Asume the following search queries:
osx, cocoa, iphone, xcode, applescript, mac, carbon

Searching for osx, cocoa, iphone or xcode like:


Results into searching by tag:


While searching for applescript, mac and carbon like:


Results into searching by string.

Yes, I know how to search by tags using brackets: [applescript]
But why are the queries above interpreted differently?
All queries are valid Stack Overflow tags!
Why not convert all queries into search by string or search by tag?
What is the logic behind? Tag popularity? It seems rather inconsistent to me.

1 Answer 1


If a word is realized to be a tag which is among the top 60 tags for the site, search automatically converts it into a tag search instead of a search for that word.

You can override this functionality and search for the actual word by using quotes: "osx"

  • 1
    Using quotes and brackets during search was common to me, but I just liked to know what caused the inconsistency :) Thanks for your answer.
    – Anne
    Sep 7, 2012 at 23:30
  • Isn't it top 40 tags and not 60 as mentioned in your answer. Don't want to second guess you, maybe it was changed later but the blog says 40. Aug 16, 2014 at 11:19
  • 1
    @AzizShaikh it's currently 60...that blog post is 5 years out of date. Aug 16, 2014 at 12:54
  • 3
    @Nick nope, not 60 anymore. function turns into a tag and it's deep in the third page of tags sorted by popularity, each page has 36 tags. What is the new number? (or what formula makes the "top tags"?) Mar 27, 2015 at 6:01

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