Project Management

Stupid Web Tricks: Add a free search function

Every major Web site needs a search utility. Learn how to add one to your site.

Click here for our complete list of Stupid Web Tricks.

By Lauren Guzak and Patrick Joseph
(1/26/99, updated 6/22/01)class="f">

No major Web site can do without a search utility. Search utilities make it much easier for visitors to find specific information. But building a search engine is way beyond most Web builders' skill sets. The text on the site has to be indexed, and a query has to be built that allows people to drop in keywords and come up with results.

Fortunately, there are a few free options that let you add search functions to your site without a lot of hassle. These include Thunderstone's Webinator, PicoSearch, and ht://Dig. Also, some Web hosting companies offer individual site searching as part of a package.

To show you how easy it is, we'll walk you through adding a free PicoSearch to your site. While other options require you to install some software on your server, you can set up PicoSearch on any site, no matter who's hosting it. The only drawback is that users will see some advertising on the search results page.

Step One
Go to PicoSearch's New Accounts page and enter your registration information. When you hit the Submit button, the service analyzes the pages of your site.

Step Two
After it indexes your site, PicoSearch presents the opportunity to subscribe to the service. Once you subscribe, you'll get an email message with HTML code to paste into your pages. This code creates a search-term entry box. When users enter a search term in the box, they are taken to a results page on the PicoSearch site.

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Most other options for search require you to install the software on your server, indicate which directories you want to be searchable, and then run an indexing utility that will scan your text. The results page will be served from your site, but you will have to build it yourself.

Lauren Guzak is a project manager for Ask Jeeves, and Patrick Joseph is a freelance writer.

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