Programming tools 5: Search

Search, you can find news, car parts, coffee or code?

One of my most useful tools when programming is search because there is just so many things you need to know, learn or reference and it’s hard to know them all. So you could keep a set of reference books, like I used to or as, I tried for a while, set up a slew of bookmarks in your web browser but I have found that both of those strategies left me with out of date references and I was missing out on a lot of new information and ideas. So I have turned to search.

Yes if you use Java a link to the Java API is good but if you have one is it pointing to the latest version of the API? And is your C reference up to date with the new C++ 2011 release of the C++ standard? Even so you are probably better off to search than reference.

Now I’m not going to tell you to use one search engine over another, that may make a difference but I am not reviewing search, I’m telling you that using search is better now than using references or links. What will help you is learning to use search better. Good search means getting more than one good return back with what you want to know.

Terms for your search are critical. So stop and think. You want to think how would I ask for what I want. Then get the most specific terms you can. Then eliminate any terms that are not required. Then stop again and recheck your terms, are they the right terms, are they in the right order.

Order counts. The right terms are required but in the wrong order you may as well not search at all. The first term should be your domain for the search, then the terms describing what you want to find about it. But be sparse with your terms, to many and you confuse the search.

When happy with the terms submit your search. Now when you submit it there are a few things you don’t do. First don’t expect it to give you the best results right away and if what you want isn’t shown on the first page, don’t bother looking on the next page. But also don’t throw away your search terms and start over; look at the results and your terms and refine them, maybe they can be rearranged to get better results. Is there a term missing, one or two too many? Are you looking in the wrong domain, maybe a noun instead of a verb? Refine, take some time to get it right and practice. Much like anything else practice helps.

There you go, not only will you now find those new ways to use code and new references to make your code better but you can find your way back to my blog next time šŸ™‚

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About echlinm

Computer Programmer/Systems Analyst/Hacker S31
This entry was posted in Computers and Internet, Programming and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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