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Why is Stack Overflow's search box only big enough for two or three words? SO is a programming website, after all, isn't it? Shouldn't we have a big fat multiline text area so users can put log output or code samples in the search area? We should at least make it half as big as Google's input box.

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3 Answers 3

The search box now expands dynamically when you set focus to it.

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Put the cursor in the search box and hit enter without entering any text. You get a bit bigger search box on the resulting search page with which to search using Google, Bing, or DuckDuckGo. Alternatively, you can simply go to Google and type site:stackoverflow.com (or whichever of the SE sites you care about) in the Google search box along with the rest of your query.

As far as why the box is small -- searches perform better on keywords than long strings of text. Even when I have some error output I usually distill that down to just the keywords in the message, omitting all the common words that don't help. If you feel that you regularly need a very large search box for your search text, you might find that you get better results reducing the amount of search text you use by choosing only the most unique (problem-related) words instead.

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I'm just going to start hitting random buttons while on SO. That's probably the only way I'll learn about some of these features. –  user27414 Nov 5 '10 at 21:47
    
@jon or you could read the stackoverflow.com/faq -- it's linked there under the heading Are there any search options? Additionally every search result page links there in the sidebar, too –  Jeff Atwood Nov 5 '10 at 22:32
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@Jeff - FAQ? TL;DR. Kindly point me to the document that explains how to use all of SO's undocumented features. –  user27414 Nov 5 '10 at 23:11

You're supposed to just use Google instead.

I'm not really a fan of this, but that's the idea here. The "powers that be" figure they can't build a better search than Google, so they don't really try to make the search all that usable.

Note that you can also use http://stackoverflow.com/search.

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Yep, I gave up on SO's search ages ago and just do a site-specific search on google. e.g. compare the results of meta.stackoverflow.com/search?q=%22where+is+the+faq%3F%22 to google.com/… –  Ether Nov 5 '10 at 23:38

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