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2. Use the best tool for the job.

For day-to-day searching, you can't go too far wrong with any of the Big Six search engines (AltaVista, Google, HotBot, etc.). Don't forget, though, that each has its strong points that you'll want to consider when choosing the one to use for a particular job.

Keep in mind, too, that as good as these search engines are, they're not the best tools for every job. For example, some search engines give you the option of searching Usenet newsgroups as well as the Web. But to take full advantage of newsgroups, the best tool is Deja (, a search engine designed and optimized for newsgroup searches (Figure 1).

Most general-purpose search engines that offer a newsgroup search feature use Deja to "power" it. But they typically provide only a subset of the search capabilities you'll find at the Deja site.

Figure 1 Deja ( is the ideal tool for searching newsgroups. No other site even comes close.

Big Six Search Engines and What They Do Best

  • AltaVista is a good choice for finding obscure facts and figures. It's one of the few search engines to offer full Boolean and case-sensitive searching, as well as a variety of field-search options to help target a search.

  • Google covers more of the Net than any other search engine. When thoroughness counts, be sure to check Google. Its method of ranking Web sites based on link popularity (the more links to a particular site, the higher its ranking) works especially well for general searches.

  • HotBot makes it exceptionally easy to search for multimedia files and to locate Web sites by geography. If you want the power of AltaVista with a much simpler interface, go with HotBot.

  • Lycos is another good choice for doing multimedia searches. Use it as well for finding phrases containing common stopwords (for example, "to be or not to be"). Unlike some search engines, Lycos won't ignore stopwords in phrases.

  • Northern Light lets you simultaneously search both the Web and a "special collection" database of articles, transcripts, and other documents not readily accessible on the Net.

  • Yahoo has the best, most detailed Web directory, making it an excellent choice for exploring a subject to find out what's available on the Net.

Some of our other favorite special-purpose search engines, like Topica ( for locating Internet mailing lists and the Argus Clearinghouse ( for finding subject guides to the Net.

To track down other special-purpose engines using a searchable directory, visit Search Engine Guide at (Figure 2).

Figure 2 Search Engine Guide ( is a great place to look for special-purpose search engines. Browse by category or use the search feature, as we've done here to look for sports-related search engines.


Usenet newsgroups (or newsgroups for short) are freewheeling "global conversations" on virtually every subject imaginable. They've been around far longer than the World Wide Web and are an excellent source of advice, personal opinions, and commentary. Think of them as expanding your circle of acquaintances when you're looking for things like recipes, travel tips, software fixes or workarounds-you name it.

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