Enhancements to text search

I’ve been using – they made me, honest they did, they FORCED me – a PC/Windoze system, working on something called Scholar’s Workstation, an integrated suite (notabene.com) specifically for academic writing.

It includes Nota Bene, a WP; Ibidem, a bibliographic program; and Orbis, a textbase/search engine. The thing works pretty seamlessly although it suffers from being under Windows (infantile, patronising, ugly, intrusive).

The Orbis paradigm has some features I’d love to see in DT. Specifically, they are:

– The ability to mix wildcards (* and ?) with other search terms.
– The ability to construct proper Boolean searches (AND, OR, XOR, NOT) (including wildcards)
– A “live update” of the number of hits your search is returning, as you are building it (surprisingly useful; you can see when you’ve overshot)
– A user-definable synonym list, so you can search on a synonym headword (say “Classics”) and get hits for all its synonyms (e.g. “Rome, Athens, Latin, Suetonius” etc)
– A display of the found files with the first relevant (i.e. containing a search term) line, so that you can do an immediate applicability scan.
– Definable search scopes – search by paragraph, sentence, document, whatever. Useful because the closer together the search terms (usually), the greater the relevance to the search.

I don’t know how much of this the Devon engine would allow – some of it, I bet, is derived from Orbis’s index-based engine – but it’s certainly useful in practice, although I have to say I find DT a much nicer environment to work in, despite the horrors of migrating a huge textbase.

The search window will be completely revised in the near future (either in v1.8 or v2.0) and will add some of the mentioned features (e.g. operators and realtime searching).