- See also: Wikipedia:Look it up, for a general guide.
This article provides an overview of Wikipedia's search feature, as well as using external search engines, such as Google, to find information.
Here are few good tips and hints for using the Wikipedia search feature effectively:
- Any word: Wikipedia's default search mode will turn up results with any of the words in your query. For instance, search engine turns up many results containing only "search" but not "engine" or only "engine" but not "search" in addition to the ones you probably wanted, which contain both words.
- All words: To limit to results that include all words, put a "+" at the beginning of each word: +search +engine returns only pages containing both words, like Google's default mode. You can also do a phrase search by enclosing words in quotes: "search engine" turns up a smaller set of results, which not only have both words but have them in order.
- Exclude words: To exclude results that include some words, put a "-" at the beginning: search -engine
Boolean search is also possible, using words including "AND", "OR", and "NOT".
Avoid short and common words
If your search terms include a common "stop word" (such as "the", "one", "your", "more", "right", "while", "when", "who", "which", "such", "every", "about") it may give a large number of non-relevant results. Historically, these words could not be searched at all, but as of February 2006, Wikipedia's Lucene index does not use "stop words", so any word can be successfully used in search queries. Lucene still doesn't search for numbers.
You can use some limited wildcards if you really want to. Look up "fulltext search" on http://www.mysql.com/ and look down under 'boolean search' for the details. However, wildcard searches are slower, so go easy on the poor server.
Words with special characters
In a search for a word with a diaeresis, such as Sint Odiliënberg, it depends whether this ë is stored as one character or as "ë". In the first case one can simply search for Odilienberg (or Odiliënberg); in the second case it can only be found by searching for Odili, euml and/or nberg. This is actually a bug that should be fixed -- the entities should be folded into their raw character equivalents so all searches on them are equivalent. See also Wikipedia:Special characters.
Words in single quotes
If a word appears in an article with single quotes, you can only find it if you search for the word with quotes. Since this is rarely desirable it is better to use double quotes in articles, for which this problem does not arise. See the manual of style for more info.
An apostrophe is identical to a single quote, therefore Mu'ammar can be found searching for exactly that (and not otherwise). A word with apostrophe s is an exception in that it can be found also searching for the word without the apostrophe and the s.
Namespaces searched by default
The search only applies to the namespaces selected in the user's preferences. To search the other namespaces check or uncheck the tickboxes in "Search in namespaces" box found at the bottom of a search results page. Depending on the browser, a box may still be checked from a previous search, but without being effective any longer! To make sure, uncheck and recheck it.
Searching the image namespace means searching the image descriptions, i.e. the first parts of the image description pages.
The source text is searched
The source text (what one sees in the edit box, also called wiki text) is searched. This distinction is relevant for piped links, for Wikipedia:interlanguage links (to find links to Chinese articles, search for zh, not for Zhongwen), special characters (if ê is coded as ê it is found searching for ecirc), etc.
Delay in updating the search index
For reasons of efficiency and priority, very recent changes are not always immediately taken into account in searches.
Multi-lingual Wikipedia search
- You can do a multi-lingual Wikipedia search using Google Advanced Search or entering site:.wikipedia.org in the Google search box.
- Qwika has indexes for English, German, French, Japanese, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, Korean, Chinese and Russian where the original content is combined with machine translated content from/to English.
- Lumrix: AJAX driven Wikipedia search engine.
External search engines
Various search engines can provide domain-specific searches, which lets you search Wikipedia specifically. Searches are based on the text as shown by the browser, so wiki markup is irrelevant. Depending on your browser, you may also be able to use tools that allow you to search Wikipedia using bookmarklets.
In general, external search engines are faster than a Wikipedia search. However, because the search engine's cache is based on when the site was indexed, the search may not return newly created pages. Similarly, the search engine's cached version of the page will not be as up-to-date as the link to Wikipedia itself. Also, when returning Wikipedia articles in a regular search, mirrors and forks of Wikipedia content frequently rank higher than the actual Wikipedia articles because of search engine optimization techniques.
These issues may be less of a problem when using certain search engines that process Wikipedia differently:
- Yahoo! includes Wikipedia as part of its content acquisition program and gets a regular datafeed.
- Clusty downloads and processes the database regularly, generating automatic abstracts and image thumbnails and meaningfully parsing redirects, disambiguations, and categories.
- Qwika only indexes wikis, and thus mirrors do not appear in their results.
By following the links below, you can use the Google search engine to search Wikipedia - either all languages, or English-only. Google indexes all namespaces.
- Search all languages
- Search the English Wikipedia only
- Search the English Wikipedia (excluding articles nominated for deletion)
If you frequently search via Google, consider installing the Google Toolbar. Using the "search this site" button allows you to quickly search the English version of Wikipedia. The official Google Toolbar is for Internet Explorer (Windows and Mac) and for Firefox (works on all operating system platforms for which Firefox is available, such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS X).
By following the links below, you can use the Yahoo! search engine to search Wikipedia - either all languages or English-only.
If you frequently search via Yahoo!, consider installing the Yahoo! Companion Toolbar. Using the "Search Only the Current Site" button allows you to quickly search the English version of Wikipedia. The official Yahoo! Companion Toolbar is only for Windows with Internet Explorer and Mozilla.
Qwika is designed specifically to index wikis. Its main index is Wikipedia. It includes:
- all namespaces of Wikipedia
- English machine-translated into German, French, Japanese, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Greek, Korean, Chinese and Russian.
- The above languages machine translated into English.
This can assist editors contributing to non-English Wikipedias by being able to search in their own language across the entire English version and then view the machine-translated version in their language.
By following the link below, you can use the Clusty search engine to search and cluster Wikipedia in English only.
If you frequently search via Clusty, consider installing the Clusty Toolbar (beta). Selecting the "Encyclopedia" search source allows you to quickly search the English version of Wikipedia. The Clusty Toolbar is available for Windows with Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox (beta).
LuMriX is a dynamic query tool which uses lookahead to predict search terms in a list, similar to Google Suggest.
By following the link below, you can use the LuMriX search engine to search different language versions of Wikipedia.
If you frequently search via LuMriX, consider installing the LuMriX Firefox Search Plugin (works on all operating system platforms for which Firefox is available, such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS X).
Wikiwax is a dynamic query like LuMriX. It only searches English Wikipedia, but shows more list entries.
Here are more Wikipedia:Tools which make searching more convenient.
Browser specific help
Using Mozilla to automatically search
Works with: Mozilla Suite, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape 6/7.
Mozilla and Netscape 6 & 7 come with a sidebar that allows a user to search the Wikipedia site, and Firefox has a toolbar item to do the same. To install the search plugin that tells Mozilla how to search Wikipedia, do the following:
- Go to one of the following sources of Wikipedia search plugins. The Mycroft plugins are sometimes out of date, and plugins from the second source may work better.
- There are versions for many languages, so pick the language local to your area.
- If you can't install the search plugin automatically, the second source above lets you right-click on the plugin and save it to disk, or download a ZIP file containing all available plugins. Save the downloaded .src file in the searchplugins directory where Mozilla is installed and restart the browser to use the new plugin.
To make Wikipedia your default search engine in Mozilla, Beonex Communicator, and Netscape 6/7:
- Go to Edit, Preferences.
- Expand the Navigator tree and choose Internet Search.
- Choose Wikipedia as your default search engine.
With Wikipedia selected as your default engine, searches can be conducted via the search sidebar tab, search box, or the web address bar.
Search Wikipedia using a bookmarklet
Works with: Mozilla Suite, Mozilla Firefox, Netscape 6/7.
Wikipedia can also be searched via a bookmarklet.
In Mozilla Firefox, follow these steps:
- Right click in the search field at the top of the page, and select "Add a Keyword for this Search".
- Enter "Wikipedia Quicksearch" for the name.
- Enter "w" (without the quotes) for the keyword.
- Change the bookmark folder if you wish, and click "Add".
In Mozilla Suite, Netscape 6/7 and Beonex Communicator, follow these steps:
- Right click on the following web address and select "Bookmark this link": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Search?search=%s
- Go to Bookmarks, Manage Bookmarks. Choose the bookmark you have just created. Highlight the Bookmark and click Properties.
- In the dialogue that comes up, put a lowercase w in the keyword box.
- Click OK and close the properties box, then close the bookmark manager.
In Camino, use the Mozilla Suite directions. Use Get Info (cmd-I) in the bookmarks manager to bring up the properties dialogue.
To search, go to the web address bar, enter "w SEARCH_QUERY" (without the quotes), and press enter.
The whole thing should be pasted in as a single line without spaces for it to work.
K-Meleon has a search button that can be used to search Google. You can change it to search Wikipedia instead, by:
- Close K-Meleon.
- Open up prefs.js with a text editor. The file should be in your K-Meleon\Profiles\PROFILE_NAME\RANDOM_STRING.slt\ directory.
- Add this line, and save prefs.js.
Open up K-Meleon and press the search button to search Wikipedia. To go back to Google or to use another search service, edit prefs.js and delete the added line
Make sure K-Meleon is closed before editing prefs.js.
All Opera versions 6, 7, and 8 use a customizable text file called search.ini. This file should only be edited while Opera is not running. The following example replaces one of the existing pre-defined search engines. It is up to the user to avoid conflicts of shortcut key (key=). By default 'w' is taken by the download.com search, so either this or the Wikipedia one should be changed. Furthermore the 'Search Engine ##' should be replaced with a free number: '12' is free by default. The Search.ini editor makes editing trivial (see external link).
[Search Engine ##] Name=&Wikipedia URL=http://www.wikipedia.org/w/wiki.phtml?search=%s Query= Key=w Is post=0 Has endseparator=0 Encoding=utf-8 Search Type=8
Opera appears to take a copy of the "search.ini" and load it into an internal buffer of some type. After editing the file with your new entry you must change the "File Version" at the top of the file to allow for your changes to be seen in the browser.
A new kind of search system has been added to Opera, which no longer requires manual editing. This will create a button on the mainbar, which can then be put anywhere you wish, even in the start panel.
See http://nontroppo.org/opsed/download.php?dd=e&plugin=100&type=SE7 for a Wikipedia search button.
Opera 9 (Preview)
Just right-click on the search field you want to create a search with and click "Create search". The following dialog is really simple. You just have to select a name for the search and a search shortcut. It even alerts you if the shortcut you want is already in use.
Opera 9 (Final)
Go to Tools -> Preferences -> Search and either Add a new search engine, or edit an existing one, such as Download.com. Recommended parameters are:
Name: &Wikipedia Keyworkd: w Address: http://www.wikipedia.org/w/wiki.phtml?search=%s
Most importantly, in 7.0, you should back up your customized search.ini because the file is overwritten by the Opera installer. This is no longer true in 7.10 and later.
In Opera 6 and 7.0, the menu accelerator letter is defined by the & in the name. In current versions the accelerator is automatically generated and may no longer be the same as the key.
- Search.ini editing tool — makes it easier to add search engines
- How to edit Opera's search.ini (recommended reading prior to hand-editing search.ini)
Searching with TomeRaider
After downloading the Wikipedia:TomeRaider database one can search the Wikipedia version offline. One can also search for parts of words.
If you cannot find an appropriate page on Wikipedia
If there is no appropriate page on Wikipedia, consider creating a page, since you can edit Wikipedia right now. Or consider adding what you were looking for to the Requested articles page. Or if you have a question, then see Where to ask questions, which is a list of departments where our volunteers answer questions, any question you can possibly imagine.
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