This is just a description of all the options you'll find at the search engine, and what they'll do in terms of narrowing down a story search for you.
At the top and bottom of the search engine page you'll find two buttons: Submit, and Reset. If you haven't selected any options, hitting Submit will run a search that will return every single story on the archive. That's a really large list, so be aware. The Reset button will erase any options you may have selected already and return the Search Engine Form back to its pristine, default state.
1. Brief Results. Select Yes if you only want to see a list of story titles with author names. This is the "Spoiler Free" search option. Clicking Yes will give you a listing of stories with no summaries, warnings, or pairings listed. If you want to see summaries, warnings, and pairings along with the title and author, select No.
2. Title. Enter all or part of the title you wish to search for. For instance, if you know the word "Bright" is somewhere in the title, but can't remember the rest of it, you can type in "bright" and hit the Submit button. This search would return every story on the archive whose title contains the word "bright". The more of the title you know, the more accurate your search will be and the fewer results will be returned.
Caveat: If you're searching for a title that includes punctuation, or a word that includes punctuation, you won't find it. The search engine doesn't recognize punctuation. A search for the word "Can't" will not find stories with "Can't" in the title. This goes for colons, semicolons, parentheses, dashes, any punctuation at all. Leave that out of your searches if you want them to be accurate. If I were searching for a story called Can't Buy Me Love, I would be best served by typing "Buy Me Love" into the title search option.
3. Author. Enter all or part of the name of the author whose stories you want to find. For instance, if you know her last name is "Frankenstein" or "Frankfurter" or something along those lines, you can enter "frank". Every author with the word "frank" in her first or last name will be returned. The more of the author's name you know, the more accurate your search will be and the fewer results will be returned.
4. Category. Select as many categories as you like for inclusion in your
search results. The more categories you select, the narrower the range of
search. For instance, if you search for Drama, every drama story will be returned. If you search for both Drama and Romance, only those stories that have been categorized as bothdrama and romance will be returned.
5. Categories to Exclude. Select as many categories to exclude as you would like. Don't exclude any of the categories you chose to *include* in the choice directly above. That would be stupid, and it would give you really wonky search results. =) For instance, if you have included Drama above, but select Romance from Categories to Exclude, your search will return every drama story *except* those which are also romances.
6. Ratings. Select all the ratings you would like to see results for. This one is pretty much self-explanatory.
7. Warnings. If you've ever wondered why the archive has so many warnings, you're about to find out. With this option, you can use the warnings to inlude stories you know you'll enjoy. For instance, if you're a hurt/comfort fan, you can select H/C, and all the h/c stories in the archive will be returned in your search. You can select multiple warnings to include in your search.
8. Warnings to Exclude. This works just the way Categories to Exclude works. Select as many warnings to exclude as you would like. Don't exclude any of the warnings you chose to *include* in the choice directly above. That would be stupid, and it would give you really wonky search results, just like it would for Categories. =) For instance, if you have included H/C above, but select Rape/NC from Warnings to Exclude, your search will return every H/C story *except* those which also a rape.
9. Pairings. You're with me on this now, right? Select as many pairings as you like. Your search will return all the stories on the archive containing those pairings.
10. Pairings to exclude. This works just like Categories to Exclude and Warnings to exclude. Select as many pairings to exclude as you like. Don't exclude any of the pairings you've already chosen to include from the option directly above. If you choose to include Fraser/Vecchio stories, and choose to exclude Fraser/Kowalski stories, your search will return only Fraser/Vecchio stories and exclude any of those which also list Fraser/Kowalski as one of the pairings. (Or vice versa! If anybody gets on my case for listing F/V first I'll yank the archive down, I swear it on my hope of heaven. I flipped a coin. That's all.)
11. Summary keywords. If an author has provided a summary for her story properly, by putting it in the posting interface instead of in her story file, this option will allow you to search that summary by keyword. For instance, if a story has a summary that says, "Fraser and Ray deal with the threat of AIDS while fighting off alien beings from Planet Ten", you can find that story by typing in any of those words into the Summary Keywords line. The more uncommon the word you use, or the combination of words, the more likely you are to find what you're looking for. For instance, a search for the word "AIDS" would pull in every story on the archive that has the word "AIDS" in the summary, and you'd have to determine which of those was the one you were looking for. But a search for the words "AIDS" and "alien" would probably (hopefully) pull in only the single story about both AIDS and alien invasion. (Or, possibly, a lot of angsty DS/XF crossovers).
Caveat: Just like with the title search option, this search can be thrown off by words with non-letter characters like parentheses, apostrophes, etc. Don't include any punctuation at all in your key word searches.
The following choices will not affect which results are returned. They will only determine the order in which the results are displayed.
12. Date. This is easy. Do you want All the stories that were posted, ever, to the archive? Or only those from the Last 7 Days? Or the Last 30 Days? Or...? Click on the pull-down menu and choose what you want.
13. Sort by. You can choose from Author, Category, Date, Size, or Title. This choice determines by which criteria your results list will be sorted. It will be alphabetically by Author first name, grouped by category, chronologically by date, numerically by size in k, or alphabetically by title.
Caveat: There is a known bug in the software that causes the sort to include articles at the beginning of titles in the process of alphabetizing your results. This means that An Easy Case would be listed among the A's, rather than among the E's as one would expect.
14. Sort order. This determines, surprise, the order in which the criteria you chose in the option above will be sorted. Your choices are Ascending and Descending. With regard to the numerical or chronological sorts this is self explanatory, and with regards to the alphabetical sorts, I can never remember which is forwards and which is backwards. I'm sorry. No, don't write to me and tell me. I'll only forget again, and I'm happy in my ignorance in this one area. Just try it out, it's okay, you can't break it.
15. Number to list. This lets you determine how many stories you want listed per page. If you run a search that returns a thousand story results, you may not want to sit and wait for all one thousand story listings to load onto the one page. Using this option, you can say, "Show me the first 10, 20, 30, whatever". The first page will contain whatever number of listings you specified, with a More button at the bottom of it. Clicking the More button will take you to the next page of results.
16. Fast search. Theoretically, this will search the archive and return results as they're discovered, out of order. It seems faster because the software is not taking the time to organize these for you before displaying them. I've never had to use it, but I'm told it works fine.
So. There you have it. You can use any of these options separately, or together. Keep in mind that every option you choose refines your search, because the options interact with one another when you hit the submit button. The more options you select, the more likely you are to find the story (or kind of story) you're looking for. On the other hand, the more detailed you are, the more likely you are to miss other stories that are almost what you're looking for. It's a trade-off.
Play with it. No, go on, don't be afraid. Seriously, you can't hurt it. =)