Bing’s Buffet of Special Syntax

Monday was a historic day — I gave my first BingSquee. That is, I read an entry in a Bing blog, looked up the associated content, and my resulting “SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE!” was heard for miles around. I’m fairly sure I broke windows.

What was I squeememorating? This recent post on the Bing Community blog, noting that there’s now a guide to Bing query language. Now, there are few things I like more than a good collection of query syntax for search engines. And when I saw Bing’s, I was thrilled. Let me show you some of the highlights, but I also want to encourage you to explore the syntax for yourself.

The guide actually comes in several flavors for but I’m focusing on the HTML version, available at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff795667.aspx. Before you dive into the syntax take a look at the Operator Precedence page, so you can be sure you’re setting things up in the right order. Then click on “Advanced Operator Reference” for lots of fun, including:

contains: — Used with a keyword and finds pages that have links to a specific kind of filetype (as opposed to filetype:, which finds results of a specific kind of filetype.) For example, specification template contains:pdf.

inbody: — Searches for a specified words just in the HTML or metadata of a web page. For example, site:edu inbody:”key performance indicator”.

near: — A real proximity syntax! Use near: with an integer to specify two keywords and how close they should be to each other. For example, “web-based” near:3 dashboard.

norelax: — Apparently Bing has a pretty hard query word restriction: “Bing implements relaxcount for a 5+ word query by default; that is, the fifth word in a query and subsequent appears do not necessarily appear in results.” norelax: used with a query word means it would not be subject to this restriction. You can get a good sense of how this works by trying to query one two three four five snowblower avocado, which gives you about 6200 results, and the query one two three four five norelax:snowblower norelax:avocado, which has 3,920. (That still seems like a lot…)

This list isn’t, of course, all the syntax available, just what I thought was the most interesting. I was also intrigued by feed:, which was supposed to find RSS/ATOM feeds, and hasfeed:, which was supposed to find sites containing feeds, but I couldn’t get either of them to work. Most of the syntax I played with allowed you to stack it together (site:gov contains:pdf “proposed budget” or intitle:news contains:pdf site:edu norelax:autism norelax:study but I didn’t do exhaustive testing.

I knew Bing offered some special syntax but I wasn’t aware it was this extensive. If the feed: option worked I could see myself using that a lot. I will definitely compare the near: operator to the old trick I currently use with Google (“web-based * * dashboard”). Worth a look.

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