It seems like everytime I search for something using the built in search on SO/SF/SU I don't get good results unless I'm am searching for something very general. Is there a way to search for specific post? Or should I continue to use Google (maybe SO/SF/SU should just use Google also, why reinvent the wheel)?

  • 14
    What I've found works well is to click on Ask Question and write out the full question (as though you had searched thoroughly and not found it). Then, look at the list of questions that comes up, under your question title. Maybe it's a different search algorithm, or maybe it just does better with full well-written titles than with keywords, but it seems to do a little better IME.
    – Tyler
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 3:14
  • @MatrixFrog: Good suggestion. I'll defiantly try that.
    – Kredns
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 3:22
  • @MatrixFrog: Also your comment should probably be an answer. I would've upvoted it.
    – Kredns
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 3:23
  • 2
    @MatrixFrog: that's what I do too. it's annoying when i do due dilligence (searching for dups) and find none, only to try to ask the question and see an exact duplicate after typing the title. so i've started only relying on the ask a question search
    – Kip
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 3:27
  • I also find the ask question / search method works best.
    – Jason Down
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 4:12
  • There is a similar question: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5180, "What are some good tips for searching StackOverflow?". Commented Jul 27, 2009 at 18:09
  • One teeny question: Why is Jeff attributed to every part of the iste, good or bad, and no matter how small. It seems he's built the site single-handed... Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 14:58
  • Although I like the Chuck Norris feel :) Commented Sep 11, 2012 at 15:00
  • Closing this, as the search engine has since been completely replaced. Twice, IIRC. Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 12:44

5 Answers 5


A few recent changes in search..

  1. Search now HEAVILY weights title in the results, since people seemed to really like that approach (used on the /ask page, which searched exclusively on title alone).

  2. Any individual search terms which map directly to the top 40 tags will be auto-converted to tag searches. So if you enter

    c++ entities

    it will convert to

    [c++] entities


Try again and see if it is more to your liking.

  • 2
    Good idea to weigh the title (seeing as that's what I usually remember about a question). Thanks for the improvements.
    – Kredns
    Commented Jul 27, 2009 at 16:58

It is notoriously bad.

Most people who search will continue to search using Google and limit the results to the site they are concerned about.

What you can also do is set up you own Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) and then you can define what sites you want that search to stick to.


I would only use our search if

  • you know an EXACT PHRASE that appears in the question or answer.

    "elephant muscles".

  • you know an EXACT PHRASE that appears within a SPECIFIC TAG

    [search] "elephant muscles"

(that's how I use it)

For anything fuzzier, you'll be better off with Google. There's a reason Google is a trazillion dollar company and we are just 3 guys in a windowless, musty basement with a single unshaded lightbulb hanging down from a frayed electrical extension cord.

That's all I'm saying.

p.s. https://meta.stackoverflow.com/search?q=%22elephant+muscles%22

  • 6
    If Joel is planning on offering private StackExchange sites, he's going to have to invest in better search (or get one of those Google Search Appliances). Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 6:09
  • 2
    Lol - I think you'd better let Joel do the marketing! Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 9:22

Jeff gets offended when this comes up, but it really isn't very good. Most "advanced" users just use "site:stackoverflow.com <search terms>" to find things, as it is infinitely better.

HOWEVER, I believe there are some improvements being planned that would make the site search more relevant. In particular, things like being able to add -userid:XXX to search for posts by a particular user and so on. For more on that, check out this question, which currently has "status-planned"

  • OMG I didn't mean to offend Jeff. Please forgive me I forgot about who probably wrote this.
    – Kredns
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 3:09
  • I was not aware you could use site:<URL> to search within a specific domain! This is pretty sweet for SO searches.
    – Jason Down
    Commented Jul 17, 2009 at 4:25

If you are going to use the built in search, be sure to know and use the tag syntax: [tag] is often more constraining than just tag.

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