New searching just released

We’ve just implemented new, and vastly improved, searching functionality throughout the website. The previous version of searching worked, but not as well as we liked, and we saw some problems that we knew needed attention. Our crack technology team has stayed up late into the night, refining midnight oil to be burned later, and developing special disposable fingertip covers to prevent the actual tips from being worn away due to extra-heavy coding work.

Now, as a result, you can do much better searching than before. You can search for any two terms in a vessel name and find it, even if the terms aren’t next to each other. Punctuation and diacritics no longer cause problems. In addition, we’ve implemented special advanced searching options, which allow you to do far more refined searches than you ever thought possible. Want to search for ships with the name “Mary”, but only see the ones that start with “Mary”, and so skip all the “Queen Mary”s? You can now do that: just put a carat (“^”) before the word, like this: “^mary”.

Even more remarkable is that now you can search the citations – not just the ship names. In the past, searches looked at just the ship names, so a search for “hms buckingham” returned no results. Now, a search for “hms buckingham” will return appropriate citations. (We still recommend that you drop things like “HMS”, “USS”, or “USN” before searching; if a ship doesn’t have those terms in the citation, you won’t locate those citations.) The search doesn’t limit itself to only those citations that have both those terms; it still returns all the citations, which is good: many, many citations for HMS Buckingham don’t include the “HMS”.

This is particularly useful when you want to get as much information as possible on a ship. If you search for “flying cloud”, you’ll be taken to the main entry for the ship name, which we figure is most likely what you want. For more information, though, you can click on the link in the green box at the top, which takes you to “other matches”, where you’ll find entries that don’t include “flying cloud” in the ship name. But follow some of those ship links, such as N. B. Palmer or Andrew Jackson, and you’ll find “Flying Cloud” mentioned in the citation. This is a big, useful, dramatic improvement in helping folks get at as much information as they possibly can.

If you’re not sure of the spelling of a vessel name, you can use the asterisk for wildcard searching. A search for “fant*” will return several results, and help you narrow down your spelling to the exact ship you’re seeking.

Searching for ship names with diacritics is also much improved, as mentioned above. A search for “fantome” will return “Fantôme” and “Fantôme II”.

More specifics on all the ways you can do advanced searches are available here.

Many thanks to the hundreds of developers who worked on this release. It’s a big, big improvement.

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