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Q: Searching with google! ( Answered,   3 Comments )
Subject: Searching with google!
Category: Computers
Asked by: mork-ga
List Price: $4.00
Posted: 19 May 2002 23:25 PDT
Expires: 19 May 2003 23:25 PDT
Question ID: 17030
A question of curiosity about using Google.  Twice now, I have had
occasions where I wished to include a specific negative number in my
search query.  The '-' symbol seems to always be used as an exclusion
operator no matter what I try to do.

As such, including a negative number in a query, such as -4 for
example, is very difficult.

The researchers here claim to be expert googlers, so I ask this
question out of curiosity and I am willing to be the money for a
definitive response.

Please do not 'answer' the question with "I don't know" "try a
different search engine" "try finding a diffferent query to use for
your search".

I expect to be able to search for the query '-4' and all of the
results should display pages containing that in text.
Subject: Re: Searching with google!
Answered By: alexander-ga on 20 May 2002 14:15 PDT
It is impossible to execute this query with Google, as Google does not
index punctuation or whitespace.

Indexing is the core technology behind all search engines. By building
a database of which words are contained on which pages, it's possible
to execute a complex search on a massive source (the entire web) very
quickly. Without an index, a search engine would have to examine each
page individually, which would be VERY time-consuming on a large

Punctuation may not be indexed for a variety of reasons, including the
fact that it would substantially increase the index size while
offering only limited benefit. Google's main index is already so
massive that it is only updated about once a month.

You can prove to yourself that Google does not index punctuation by
trying to search for anything including non-operator punctuation. As
an example, the results for "2/4" and "2=4" are identical, and most of
the results do not include either of the terms. Instead, this query is
interpreted as "2 immediately followed by 4, ignoring any whitespace
or punctuation between them."
Subject: Re: Searching with google!
From: andy_uk-ga on 20 May 2002 08:07 PDT
You are getting bad results because the minus sign "-" is a specific
operator in google searches, namely do not include the word after the
minus symbol. You are actually searching for all pages that DO NOT
INCLUDE the number 4!
A workaround would be to search for the phrase "-4" (with the quotes")
but unfortunately, because of it's use as an operator, google does not
index the "-" symbol on pages as far as I know.

Hope that helps,

Subject: Re: Searching with google!
From: webadept-ga on 20 May 2002 10:06 PDT
Hi, Using the "-4" won't work either, the engine apparently sees the
"-" as an operator even inside the quotes. There is a way of searching
for this, and I was going to give you it as an answer, but then
discovered it wouldn't do you any good. As our friend states in the
comment above, Google doesn't index the "-" as a searchable character
on a page. You can test this by using this hyperlink, which forces a
search for "-4" :


Thanks for the question 

Subject: Re: Searching with google!
From: ken42-ga on 22 May 2002 18:53 PDT
If i do a google search with "-4" i get 451,000,000 pages back.
You need the quotes in the query.

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