotes. Since this is rarely desirable, it is better to use double quotes in articles for which this problem does not arise. See the manual of style for more info.
An apostrophe is identical to a single quote, therefore the name Mu'ammar can be found only by searching for exactly that (and not otherwise). A word with 's is an exception in that it can be found also by searching for the word without the apostrophe and the s.
Phrases in double quotes -- exact match only
A phrase can easily be found by enclosing it in double quotes. For example, "holly dolly" returns six matches; holly dolly (two standalone words) returns 197.
Namespaces searched by default
The search only applies to the namespaces selected in the user's preferences. To search the other namespaces, check or uncheck the checkboxes in the "Search in namespaces" box found at the bottom of a search results page. Depending on the web browser in use, a box may still be checked from a previous search, but without being effective any longer! To make sure, uncheck and then recheck it.
Searching the image namespace means searching the image descriptions, i.e. the first parts of the image description pages.
The source text is searched
The source text (what one sees in the edit box, also called wiki text) is searched. This distinction is relevant for piped links, for interlanguage links (to find links to Chinese articles, search for zh, not for Zhongwen), special characters (if ê is coded as ê it is found searching for ecirc), etc.
Delay in updating the search index
For reasons of efficiency and priority, very recent changes are not always immediately taken into account in searches.
Multi-lingual Wikipedia search
Internal search engines (New)
Recently, new internal search engines were created. These search engines can search Wikipedia articles, meanwhile they are user-friendly and are integrated into Wikipedia for a good experience. They aren't as good as external search engines though.
WikEh? is a Wikipedian-friendly search engine that searches the articles you want fast. It also searches images that are on Wikipedia. Users can give it a try by clicking on the link below.
External search engines
Various search engines can provide domain-specific searches, which let you search Wikipedia specifically. Searches are based on the text as shown by the browser, so wiki markup is irrelevant. Depending on your browser, you may also be able to use tools that allow you to search Wikipedia using bookmarklets.
In general, external search engines are faster than a Wikipedia search. However, because the search engine's cache is based on when the site was indexed, the search may not return newly created pages. Similarly, the search engine's cached version of the page will not be as up-to-date as the link to Wikipedia itself. Also, when returning Wikipedia articles in a regular search, mirrors and forks of Wikipedia content frequently rank higher than the actual Wikipedia articles because of search engine optimization techniques.
These issues may be less of a problem when using certain search engines that process Wikipedia differently:
By following the link below, you can use the Clusty search engine to search and cluster Wikipedia in English only.
If you frequently search via Clusty, consider installing the Clusty Toolbar (beta). Selecting the "Encyclopedia" search source allows you to quickly search the English version of Wikipedia. The Clusty Toolbar is available for Windows with Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox (beta).
FUTEF is a site, currently in beta, limited to Wikipedia content. Besides basic keyword and full text search providing a list of relevant articles, it also lists related categories in a sidebar.
By following the links below, you can use the Google search engine to search Wikipedia - either all languages, or English-only. Google indexes all namespaces.
If you frequently search via Google, consider installing the Google Toolbar. Using the "search this site" button allows you to quickly search the English version of Wikipedia. The official Google Toolbar is available in versions for Firefox (Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows), and Internet Explorer (Microsoft Windows).
Wikipedia markup allows you to insert links to Google searches by including google: as the prefix for the link. This can sometimes be useful on talk pages. It is done like this:
Which looks like this:
Note: It is important not to use spaces in the search. To add more parameters to the search, separate them by a plus sign, +. For a phrase search, use a hyphen (minus sign), -, between each word. E.g. to search for "Tip of the day", use Tip-of-the-day.
To provide a link to a Wikipedia-specific search, include in the google-link +site:en.wikipedia.org (no spaces before or after), like this:
Which looks like this:
To clean up the link so that only the part you want to show is presented, use the pipe, like this:
Which makes it look like this:
LuMriX is a dynamic query tool which uses lookahead to predict search terms in a list, similar to Google Suggest.
By following the link below, you can use the LuMriX search engine to search different language versions of Wikipedia.
If you frequently search via LuMriX, consider installing the LuMriX Firefox Search Plugin (works on all operating system platforms for which Firefox is available, such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS X).
There is a full-featured advanced search engine at Lycos UK. It is more powerful than Wikipedia's search box, and you can limit searches to a specific URL, such as the Wikipedia website. Here's how. Click on the provided link above, and then enter your search term. Then scroll down to the domain section and add "wikipedia.org" in the box provided. Then click "Go".
Qwika is designed specifically to index wikis. Its main index is Wikipedia and includes:
This can assist editors contributing to non-English Wikipedias by being able to search in their own language across the entire English version and then view the machine-translated version in their language.
Wikiwax is a dynamic query like LuMriX. It only searches English Wikipedia, but shows more list entries.
By following the links below, you can use the Yahoo! search engine to search Wikipedia - either all languages or English-only.
If you frequently search via Yahoo!, consider installing the Yahoo! Companion Toolbar. Using the "Search Only the Current Site" button allows you to quickly search the English version of Wikipedia. The official Yahoo! Companion Toolbar is only for Windows with Internet Explorer and Mozilla.
Here are more Wikipedia:Tools which make searching more convenient.
Browser specific help
Using Mozilla to automatically search
Works with: Mozilla Suite, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape 6/7.
Mozilla and Netscape 6 & 7 come with a sidebar that allows a user to search the Wikipedia site, and Firefox has a toolbar item to do the same. To install the search plugin that tells Mozilla how to search Wikipedia, do the following:
To make Wikipedia your default search engine in Mozilla, Beonex Communicator, and Netscape 6/7:
With Wikipedia selected as your default engine, searches can be conducted via the search sidebar tab, search box, or the web address bar.
Search Wikipedia using a custom keyword
Works with: Mozilla Suite, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape 6/7, Beonex Communicator, Camino.
Wikipedia can also be searched via a custom keyword.
To search, go to the web address bar (Ctrl-L), enter "w SEARCH_QUERY" (without the quotes), and press Enter.
Many versions of Firefox include this wikipedia quicksearch by default, but use "wp SEARCH_QUERY" instead of the form mentioned above.
Note: This can also be done with Opera and Internet Explorer, see below.
Searching with bookmarklets
The whole thing should be pasted in as a single line without spaces for it to work.
To enable a quick search from the Windows and Internet Explorer Address bars, do the following
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00 [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchUrl\w] @="http://www.wikipedia.org/w/wiki.phtml?search=%s" " "="+" "#"="%23" "&"="%26" "?"="%3F" "+"="%2B" "="="%3D"
This will allow you to for example type "w french revolution" (without the quotes) into the Windows and Internet Explorer Address bars to immediately search Wikipedia for the search term you've specified.
Note: There are other URLs you can specify instead of the Default (@) key given above. For instance, the line
will search the German Wikipedia and
will use Google to search all language Wikipedias.
Safari + Saft
Works with: Safari plus the Saft plugin 
Results similar to those described for Mozilla can be attained with Safari and Saft. In the Preferences menu of Safari, choose the Saft section, then the Shortcuts tab. Click Add and enter "Wikipedia" (without the quotes) for the name, with "w" (again, no quotes) for the shortcut. The URL is similar to those listed above, with a change in the last character. Enter the text below in the URL field.
Click OK, and close the preferences window. Now typing "w" followed by a space and your search term in the address bar of Safari will take you immediately to your search results. This can be easily altered to search Wikipedia in other languages.
Name: &Wikipedia Keyword: w Address: http://www.wikipedia.org/w/wiki.phtml?search=%s
All Opera versions since v6 use a customizable text file called search.ini. This file should only be edited while Opera is not running. The following example replaces one of the existing pre-defined search engines. It is up to the user to avoid conflicts of shortcut key (key=). By default 'w' is taken by the download.com search, so either this or the Wikipedia one should be changed. Furthermore the 'Search Engine ##' should be replaced with a free number: '12' is free by default. The Search.ini editor (see link below, in the "More information" section) makes editing trivial.
[Search Engine ##] Name=&Wikipedia URL=http://www.wikipedia.org/w/wiki.phtml?search=%s Query= Key=w Is post=0 Has endseparator=0 Encoding=utf-8 Search Type=8
K-Meleon has a search button that can be used to search Google. You can change it to search Wikipedia instead, by doing this:
Open up K-Meleon and press the search button to search Wikipedia. To go back to Google or to use another search service, edit prefs.js and delete the added line
Make sure K-Meleon is closed before editing prefs.js.
Searching with TomeRaider
After downloading the Wikipedia:TomeRaider database one can search the Wikipedia version offline. One can also search for parts of words.
If you cannot find an appropriate page on Wikipedia
If there is no appropriate page on Wikipedia, consider creating a page, since you can edit Wikipedia right now. Or consider adding what you were looking for to the Requested articles page. Or if you have a question, then see Where to ask questions, which is a list of departments where our volunteers answer questions, any question you can possibly imagine.
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