Magazine article Online

SortFix

Magazine article Online

SortFix

Article excerpt

IT must be wonderful to be one of the value-added online services. Dialog, Dow Jones, and LexisNexis have those of us who learned about online services before the web as clients. We had such low expectations. Ugly format? Who cares? Cumbersome search language? We'll learn it! Inflexible user interface? It's great!

We veteran searchers have been pretty forgiving over the years. I learned three different search languages for Dow Jones alone. But I have finally found a user interface that is custom made for us, the professional researchers. The tool is SortFix (http://sortfix.com), and while its main function is as a front end to Google, Yahoo!, and the Open Directory Project (DMOZ; www.dmoz.org), its value is in providing innovative tools for helping us search more iteratively.

The initial page looks familiar--there's an oblong search field in the middle of a white page with very little text. Its clean lines are marred only by an animated tutorial with cute cartoon characters. For starters, don't look for an advanced search feature; there isn't one. But there is one feature you can change, so click the More Options link, click the radio button for Expert User, then click Save Settings. Now go back to the search page.

There are three tabs above the search field to let you search Google, Yahoo!, or DMOZ. The synonym feature, however, only works on Google. Try searching for the words carbon sequestration. The search results page is where things get interesting. At the top of the page are five colored boxes (the StandBy box is only available for Expert Users), and underneath them are the Google search results. The first box, Power Words, is populated with what SortFix has calculated to be the most significant words and phrases in the retrieved results. You can scroll down through the 15 or 20 Power Words. If any look like good synonyms or otherwise appear useful, you can drag them to the Add to Search box or the StandBy box. For this example, I dragged the words co2and captureto the Add to Search box, and dragged the phrases global warming and climate change to the StandBy box.

Next is the Add to Search box. Since I typed my initial search query as two separate words and didn't enclose them in quotes, there are separate words in the box for carbon and sequestration. I can drag sequestration next to carbon and, boom, they become a phrase. …

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