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Re: Text search within a documentation page?

  • To: mathgroup at
  • Subject: [mg90865] Re: Text search within a documentation page?
  • From: AES <siegman at>
  • Date: Sat, 26 Jul 2008 04:24:48 -0400 (EDT)
  • Organization: Stanford University
  • References: <g670lq$s3a$> <g69fvk$ii1$> <g6c9dg$c12$>

In article <g6c9dg$c12$1 at>, David Reiss <dbreiss at> 

> No, AES is right in some cases for the Documentation Center pages.
> Some Documentation Center pages are peculiar in some ways in terms of
> using Mathematica's search capabilities.
> For example.  Go to the main Documentation Center page.  Once there,
> click on the page to be sure that you are in it.  Now bring up the
> find and replace dialog and, for example, type in "Overview" (without
> the quotes) in the Find field and click on the Next button.  Nothing
> happens (and a warning beep is generated) even though the word
> Overview does appear on the page.
> This sort of thing does not happen for all pages by any means, but
> there are some peculiarities to be found.  Perhaps it has something to
> do with the style sheets that is used, or perhaps it is a gremlin...

Thanks for backup on this.  

Another peculiarity is that in the "Search Result" pages (which 
sometimes -- often? -- open when you enter a term or select a symbol 
name in a Mathematica notebook and click on Help), there are cases where 
a search within that Search Result page for, e.g. "Plot" (with Ignore 
Case checked) will cycle through all the occurrences of plot or Plot in 
the tiny-type text of the links on the page -- but never touch the Plot 
string in the titles of the links on the page, e.g. Plot3D.

The real question, it seems to me, is, what good _at all_ are these 
online Search Pages?  If you search on a term, you frequently get Search 
Result pages that contain 100s to 1000s of links, extending over many 
10s of further screenfuls or pages.  

How can one proceed further at that point?  Is there any way to drill 
down further into these very long Search Result lists _efficiently_?  If 
they were structured as one immensely long page, one could at least both 
rapidly page down using the Page Down key, to scan all the entries, or 
more efficiently jump down to relevant entries using the Find command -- 
but I don't find any way to do either of these.

Notes to WRI's documentation people (if there are any . . .jab, jab):

1)  Safari has a beautiful search function where, if you've opened an 
immensely long web page, you type a search term into the search field at 
the top and it immediately shows you the total number of hits in the 
entire document, with little forward and back arrowheads on each side of 
the number.  Clicking either of these instantly jumps you to the next or 
previous occurrence of the search string in the document (centered in 
the document window, of course, which is where any online search of this 
type ought to take you).

Gorgeous technique to use; best one I'm aware of.

2)  As someone who does a fair amount of searching in documentation, I 
make every effort to capture on my own HD PDF files of the full manuals 
or books about software I use (or other technologies or subjects I'm 
studying; and then often find that the most efficient way to search for 
information on some topic is just to open one of these documents and do 
a pure linear full text search in Acrobat.

This is very often much better than going to the index of the document.  
Indexes can be helpful on paper, much less helpful on screen: too much 
awkward jumping back and forth between index and main text.  And even 
with good intentions, doing a good job of indexing is hard.  With the 
linear text search you may have to divert your attention to something 
else for a few moments, while Acrobat grinds its way through a 500-page 
manual --  but when you get a "hit", you're very often "there" (at the 
info you want), or have seredipitously learned something useful related 
to your search.

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