A new version of Exalead (http://preview.exalead.com/search/), one of my favourite search engines, is currently in beta test. The beta home page thankfully remains minimalist and uncluttered but has retained the short cut options that enable you to add other sites and search engines to your own personalised version of the page. Exalead say that they will be increasing the size of the web database from 4 to 8 billion pages and there is a separate image search option on the home page.
The major changes are on the Advanced Search and the results screens. The Advanced Search has been simplified and the phonetic search and approximate spelling have gone. A pity …. er, no they are still there but under ‘What?’, ‘More’. For heaven’s sake, list them by default along with NEAR, Boolean search and the pattern matching/regular expression options! It was only when Phil Bradley mentioned their location in his blog that I realised they had not been axed. And if I missed the link, so will a lot of other people. If you have never tried ‘regular expression’, it is a pattern matching search that you can use to mask one or more letters in the middle of a word. For example the search /psych.*ist/ will find psychologist, psychiatrist, psychotherapist etc. You start and end the word with a forward slash, and a full stop followed by an asterisk stands in for one or more letters. I find it very useful when searching on chemical names.
The results screen has also been simplified. To limit your search by language, file type, location, RSS feed, video or audio you now have to click on ‘Refine your search’ on the right hand side of the screen. I think that is a mistake as I suspect that a lot of people will not bother to investigate it. Furthermore, because these options are not on the advanced search screen, they will think that Exalead’s search functionality is limited. I know some people find the current results screen overpowering and confusing, but Exalead could at least restore the RSS, Video and Audio buttons to the results page and include the refine options in Advanced Search as well.
A new feature that I do like is the page preview button on the thumbnails next to the results. If you have opted to display text only results there is preview link included in each entry. Preview enables you to look at Exalead’s own cached copy with your search terms highlighted. This has always been available but it has never been obvious how you do it.
As this is still in beta, changes are continually being made. Watch this space, as they say, for further developments. In the meantime you can compare and contrast at http://www.exalead.com/ and http://preview.exalead.com/search/