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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.
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:
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