New search engine offers ‘richer’ results

The developers of the new search engine Exalead say their goal was to design a “new and much richer user experience for information access, based on speed, interactive navigation and ease of use.” They have succeeded in creating a search tool that — while not as expansive in its coverage as, say, Google — provides a number of options for searching and for viewing search results that make it a worthy option among the search-engine leaders.

Most notably, Exalead offers full-blown Boolean searching as well as proximity searching to within 16 words using the Boolean operator “NEAR.” Proximity searching is rare among search engines, but invaluable in narrowing a search.

Other useful features include:

  • Spelling and linguistic tools. Exalead automatically searches word roots, recognizes compound words, allows phonetic searching, automatically translates documents not in your language and makes spelling suggestions for misspelled words.
  • Visual tools. Each search result includes a thumbnail preview (which you can turn off, if you prefer). Non-HTML pages such as PDF or Word documents are represented by an icon for quick identification. Click on a thumbnail and a preview pane opens in the bottom half of the screen, with your search results highlighted. Besides being handy, this preview feature protects you from viruses by avoiding access to the original document.
  • Results guides. A table of contents on the left side of the screen provides a quick overview of search results and allows you to refine your search based on keywords, categories, language, document format and country.
  • Bookmarks. The preview pane includes a bookmark button, allowing you to store the page’s address in your browser’s favorites list.
  • Sorting. You can sort search results by relevance, source or date.
  • Site exploring. Rather than list multiple results from a single site, Exalead shows only the site’s most relevant page, accompanied by a folder icon you can click to explore subpages within a site.
  • Real-time indexing. Many search engines update their search indexes on a periodic schedule. Exalead updates in real time, allowing it to provide fresh results.

With an index of a billion pages, Exalead is not as exhaustive as its larger competitors, but its enhanced options for searching and sorting make it worth trying.