First, I want to say that I don't mind taking the time to find things on the site for other people. It makes me feel useful and doesn't cost me more than time. That said, I suspect many people aren't fully comfortable with all the functions on the Permies search feature. I don't know how many people don't find what they're looking for and give up without asking questions about it. So I hope no one finds it arrogant that I'm going to try to walk people through how use this feature. I even looked up how to post a screen shot to make this multi media I'm not a natural teacher, but I'm going to try to make this helpful.
When I was looking to see if there was information on clematis, I could use that word. Armed with that word I was able to scan the results for the whole site and see that there was little more than lists using that word. I clicked into the few threads that had repeated use of the word and confirmed that they weren't what I was looking for. This was fast and easy because there wasn't much information to filter through.
For a very popular subject like water harvesting you wouldn't want to just use the term water, any thread that uses that term would be in your results leading to dozens of pages and most of those threads would have repeated uses of the word. You could narrow your search down by making sure you've selected match exact phrase. That's a huge number of results still. If you're not starting from the very beginning, maybe you have a particular type of water harvesting you want to know about. Or maybe you are a beginner and you want to know where to start. Maybe the term you use has a synonym which some one else used when giving detailed information, maybe it's a step by step discussion of how to do something but no one used the word 'start' or 'beginner.' If you used an exact phrase, maybe they just put the words together in a different order. The more words you add the more easily you'll weed out relevant threads accidentally.
This is when you start moving on to other parts of the search feature. Some of you may be looking for a particular thread and remember part of the name. You could use the search subject only. I think that's pretty straightforward, but I've never used it, so moving on...
You can select which part of the forums to search from the pull down menu. The very first option is "all available" I use this option whenever possible because so many permaculture techniques stack functions that make them appropriate in multiple forums. For our example phrase "water harvesting" I just counted twenty-one different forums in which a discussion of the topic would legitimately be found, without going off topic in another discussion. This is where you need to start narrowing down by your reasons for needing the information. If you are planting a forest garden and you want to know how to catch water for trees, then select 'forest garden.' If you're developing a farm, select from one of the farming forums (or search each one individually) Try to work from the most relevant to the least relevant.
Now, I'm assuming you have a list of results. There's still tricks even here. Obviously there's the nice bit where the search results will show you the found phrase or sentence containing your search term. I like to group my search results by topic. If you below each result grouped that way, any other times those words came up in the same discussion are then shown highlighted in yellow at the bottom of the result. Between the displayed sentence and the amount of posts using those words it is usually easy to find where people where discussing a subject in more depth. Weed through the few results which have the greatest amount of discussion at this point and you'll probably find relevant information.
Now there are other tricks options below the sort by forum. If you know someone has posts really good info one a topic frequently, or has made one really good post in particular, you can narrow this search down to only posts made by this person. If anyone feels the need to be walked through this process, I'm willing but I think if you can use the rest of the function, you can figure this out. Just don't forget to check which forums your search is set to go through. Especially if you're doing a search by member name.
Everyone can make this process more effective by doing their best to post to the appropriate forums, opening new threads when a discussion goes off topic, and (those who have the ability) adding forums to threads when they fit more than one.
Well, thanks for that, Casie! Oddly enough, I hadn't seen the option of selecting search parameters by clicking Search in the upper menu. I always just used the Search button just above the thread list.
For those of you who are as unobservant as I am, here is where to click to get the Search options Casie showed us!
I had a longer post written out, but I decided to look at the search function again and noticed something. The 'tinkering with this site' subforum is selected by default when I click on the search button from this page. I just went around and looked and found that whatever subforum I am in when I click the link on the top of the page becomes the default subforum field. I probably overlooked this a few weeks ago when I did a search and came up with no results, just to find what I had been looking for after manually scouring the site. I'm usually not that bad with computers either. It seems like this would sabotage anyone who is in a particular subforum and then tries to search something that comes to mind that isn't in that particular subforum.
If the 'all available' selection was always the default I bet it would help very many people to find what they need and perhaps reduce the occurrence of questions being repeated.
EDIT - This is from Firefox in Linux if that makes a difference.
Trees are our friends
My first bit of advice is that if you are going to be a mime, you shouldn't talk. Even the tiny ad is nodding: