Getting Started

Forming a Query   Rules of Thumb   Function Overview

Forming a Query

To get started, just enter a few words that best describe what you are trying to find.

Each query item is separated by a space, unless you connect a few words with double quotes. It doesn't matter what order you put the words in, and it doesn't matter if you use upper or lower case, unless you use special markings.

Example: travel safety

Example: red silk

Example: nature conservation organization

We're going to look for intersecting occurrences of each of the query items you listed, as separated by spaces, within the delimiters of the record or a portion of it.

To perform more precise or complex searches, you can use any combination of logic operators, special pattern matchers, concept restriction or expansion, or proximity control. This is all explained in the Query Tutorial.

Rules of Thumb

  • If you get too many irrelevant answers, try one or more of these:

    1. Add more words to your query.
    2. Turn off Inference Engine - turns off the thesaurus, or restricts an item to keyword only with ~ (tilde), if the checkbox is on (also called "Imaginative Access", or "Concept Search" or "SmoothSearch").
    3. Use the exclusion operator - (minus) to remove unwanted terms.
    4. If you are looking for a phrase, hyphenate the words together or put them in quotes.
    5. Narrow the proximity with the w/ control to specify delimiters.

  • If you don't get any answers, or just too few, try one or more of these:

    1. Remove words in your query.
    2. Turn on the thesaurus, or just expand one item with a ~ (tilde), if the checkbox is off (called "Inference Engine", "Imaginative Access", or "Concept Search").
    3. Examine your spelling.
    4. Widen the proximity with the w/ control to specify delimiters.
    5. It just might not be there? In a special application, the database will probably grow over time.

Function Overview

    Natural Language Query Natural Language Query:

    You can enter a query in the form of a sentence or question. The engine will automatically identify the important words and phrases within your query and remove the "noise words". It will also usually find the different forms of the words you use.


    What about something strong and bold in black-and-white?

    With Inference Engine on, the engine will look for the ideas of:

    strong AND bold AND black-and-white within the whole record or portion of a record, like a paragraph.

    Turning On Thesaurus Expansion with Inference Engine, Imaginative Access, or SmoothSearch Turning Thesaurus Expansion On with Inference Engine, Imaginative Access, or SmoothSearch

    In most Inference Engine, Imaginative Access or SmoothSearch applications, this is ON by default so you don't need to think about it.

    Invoking thesaurus expansion, then finding intersections of sets of those possibilities, is at the heart of the Intuitive Search. This has been called by various names including Inference Engine,, Imaginative Access, SmoothSearch, and Concept Search. Our engine has an editable vocabulary of over 250,000 word and phrase associations.

    If the checkbox is ON or OFF, it applies to all your query items. Still, you might want to change the way one of the key words is processed, without changing the overall global setting. You can do this by marking that word or words with a tilde ~, like this:

    • To restrict the meaning of a word or phrase within your query to keywords only where the checkbox is ON, precede it with a '~' (tilde) character, or click off the Inference Engine (Imaginative Access or SmoothSearch) checkbox to apply to all items. "~Power" will now find only "power", and probably its word forms like "powerful" and "powers", but not its associated set of words like "force" and "energy".

    • To expand the meaning of a word or phrase within your query where the checkbox is OFF, precede it with a '~' (tilde) character, or click on the Inference Engine checkbox to apply to all items. Now "~power" will be expanded to its set, also finding "force", "energy", "dominion", "control", and many others.

    Sets (or lists) of things can be specified as part of your query by placing the elements within parentheses, separated by commas. example: (bob,joe,sam,sue). Even when on, thesaurus expansion is done only on words NOT inside parentheses.

    Keywords, Phrases, and Wildcards Keywords, Phrases, and Wildcards:

    • To locate words, just type them is as you would in a word processor. Letter cases will be ignored.

    • The wild-card character * (asterix) can be used to match just the prefix of a word or to ignore the middle of something.

    • If the item you wish to locate is more complicated than the simple * wild-card can accomplish, try using the regular expression matcher.

    • To locate a number of words in a specific order, surround them with " (double quotation) characters.
      Hyphenating - words will also force order and one word proximity.

    Query                  Locates
    john john, John "john public" John Public web-browser Web browser, web-browser John*Public John Q. Public, John Public 1*456*a*def 1-23456-789-ABCDEF activate activate, activation, activated...

    Using the Special Pattern Matchers Using the Special Pattern Matchers

    These pattern matchers are used to locate hard-to-find items within text. A special pattern matcher is called with a special character which applies up to the first space, or until the end of something in quotes. It can be put anywhere in your query:

    These pattern matchers cannot be used by themselves within a query, they must be used along with at least one keyword, to qualify the query.

    If you want to look for an exact string rather than a keyword with its associated set, and avoiding its word forms, use a / at the front. For example:


    will find only that exact string, unlike

    which will find also the other word forms of "judge", like "judging, and "judgement", and also "penalty" and its word forms, and so on.

    An example of a common use for a numeric search would be:

    sales #>million

    This will find the set of ideas connected with "sales", like "money" and "investment", where it intersects with a numeric quantity like "four billion" or "387,000,001".

    If you don't know how to spell someone's name, you can try it with a fuzzy search. For example:

    Iran %Achmenijad

    This will find Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    Controlling Proximity Using Within Controlling Proximity Using Within:

    Specifying proximity means you can locate answers with greater precision if desired.
    Just add as another item in your query, w/---, which means "within" what follows "/w":

    • w/line
      All query items must occur within the same line

    • w/sent
      All query items should reside within the same sentence

    • w/para
      All query items must be within the same paragraph or text block

    • w/###
      All query items must be within the number of characters specified; e.g. w/300 means within 300 characters.

    • w/all (default)
      All items must occur anywhere within all of the same record

    Applying Logic Applying Logic

    Our engine uses set logic for all queries. Set logic is easier to use and provides more capability than boolean. The examples below make reference to single keywords, but keep in mind that each keyword can represent an entire list of things or any of the special pattern matchers.

    Sets (or lists) of things can be specified as part of your query by placing the elements within parentheses, separated by commas. example: (bob,joe,sam,sue). In the examples below, you could replace any of the keywords with a list like this.

    The default behavior of the query and aggregation process is to locate an intersection ('AND') of every element within a query. This means that the query; "microsoft bob interface" is the equivalent to the boolean query: "microsoft AND bob AND interface"

    • '-' (without)
      The '-'(minus) is the most commonly used logic symbol. It means the answer should EXCLUDE references to that item.

    • '+' (mandatory)
      The '+'(plus) symbol in front of a query item means that the answer MUST INCLUDE that item. This is generally used in conjunction with the permutation operation.

    • '@N' (permute)
      The '@' followed by a number indicates how many intersections to locate of the terms in your query. This may be confusing at first, but it is very powerful.

    Example               Finds 
    bob sam joe Bob with Sam and Joe (within the selected proximity) bob sam -joe Bob with Sam without Joe bob sam joe @1 Bob with Sam, or, Bob with Joe, or, Joe with Sam A B C D @1 AB or AC or AD or BC or BD or CD +A B C D @1 ABC or ABD or ACD (must have A + 1 intersection of the others) A B C -D @1 (AB or AC or BC) without D

    Query Language Tutorial Query Language Tutorial

    More Questions? More Questions?