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Every week or so you get, say, a question about the difference between '==' and '===' in PHP. Of course it inevitably gets closed as a duplicate but some people apparently feel the need to leave comments like 'Already asked! God! (roll eyes)' Well you can't actually search for something like == or === unless you happen to know what it's called.

Can we extend the search to allow for these characters?

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Definitely the cause of a lot of duplicate questions on Stack Overflow, and likely other symbol-dependent sites as well (Math Overflow comes to mind). Would upvote if I had 15 rep! –  Adam Backstrom Jun 23 '10 at 15:35
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Example of myself experiencing this issue today: stackoverflow.com/questions/3408818 –  brainimus Aug 5 '10 at 3:48
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Hah only found this question when asking the exact same thing, but was unable to find it through search. Weird. –  Jakub Hampl Mar 10 '11 at 15:21
    
This post is a very light illustration of the problem: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/9686/… –  Jakub Hampl Mar 10 '11 at 15:28
    
Only in the title? Searching for, for example, == might otherwise show a lot of hits... –  Arjan Aug 15 '12 at 16:51

4 Answers 4

Stack Overflow really should extend the search to include symbols. There's a gigantic gap in the market for this. See this frustrated Google user:

Programmer-friendly search engine?

Duplicate questions is a cost that Stack Overflow must accept as a consequence of not having this feature. And it should accept it cheerfully, and not grudgingly, until it gets its act together and adds it.

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Try

SymbolHound: Search Stack Overflow for special characters

SymbolHound is a search engine that doesn't ignore special characters. I was always frustrated that I couldn't search for symbols like >> and && using Google or the custom Stack Overflow search, so I made a search engine for programmers. It currently searches mostly Stack Overflow pages, with plans to eventually index a much wider range of programming websites (including symbols, of course).

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That's cool for experienced users like Cletus, but how will that help new users find already-asked versions of their questions? –  Adam Rackis Feb 2 '12 at 17:42
    
It won't. People don't know about it until they ask a duplicate question, get PO'ed at the super-ego-users closing their question and eventually find this still-open question on the topic. –  RKS Aug 15 '12 at 5:12
    
@RKS - It's possible to vote to close a question without downvoting it into oblivion. In this case, they're understandable duplicates. In fact, duplicates normally increase the number of inbound paths to the canonical post. Now, if that SymbolHound could be integrated into the SO search, that would rock! –  jmort253 Aug 16 '12 at 2:00
    
That could be the case as well, however, that's not the way it works. Look at my answer posted yesterday and you say one thing against the super-ego-users and you get downvoted into oblivion. Mention something has been open for 3 years with not even a "maybe one day" update and people downvote you into oblivion. People have a problem with someone going against the status-quo like they fear the squeaky wheel. –  RKS Aug 16 '12 at 5:29
    
Jeff, that's a good suggestion, not great. It can't filter on a code type. I was looking for %*c in C code, can't get the to work on SymbolHound –  Mike Nov 2 '12 at 19:02

This is now possible with the new search engine, just put your search in quotes, a few examples:

The search is case insensitive but is otherwise an exact match engine.

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Actually, I voted to close one question today (the exact same question, for Javascript instead of PHP) and pointed to three dupes. Two of them did show up right in the "Related" section in sidebar.

Interestingly, I feel the "exact duplicate search" works pretty well in finding the duplicates (better than the SO search box.) Is the algorithm different or it's wrong feeling?

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It has frequently been mentioned that the suggested questions you get when you type in a question title are often better than what you get from the search. This predates the latest search changes however. –  cletus Sep 3 '09 at 8:48

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