A useful thing for programmers and other users of mathematical symbols is searching for special characters on search engines. E.g. searching for the meaning of $~ in Perl, or named mathematical sets like the positive reals R+, or formatting # in LaTeX.

It's useful enough that people have asked about it. A programmer asked on Stack Overflow: How can I use a search engine to search for special characters?

... someone else asked as a superuser / power user question: How to Google a question mark?

It has also been asked in Web Applications (closed as off-topic): How to search the internet for terms with special characters

And earlier (Google-specific, still open): How can I search for a keyword with special characters in Google Search?

Three of the four were closed as off-topic, in ways that were non-obvious to me. Google and other search engines don't have a clear FAQ in many cases; a single up to date explanation on what's possible seems useful. I've been using Google for nearly two decades now and I don't know a reliable way.

This is in meta as I would like to understand the shared community conventions that are resulting in what seems like a precise question falling between communities.


Questions about using specific search engines are on-topic on Web Applications; they consider websites like Google Search, DuckDuckGo, etc. as web applications.

  • Thanks. I've edited the question to include two examples from Web Applications. One of them was also closed as off-topic ...
    – Adam Burke
    Aug 13 '20 at 1:45
  • 1
    It was off-topic because it was a software recommendation question. (Those go on Software Recommendations.) If you limit your question to a single search engine, like the second one, it's on-topic.
    – Glorfindel Mod
    Aug 13 '20 at 6:03

There isn't a site for all the questions that could be done about web searches.

Questions that are about using specific search engines like Google, DuckDuckGo, etc. could be asked on Web Applications with some limitations. I.E. questions about internal policies, technologies used to provide the service, SEO are off-topic.

You could ask on Web Applications something like "How to search for the meaning of $~ in Perl using Google" (don't forget to include a brief description of your search/research efforts to find the answer by yourself)

Regarding Google not having specific FAQ did you know that Google has a MOOC ---> Power Searching with Google?

It's worthy to note that SE sites have no being created to be "exclusive" so a question might be on topic on more than one site. By the other hand also SE sites have not being created to have a place for every question that might be asked around a thing so there might be no place on SE for some questions about web searches.

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