The search engine that works behind the scenes to generate the "Questions that may already have your answer" is staggeringly amazing; even this first draft at a not very good title brings up exactly the question I was going to ask as the first result:

New question screen


On the other hand the search bar doesn't do quite such a good job:

Search screen


So I'd like to propose that a little of the "New question screen" magic go into the search bar.

Or to propose this in a little less wishy washy way; that (in addition to normal search results) top results from the "Questions that may already have your answer" box go into the search box as if the search had been phrased as a new question.

This will help casual users who may search but may not (attempt to) ask. This will additionally be helpful for experienced users because (due to draft saving) you cannot have two independent new question pages open at once. As such I can't use the new question based search while also drafting a question

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    I apologise in advance for the confusion having screen shots of meta on meta brings – Richard Tingle Jul 7 '13 at 21:12
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    StackOverflowException: Stack Overflow Overflowed Showing Pictures of Meta on Meta – Linuxios Jul 7 '13 at 22:12
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    In the interim, when you want to search just type it into the question title box instead ;) – WendiKidd Jul 7 '13 at 22:46
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    +1 That is so true that in fact, it's been some time I don't use the search feature anymore, and use the "Ask question" instead. – Boris Jul 8 '13 at 7:05
  • possible duplicate of Search box vs Question title – user221081 Jul 8 '13 at 11:46
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    The duplicate certainly seems heavily related; although im making an explicit feature request (and changes seem to have been made in response to that question so im requesting additional changes) – Richard Tingle Aug 9 '13 at 12:47
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    This question is old but it has been asked again. My guess is that the "similar question search" is tolerant while the regular search is strict (all words you're searching for have to exist in a result). By the way: I guess google does this "tolerant" search (with a couple of amazing algorithms of course) which sometimes is annoying: when you strictly want the result to contain a specific word it's hard to force that (even with the infamous "+" in front. -- In the end I guess it's a UX question whether or not a search should be (somewhat) tolerant. – leemes Aug 11 '14 at 17:18
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    @leemes The question you linked to is from yesterday and certainly not old. Also, it is a discussion, whereas this is a feature-request. – dirkk Aug 12 '14 at 5:41
  • @dirkk I meant this question here is old and the reason I add a comment now is that it has been linked in the new question. ;) – leemes Aug 12 '14 at 13:25
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    @leemes Don't ever enter latex into Google if you want a specific result for Knuth's text-formatting language ... – Agi Hammerthief Sep 27 '14 at 23:27
  • @leemes On google you can use "" to do a set search. That could be used here. – Tim Feb 28 '15 at 9:16
  • Maybe they could take some inspiration from Google's advanced search, so you could specify (a) tags you want/don't want/prefer (b) rep of users who asked (c) page views (d) language. – ghosts_in_the_code Mar 3 '15 at 10:05
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    +1 for I can't use the new question-based search while also drafting a question – Alex Aug 26 '16 at 0:37
  • This just came up on Math.SE Meta. It really would be nice if it got fixed.... – Wildcard Jun 7 '17 at 3:17
  • Just keep it simple and weight title text more heavily in the search algorithm? – Umaomamaomao Jun 19 '17 at 2:51

It is true that the Ask-a-Question does bring more relevant entries. However, this is not necessarily helpful if you are looking for a particular question. There are times you want an exact match, and other times you want something similar to what you are asking.

The danger of removing the search engine which looks for exact matches is not just that some questions end up brought up most often, but that others are completely ignored. A good example is searching for a product on Amazon vs. on eBay. When you are looking for something on eBay, you always get an exact match, and you can form a meaningful "followed search", such as violin "strings" stock -book -super -elements

Querying the same search phrase on Amazon brings up the following list of items:

Thomastik Peter Infeld 4/4 Violin Strings Set with Platinum E
Dr Thomastik-Infeld 130 Dominant Violin String, Single E String, 130, 4/4 Size, Aluminum Wound, Ball End
Thomastik-Infeld 135BMS Dominant Violin Strings, Complete Set, 135Bms, 4/4 Size, Chrome Steel Loop End E String
Thomastik-Infeld VI100 Vision Violin Strings, Complete Set, 4/4 Size
D'Addario NYXL1046 Nickel Plated Electric Guitar Strings, Light
Jascha Heifetz plays Great Violin Concertos
3dRose Greeting Cards, Bass and Cello, 6 x 6 Inches, String Instruments Violin (gc_200920_1)
Thomastik-Infeld VI100.34 Vision Violin Strings, Complete Set, 3/4 Size
Roth Waller No.5 Wooden Violin Chin Rest New/Old Stock
Thomastik-Infeld VIT100 Vision Titanium Solo Violin Strings, Complete Set, 4/4 Size, Synthetic Core

So none of the first 10 items match the search phrase as stated. And this is sorted by relevance; sorting by anything else yields much worse matches near the top, such as Interieur Aux Instruments De Musique - Graphique de France Raoul Dufy Birthday Card

While this is more an issue when searching for a purchase, the same Amazon-like approximate searching algorithm has been implemented on YouTube. When typing in the query Jack Rissa giggle, I get the following videos (descriptions in brackets):

Once were warriors - rissa in bar [Rissa nel bar all'inizio del film, dove viene "introdotto" il presonaggio di Jake La Furia]
WHAT DID I JUST WITNESS? | Inside - Part 3 (END) [I have SO many questions about the ending to INSIDE! I'm sad it's over so soon! Limbo https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4Dcg... Twitter : https://twitter.com/Jack_Septic_Eye... Outro animation created by Cranbersher: ... Outro Song created by "Teknoaxe". It's called "I'm everywhere" and you can listen to it here]
The Giggling Nanny | SERIAL KILLER FILES #23 [This is not the kind of nanny you'd want watching your kids... \\ CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE ... ADD ME ON SNAPCHAT: robdyke]
Jack Reacher Bar Fight Scene (Complete)
CAN'T STOP LAUGHING!! | Google Feud [I got extra giggly during Google Feud to the point where I was laughing at the stupidest things... Subscribe Today! ... ...a pet named steve...]
SO MUCH NOSTALGIA! | Spyro 3 Year Of The Dragon - Part 1 [Get ready for a blast from the past! Let the nostalgia fly, I'm gonna play Spyro 3! Uncharted 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UAax... Twitter : https://twitter.com/Jack_Septic_Eye... ]
That Dragon, Cancer [That Dragon, Cancer is a powerful game that tells the true story of Joel. I've been wanting to play this for a while but I had to be in the right mindset to do so because of my dad's battle with cancer. This was a very hard video for me to make so thank you for taking the time to watch. Crisis Text Line  ...]

Few statistics:

  • None of the videos have more than one of the three keywords in the title plus description.
  • Already the second video has none of the keywords from the search phrase, just a partial match.
  • The 7th video (and many subsequent ones) has no words even related to my search phrase, but is based chiefly (if not solely) on my video history.

In fact, there is a video whose title consists of only 4 words, which include these three. Even including the exact title and/or description, with or without quotes, does not find that video: only its video URL. Watching that video seems to bump it to the results list for a while, and then it goes away again.

With so many more website searches going to "This is what your history is, here is what we suggest"-- I definitely respect StackExchange for leaving a standard search engine which can be used to find exact phrases. That being said, I also agree with @WendiKidd and others: I myself often find myself using the Ask-a-Question button to find the answer to what I am looking for. But then again, very often, especially on Math.SE, I really appreciate the ability to type in a complicated math formula I need resolved, and find it on Math.SE, even before the Google bot gets to it. To me, it's more a question of, is the default behaviour of the search box to look for exact phrases, or to look for approximations.

  • Good point. Nothing wrong with replicating access to the search functionality of the “already have an answer” to somewhere other than asking a question, but it should not be merged with the other one. Follow-up Question is: how often does someone want to use that search function when they don't want to ask a question? – can-ned_food Jun 4 '17 at 22:55
  • It is a fact that a user often needs to use both search engines to see if there is already a question similar to the one you want to post — there have been many times when I've not seen such questions when entering a tile or body of a question, yet would later discover the questions to which others referred me when I judiciously chose keywords for the Search function. – can-ned_food Jun 4 '17 at 22:57

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