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Why are the instant question recommendations that appear when asking a question so much better/faster than the results from performing an actual query in the search field?

I understand that I can use quotes and tags to improve my search results. But if I simply type in "Detecting the end of a for loop in php" it returns "0 results". If, as recommended, I wrap the query in quotes I get "0 results". Let's simplify the query then and ask "for loop php", "0 Results". If I perform the same query in quotation marks with the tag [php] I start to get results, but not very good ones. This being a pretty vague query it returns vague results. In contrast if I click 'Ask Question' and start typing my query "Detecting the end of a for loop php.." I get instant, precise results.

Now I know that next to the query results you can click 'Advanced Search Tips' which gives you things like is:question and is:answer...but what does this mean? Do I prepend my question with "is:" or "is:question", both, either/or? SO offers things like tags and other various elements to assist in queries, but I will get a far more precise results if I simply click 'Ask Question' and start typing my question. Why isn't this query power available in the standard search field? Is it and am I simply not using it correctly?

How do YOU search on Stack Overflow? Please help me and the community become better Stack Overflow users. While I feel like this is a total noob question, I bet other people have experienced it as well so perhaps it's worthy of documentation.

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Seems like a recent change to the search may have affected the results here –  random Feb 27 '13 at 0:51
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2 Answers 2

This was a bug with our query parsing before the handoff to the lucene layer - it's now fixed in a build that just rolled out.

You'll now see there are 92 results for the query Detecting the end of a for loop in php.

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I search using Google, which has always been and will probably always be the primary search mechanism for Stack Overflow.

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I always use google with the sites: function to do research as google is so damn good at it! –  Hugo Dozois Feb 27 '13 at 0:45
    
@HugoDozois In my experience Stack Overflow has done such a good job with their SEO that I don't need to use site:. On the occasions when an answer on another site outranks SO there's usually a good reason (though sometimes SO scrapers do sneak up there). –  blahdiblah Feb 27 '13 at 0:47
    
Yeah well for SO I must say I do agree but I was talking generally, for all the sites! And since I'm on a phone keyboard, I forgot to type it –  Hugo Dozois Feb 27 '13 at 1:09
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