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Web Voyager

By Ellen Highland Fernandez

Current Column

Learning Yahoo or How to find information on the web - Part 1

There are millions of pages of information on the world wide web. You are interested in just one subject or have only one question which you need an answer for. How do you find it? You can begin your search with a search engine or spider which uses user-defined keywords and criteria to shift through the mass of data to located the pages you want.

A search engine maintains a database of web pages that are registered with it by the site's webmaster. A spider is a program that goes out and searches the web for new pages and sites. The engine usually has descriptions defined by the webmaster. A spider picks up key words from the site and describes the site based on the words found. It constantly searches the web for new sites to add to its collection.

For the user, they both operate the same way. The user defines the search criteria. Before you begin your search, think about or write down keywords that might be used to describe the information you are looking for. In the this and the next column, you will learn about two popular search programs: Yahoo and its companion spider Alta Vista. This column will focus on Yahoo.

Yahoo and Alta Vista

Yahoo categorizes its database into four main areas: categories, web sites, net events and chats, and recent news articles. Here, we will be concerned with only the first two categories. If Yahoo is unable to find the pages you are looking for, it will automatically launch a spider called Alta Vista and perform another search. When you see the words "Alta Vista Web Pages" at the top of the page, you will know that you have passed from Yahoo to Alta Vista. For example, when I recently did a search for Ellen Highland Fernandez, I was launched into Alta Vista and found four listings under my name. A search for Web Voyager yielded 18 matches but not this column. Clicking onto "Go to Alta Vista" at the bottom of the results page, yielded 126,100 matches with either or both of the words "web" and "voyager". It can take two months before a site will be listed with Yahoo. This Web Voyager is still in the processing stage.


When Yahoo performs a search, it finds all the keyword matches and then sorts and ranks the results. Highest ranking documents will be those matching the most keywords, documents in which the key words are found in the page title, or documents which fall into a generalized category.

Yahoo offers a "search options" capability where you simply checkmark the criteria options you wish to use. By using the Advanced Search Syntax however, you can refine your search even further. Using operators you have control over the search results.

Yahoo Operators

The + operator connects two words together. For example, cpubco+events+line will find our Events Line page - just one match.

The - operator in front a word eliminates that word from the search. For example, events+line - cpubco will find pages containing the words "Events Line" and not "Cpubco". A recent search yielded 19,040 site matches. Be sure to put a space before the minus operator.

Placing t: before the search word will restrict the search to document titles only. For example, t:cpubco gives you the CPUBCO Events Line. While there are two pages listed with Yahoo, only our Events Line has the word CPUBCO in the title. Compare a title search with a URL search.

Placing u: before the search word will restrict the search to document URLs only. For example, u:cpubco yields two matches - the home page and Events Line. Two matches were given but one page, the home page, was listed under two categories: West Virginia business and West Virginia newspapers.

When looking for an exact phrase use quotation marks around the search words. Quotes are best used when looking for a person's name or for a title such as the title of a publication. For example "clarksburg exponent" will give you our home page. "Ellen highland fernandez" will launch Alta Vista and give you four listings.

Adding * to the right-hand side of a word will return left-side partial matches. For example clarks* will return listings for clarksburg, clarksville, clarkston and more combinations.

Finally, you can combine all of these operators, in proper order, for a refined search. For example, enter +t:horses-miniature to get documents with horses in the title but excluding miniature horses.

The proper order for the syntax is +, -, t:, u:, "" , and *.

My next column will discuss performing a search with Alta Vista. Happy hunting!

As you voyage down the cyber-path, you are encouraged to send me your ideas for topics you would like to see discussed and to share your favorite links. Send correspondence to me at: e-mail: Webmaster@cpubco.com, via post: Web Voyager, Ellen H. Fernandez, PO Box 2000, Clarksburg, WV 26302, or through our web site. Phone: 626-1466.

EDITOR'S NOTE Ellen Highland Fernandez is the Webmaster for Clarksburg Publishing Company's site and her column appears on the first and third Sundays every month in the Sunday Exponent-Telegram

Clarksburg Publishing Company, P.O. Box 2000, Clarksburg, WV 26302 USA
Copyright © Clarksburg Publishing Company 1997