AMBROGI LAW OFFICE > ARTICLES
Useful Search Tools You May Not Know About
By Robert J. Ambrogi
You Google, of course. But do you Soople?
As a word, soople is said to derive from an early English dialect and mean to soften or make supple. As a Web site, Soople is Google for dummies. It is one of several search tools that, although little known, are of practical use to lawyers.
Google has a front page so Spartan that the casual user might never suspect that it is home to an array of search power tools. Even going to Google's advanced-search page fails to reveal the site's full power.
Soople offers a more forthright approach, providing explicit gateways to Google's advanced search features. Soople's creator calls it "easy expert search," and says he did it for his mother.
From Soople's front page, you can conduct a normal Google search, or choose more narrow inquiries. Limit your search to sites that focus on particular topics. Search for specific types of files, such as a Word document or a GIF image. Search only within a specified Web site or domain. Even search by courier tracking number or patent registration number.
Soople devotes a second page to Google's little-known calculator functions. Perform simple calculations and conversions, or use more-advanced trigonometric and logarithmic functions. Calculate percentages and square roots, or determine the number of possibilities within a set of variables.
A third Soople page provides entrée to Google's tools for finding people, places, phone numbers and addresses. Taking a road trip? Use this tool to search for a sushi restaurant in Chicago or a movie theater in Minneapolis. Soople also provides an interface to Google's translation tools and its "superfilter," combining multiple filters in a single search.
New Spin on Meta-Search
Power searchers rarely rely on a single search engine. Queryster is a tool that puts a new spin on meta-searching - searching across multiple search engines from a single interface.
By default, Queryster submits your search to 10 of the most popular search engines - Google, WiseNut, LookSmart, Ask, DMOZ, Yahoo, AlltheWeb, AltaVista, Teoma and Hotbot. You can customize it to query any of more than 25 popular search engines.
Queryster's front page displays the logos of the search sites you have selected. Clicking on any one makes it your default search site. Enter your query, and Queryster takes you to a page showing the results from your default search site. Still displayed across the top of the page are the logos of the other search sites you have selected. Click any of those to bring up your search results from that site.
Queryster makes it easy to search multiple sites and quickly compare results. You can restrict your search to narrower "channels" - shopping, news, reference, images - and also search only Web logs.
Visualizing Search Results
Is anything to be gained by searching across multiple sites? If you have any doubt about the answer, visit Thumbshots Ranking, a tool that graphically compares search results on different search engines. It shows you how results compare in ranking and position on each site. You can elect to highlight your own or some other site and get a clear picture of how it rates.
I searched for "rockport lawyer" and compared the results on Google and Yahoo. Out of the top 100 links from each site, only 10 overlapped, meaning that each had 90 links that the other did not. The same comparison between Google and AltaVista brought similar results.
Now that you are convinced of the need to query multiple search engines, here is another new meta-search tool to try: ZapMeta. Separating it from the pack are several options for quickly viewing the sites that match your search results.
ZapMeta submits your query to seven major search engines (although Google is not one of them) and sorts the results by relevance. Many of the results include a "snapshot" image of the Web page along with the usual text excerpt. Each search result also has three other unusual viewing options.
"Quick View" opens a window directly on the results page that displays the listed site. Click again to close the window. "Past Versions" sends a search to the Internet Archive and displays any older versions of the page stored there. As with most search engines, clicking on a result takes you to that page. But ZapMeta lets you instead click on a small window icon to open the page in a new browser window, with the results still displayed in the first window.
Other Little-Known Tools
Here are some other, more focused, search sites you may not have know about:
- The Curiae Project. Here you can search selected Supreme Court records and briefs. The site selects cases to include based on rankings developed from citation data in historical and constitutional texts. Located at the Yale Lillian Goldman Law Library, the project was developed in cooperation with the Library of Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court Historical Society.
- FindSounds. Search the Web for sound effects and musical instrument samples. Follow the link, "types of sounds you can find," to amuse yourself for many idle hours.
- Cemetery Records Online. This free site lists more than 3.8 million records from some 7,800 cemeteries throughout the world. It is fully searchable by surname or you can browse through the records for specific cemeteries.
- Search Systems. Claiming links to nearly 20,000 free sources of public records information on the Web, this is a useful resource for finding official records and publicly available information. Not all listed sites are free, but those that are not are clearly marked.
- Rootsweb Social Security Death Index. Searched the phone and e-mail directories, but still no luck? Maybe you should check here, a database of more than 70 million deaths compiled from Social Security Administration records.
- Blawg Search. This site allows you to search across the full text of a variety of law-related Web logs, or "blawgs." You can also use it to view all postings for a selected blawg. The front page aggregates the latest blawg headlines.