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Getting started

The simplest way to use the search form is to simply type some words into the search box and press enter. When you do this, the result list will contain messages which contain all of the words in your list. The words may occur in any order, anywhere in the message.

Remember, ALL of the words you specify must appear. If you're not finding enough stuff here, you need to REMOVE some words. If you found too much, add some words. The best words to add are the ones that don't occur very often, and are most specific.

New messages are extracted from the archives starting at 1 AM each night. These extracts are loaded into the index starting at 6 AM. Both processes can take some time, but hopefully well under an hour. If you're looking for messages posted today, you'll have to look tomorrow.

A little more

If the simple search still isn't working for you, there are a lot of other things you can do to fine tune your search.

You might be interested in how major web search engines are different from this one.

The search engine will try to filter out job guide messages. Job guides tend to include a lot of the same words used to discuss interesting topics, so they tend to clog up the result lists with irrelevant material, unless you're searching for a job posting. To avoid that problem, the search engine tries to filter them out, unless you un-check Try to ignore job guides.


If you want to search for a phrase, that is, a list of words together and in the same order you specify, then click Phrase before submitting your search.

Date restrictions:

If you're trying to find a specific message or discussion, and you know about when it was posted, you can limit your search to a specific period by month and year using the popup lists in the Time of search section of the form.

By list:

If you are looking for messages posted to a specific list, you can pick it from the List popup in the Place of search section.

Number of messages per page:

You can control the number of matching messages displayed on each page of the result list. If you're on a slow or unreliable connection, keeping the size of the result pages small may help you, and you can choose 10 messages per page. If you have a fast connection and prefer larger bites, you can choose up to 100 messages per page.


You can control the order in which messages are listed. The choices are:


The search engine applies a ranking algorithm which prefers messages in which more words matched, and in which the hits cluster in a sentence (best); then in parts of the message like the author, editor, subject line, and body; then unclustered matches anywhere in the document.


Matching messages are sorted by list, then by subject, then most recent first.


Matching messages are sorted by date. You can choose most recent first, or oldest first.

For the truly brave

If you're a real die-hard boolean searching fan, you can do that here too. Check Boolean, and construct an appropriate search in search box. The Field popup in the Place of search section is ignored when you do this, though the List and Date selections are not. The rules are:

  • You can group things with parentheses.

  • You can enclose phrases in quotes.

  • You must not use any stop words. There's a list of them at the bottom of this page.

  • The default operator, if you don't provide an explicit one, is AND.

  • You can look for a word in a specific field by appending the name of the field, surrounded by periods, to the end of the word. For example, if you think President Roosevelt might have posted a message at one time, you could try:

  • The fields are:

    • Author: AUTH

    • Editor: EDTR

    • Author's original subject: AUSJ

    • Editor's revised subject: EDSJ

    • List: LIST

    • Body of the message: BODY

    • Date posted: DTPO

  • Nearly any operator you might want is available. The common ones are:

    • AND, OR, XOR, and NOT are fairly obvious.

    • Words adjacent to each other, and in the same order you specified, can be tracked down using the ADJ operator. If you want to allow two intervening words, then it would be ADJ2.

    • Words in the same sentence, but not necessarily in the same order, can be found using the NEAR operator. You can limit the number of intervening words: NEAR3, for example.

    • The SAME operator looks for words in the same field. Some fields (notably BODY) actually occur multiple times, and then SAME will probably search for things in the same paragraph.

    • You can prepend a NOT to SAME, WITH, ADJ or NEAR. (Leave a space in between.)

Here's the list of stopwords, words which are too common to be usefully searched and are therefore not indexed. For Keyword and Phrase searches, these are automatically removed for you. For Boolean searches, they are NOT automatically removed, and you should not specify them.

a about all among an and are as at be been between both but by do during each either for found from further has have however if in into is it its made make many more most must no not of on or same several some such than that the their these they this those through to toward upon used