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How to Search effectively
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by BirdOPrey5 BirdOPrey5 is offline 10 Nov 2010

This is probably the most often uttered comment on any technical forum including "Use the Search!" This is all well and good, assuming you know how to use the search, and know how to use it effectively.

One of the great things about a forum as old and as big as is that most questions you have have been answered already but it is up to YOU to find them.

The first search option you see is at the top right of any page and looks like this:

This provides your basic search options... however the default options displayed aren't very effective for a good search. There are also some important limitations:

Minimum Word Length: 3 Characters
Can't search common words
Can't search special characters (alpha numeric only)

Basic Search Syntax
  • Search multiple words use Boolean operators such as:
    - AND (ex. ajax AND instant)
    - OR (ex. ajax OR instant)
    - NOT (ex. ajax NOT instant) or use the minus sign (-) (ex. ajax -instant)
  • Search for an exact phrase using quotes:
    - (ex. "instant email")
  • Search for wild cards using asterisks (*)
    - (ex. *mail)

There are basically 2 kinds of useless searches... one where there are NO results returned... obviously useless... and second, when there are TOO MANY results returned- also useless.

Often there's not much you can do about the first type but expand your search options- if you're searching "Titles Only" change it "All Posts." If you're searching just "3.8 Mods" search "All Mods" or even "All Forums" - Sometimes what you need to do isn't a mod but directions have been discussed in a version specific forum or the requests forum. If you're looking for a mod know that almost all 3.6 and 3.7 mods will work in 3.8. Usually if you skip to the last posts in a mod thread you'll see posts confirming which most recent version it works with. 3.x mods generally don't work with 4.x but some do so check the thread if you really need it, no doubt someone has tried it already.

If however you get too many results, which I often find to be the case, there are useful tips to help narrow down your search. First, most importantly, search "Titles Only." Seriously, this should be the default search behavior. 90% of the time (a statistic I just made up) what you're looking for will be in a thread title... Next, if you can, limit "All Forums" to something more specific... if it's a graphic pack search in "Graphics" only, if you know it's an article search in "Articles" only- basic stuff but this makes all the difference from getting 500 results returned on just a useful handful when searching.

Make sure you choose your search terms well... don't search for something like: How do I put PHP in a template? for one that won't even work because many words are less than 3 characters, but even if it did you would have a lot of irrelevant results. Instead search for just the main words like PHP AND Templates or even better search for the phrase "PHP in templates" (with the quotes.) Now you might say "but 'in' only has 2 letters, how can I search for it?" Ordinarily this is true, you can't search for "in" but since "in" is inside quotes you are searching for the entire phrase and it is perfectly acceptable.

If you click on the small down pointing triangle on the right of the search box you will get a search menu that looks like this:

Search Options
  • Today's Posts - Posts made within the last 24 hours.
  • New Community Posts - New posts made in the "Forums" section of
  • New Modification Posts - Mods with new posts added to
  • Unanswered Threads - These are threads with zero replies meaning someone asked a question and no one answered. This option is often used by mods and people who generally answer questions so if you "bump" your thread by adding a reply to it you are really doing yourself a disservice because it will no longer show up as "unanswered."
  • Latest Modification Releases - This is a lot like New Modification Posts but lists only New Mods whether you've read the thread or not. Also it sorts by the newest release date of the mod rather than the most recent post in the mod thread.
  • Advanced Search - This provides useful options to further refine your search. Use "Advanced Search" if you want to limit your search to a single specific forum and/or you want to search for a specific username. You can also specify a time period (dates) to help narrow your search.

Finally since the vast majority of is open to the public you can search the forum using Google. When you use Google you don't have the limitations imposed by the vBulletin search engine. Google searches can be very useful.

To limit Google to return results only on a specific site (domain) simply add after your search terms. Look at this example:

So if you're looking for "Master Forum" on vBulletin type the following into Google:
Master Forum
and you will get back all public pages with "Master" and "Forum" on vBulletin... and because Google is good at what it does you will get the most relevant results first such as threads with "Master Forum" in the title and ones that have the phrase "Master Forum" before say ones that might say "Forum Master." These little differences in functionality can make finding what you are looking for in just a few seconds compared to many minutes looking through pages of results returned by the built in vBulletin search engine.

This is a nifty trick for searching any domain with google, not just but remember only content guests can see will be listed. For this means text inside code blocks-

Block Disabled:      (Update License Status)  
Suspended or Unlicensed Members Cannot View Code.

Is NOT visible to guests and therefore won't be part of Google's results. If you need to find text inside code tags you must use the built in vBulletin search.

Enjoy Your Searching
Attached Images
File Type: jpg ss_searchbox.jpg (13.1 KB, 1249 views)
File Type: jpg ss_googlesearch.jpg (25.4 KB, 1265 views)
File Type: jpg ss_vbsearch.jpg (5.9 KB, 1262 views)

Last edited by BirdOPrey5; 27 Nov 2010 at 16:09..
Views: 58803
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Old 10 Nov 2010, 03:08
Lynne's Avatar
Lynne Lynne is offline
Join Date: Sep 2004
Real name: Lynne
Nice article.

I set up a Quick Search in firefox for this site. You should have a Quick Searches folder in your Bookmarks Menu in firefox and you can add a new search:
1. Go to the folder (I put mine in Quick Searches)
2. Click New Bookmark from the top
3. Enter the following:
Name: Search
Keyword: pick whatever you want - I use "vbo" (no quotes)
Now all you have to do is type "vbo" and then your search terms into the browsers url text area:

vbo search terms

Hit Enter and it searches just for those terms.
Former Staff Member

Try a search before posting for help. Many users won't, and don't, help if the question has been answered several times before.
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Old 13 Nov 2010, 21:21
Yolanda Brand Yolanda Brand is offline
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Helpful article, thanks!
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Old 26 Nov 2010, 07:02
abdobasha2004's Avatar
abdobasha2004 abdobasha2004 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2008
for me I always use google depends on outdated 3.6 vb search engine
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Old 27 Nov 2010, 15:04
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fluidswork fluidswork is offline
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Real name: Arnab Bhadra
Nice article ..........
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Old 27 Nov 2010, 16:24
BirdOPrey5's Avatar
BirdOPrey5 BirdOPrey5 is offline
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Real name: Joe D.
Originally Posted by abdobasha2004 View Post
for me I always use google depends on outdated 3.6 vb search engine
The problem with "always" using Google is if you know the answer you want is in a specific subforum but is otherwise a common phrase all around the site. No easy way to limit your search to a specific subforum with Google. (I guess you could type out the full name of the subforum and tell google to make sure it's in your results but that is a bigger pain then using the built in search IMO.)
Former Moderator. Retired.

@BirdOPrey5 | All Things BOP5 | Joe's Ultimate Off Topic
Note - I no longer making new VB mods, sorry.
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Old 03 Jan 2011, 07:55
Digital Jedi's Avatar
Digital Jedi Digital Jedi is offline
Join Date: Oct 2006
Real name: Mark Daniel Martinez
Wow, I never saw this till today. This is something we need to reference when telling people to do a search. We should probably make a list.

Originally Posted by BirdOPrey5 View Post
The problem with "always" using Google is if you know the answer you want is in a specific subforum but is otherwise a common phrase all around the site. No easy way to limit your search to a specific subforum with Google. (I guess you could type out the full name of the subforum and tell google to make sure it's in your results but that is a bigger pain then using the built in search IMO.)
I always use both, depending on what I'm looking for. Google is great, but it's also limited to what it can find deeper in the website. Especially since it can't limit its search to titles.
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Old 05 Mar 2011, 19:38
dtronvig dtronvig is offline
Join Date: Feb 2011
Maybe this was mentioned somewhere, but near as I can tell, a space between words in a vBulletin search string serves as an implicit AND, as it does on Google. It took a few tries to find a word combination that returned less than the apparent maximum of 500 results, but I just did searches for [red OR green dragon], [red OR green AND dragon], [dragon red OR green] and [dragon AND red OR green] and came up with 185 results every time.

That's worth knowing -- for the convenience of it -- because under some other BB software white space is treated as an OR.

Incidentally. that little experiment also shows that OR's are evaluated before AND's, which is contrary to most of the Boolean conventions I've seen elsewhere. Without testing it, I'd take it for granted that NOT's are evaluated before either.
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Old 01 Nov 2012, 21:36
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Dorgham Dorgham is offline
Join Date: May 2012
Thank you
Great idea but an old
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