How can I find what I'm looking for on the Web?

There are several sites on the Web which exist to help you do just that. There's no charge for using these sites, which are supported by advertising.

Our favorite is Yahoo! There are two ways to use this excellent search engine and index: you can type in a "key word" or you can click on one of the broad categories shown on the home page to see a list of more specific sub-categories.

Searching by key word is usually the fastest way to get to the Web sites you're looking for, but browsing through the categories has a lot to recommend it too. It's an especially good way for a new Web user to get an idea of the scope of information that's available on the Internet.

When you do a key word search Yahoo doesn't necessarily list every single Web page in which that word appears, but it will usually come up with the most important and useful sites relating to any common topic.

On the other hand, the topic you're interested in may be more esoteric or arcane - in other words, off the wall. In this case, our favorite search engine is the AltaVista site operated by Digital Equipment Corporation. AltaVista lists tend to be redundant and bewildering for common subjects, but they often include Web sites relating to specialized subjects for which Yahoo comes up empty handed.

Here are some examples you may with to try yourself. First, search for "stereo speakers" in both Yahoo and AltaVista. Which list of sites do you think would be the most helpful to someone interested in this topic? Then try searching for "paramecium" (a common microscopic critter). Yahoo gives up, but AltaVista comes through with several relevant sites.

Recently Yahoo has added an excellent new feature: if you enter a key word which produces no "hits," that word is automatically sent to AltaVista, and its search results are displayed on Yahoo's page. The AltaVista results are only displayed if Yahoo finds no hits, but you can always see them by clicking on the "AltaVista Web Pages" link.

What about other search sites?

Look at the bottom of a Yahoo search results page to find links to several of them. The key word you used in Yahoo is automatically submitted to the search site when you click.

Can I search for things other than Web pages?

Yes. You can search through material which has been archived from the News Groups with Deja News, or use Archie to look for a specific file which you wish to download using FTP. You can also search for a person's email address, or even look them up in a national phonebook.

Check the subcategories under Yahoo's "Searching the Net" heading for more information and links to other kinds of searches.


Return to PhoneTech FAQ page