Despite what some of their creators might claim, search engines cannot, in fact, read your mind. As a result, their suggestions often fail to match what you had in mind or bury the right answer in a flood of less-relevant links. One simple way to steer around those problems is to look for a “search by date” option–odds are, you remember roughly when you read the page you were looking for, and poring over a chronologically-sorted list will be faster than retrying varying searches until you stumble upon a perfectly phrased query. Many sites offer such a feature on their internal searches; if they don’t, they should. The major search sites, meanwhile, require a click or two to uncover a sort-by-date feature–or only an approximation of one. At Google, click the “Show search tools” heading at the left to uncover tools to limit searches to a particular time frame. At Yahoo, however, your only date-specific choices (available by clicking an “Options” link at the top right of a search-results page and choosing “Advanced Search”) are options to show pages updated in the last three months, six months or a year. And Microsoft’s Bing doesn’t provide any sort of date-centric search.
(What’s this “PostPoints tip” business about? Since July, I’ve been archiving each tip-of-the-week e-mail we send to PostPoints members under this blog’s “Tips” category. Today’s item went out on Sept. 14.)