Search Engine Showdown

Review of Exalead Search

Last updated Nov. 12, 2006.
by Greg R. Notess

Exalead is a newer search engine arriving in October 2004. Hailing from France, it offers a unique and different approach to presenting results. A Sept. 2006 beta version at became the new interface on Oct. 9, 2006. Use the table of contents on the left to navigate this review.

For More on Exalead
See News & Blog Posts

Databases: A database of crawled Web pages and an image database. Ad database comes from Yahoo! Search Marketing. Within the Web database it includes and links to directory results from the Open Directory, and provides easy links on the right to separate out audio, video, and RSS feeds.

  * Truncation, proximity, and many other advanced operators not available from other search engines
  * Includes thumbnails of pages
  * Provides excellent narrowing options on right side

  * Smaller database than the major search engines
  * Few people know about or use it
  * May not be updated as frequently

Default Operation: Multiple search terms are processed as an AND operation by default. So adding more terms should get fewer results.

Boolean Searching: Exalead appears to support Boolean operators and nested searching with the operators AND, OR, and NOT. Either AND NOT or NOT can be used. Searching can be nested using parentheses. Operators must be in upper case. Exalead can also use - for NOT but only when it is not used along with the Boolean operators. In the Advanced Search, it also has drop-down choices for "containing," "not containing," and "preferably containing." There is also an OPT operator which means that the word following it is an optional word.

Proximity Searching: Phrase searching is available by using "double quotes" around a phrase. It also supports a NEXT operator for ordered proximity of one (in other words, the same thing as a phrase search. So "double quotes"  should get the same results as double NEXT quotes. Exalead also supports the NEAR operator for 16 word proximity. Change it it NEAR/5 (or any other number) to specify a different proximity value.

Note: Exalead's Advanced Search also offer some unusual types of special searches:

Truncation: On a search with two or more words, stemming is automatic. Exalead also supports truncation using an asterisk * symbol. Stemming is also controlled on the preferences page. 

Case Sensitivity: Exalead has no case sensitive searching. Using either lower or upper or mixed case will result in the same hits.

Field Searching: Exalead supports a title search.

Field Explanation
intitle: Hits have the term in the HTML title element. intitle:showdown
language: Language limit using two letter code. language:fr
filetype: Limits to various file types using the extensions. filetype:pdf
inurl: Finds pages that have the term somewhere in the URL (host name, path, or filename). Can be combined with other search terms. inurl:loc
link: Finds pages which contain hypertext links to the specified URL.
site: Finds pages from the designated Web site. Path and file names cannot be included but it will find terms within a domain name. Both site:com and site:strange work. See also country:
country: Finds pages from the designated country top level domain and other pages that have been geo-identified as being connected with that country. country:ca
soundslike: Finds pages with words phonetically close to the search word. soundslike:nite
spellslike: Finds pages with words spelled approximately like the search word. spellslike:nite
sort: Changes results order by date. Two options: new and old. sort:new or sort:old
after: Finds pages reporting a modification after the specified date in dd/mm/yyyy format. after:25/12/2003
before: Finds pages reporting a modification before the specified date in dd/mm/yyyy format. before:25/12/2003

Limits: Exalead has limits for language, country, file type, site, and date available on the Advanced Search page. 

The file type limit includes text, PDF, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Rich Text Format, Corel WordPerfect, and Shockwave Macromedia Flash. It pastes the filetype: field search command into the search box.

The Advanced Search page offers a site limit, which can be used to limit results to those from the specified domain. It pastes the site: field search command into the search box.

An Adult Content filter tries to exclude adult Web pages and is available on the preferences page.

The language limit is available in the Advanced Search and includes the following 54 as of Oct. 2006 (probably the largest number of any search engine!). Multiple languages can be selected on the Preferences page.

  1. Amharic
  2. Arabic
  3. Armenian
  4. Bengali; Bangla
  5. Bulgarian
  6. Burmese
  7. Cambodian
  8. Catalan
  9. Chinese
  10. Croatian
  11. Czech
  12. Danish
  13. Dutch
  14. English
  15. Estonian
  16. Finnish
  17. French
  18. Georgian
  19. German
  20. Greek
  21. Gujarati
  22. Hebrew
  23. Hindi
  24. Hungarian
  25. Icelandic
  26. Indonesian
  27. Italian
  28. Japanese
  29. Kannada
  30. Korean
  31. Laothian
  32. Latvian ; Lettish
  33. Lithuanian
  34. Malayalam
  35. Mongolian
  36. Norwegian
  37. Oriya
  38. Polish
  39. Portuguese
  40. Punjabi
  41. Romanian
  42. Russian
  43. Serbian
  44. Singhalese
  45. Slovak
  46. Slovenian
  47. Spanish
  48. Swedish
  49. Tagalog
  50. Tamil
  51. Telugu
  52. Thai
  53. Tibetan
  54. Turkish

Stop Words: Some common words such as 'a,' 'the,' and 'in' are ignored, but they can be searched with a + in front. Within a phrase search, all words are searched.

Sorting: Results are sorted by a relevance algorithm. Pages are also clustered by site. Only one page per site will be displayed. Others are available via the yellow folder and domain name. The Advanced Search page used to include two date sort options, but those disappeared with the new interface in Oct. 2006. They are still available via the field prefix of sort:. Two options are available: sort:new and sort:old.

Display: Exalead has a packed search results page. The Web results include the page title, a keyword in context extract (or sometimes just a summary), the domain name, sometimes the date the page was last, and file size. Thumbnail screenshots of the page display on the left, but they can be turned off. The Refine options on the right side of the page includes suggestions for related search terms, directory categories, Web site location limits, and file type limits. Click the "more" link at the bottom to see the full refinement options along with (unique!) percentage breakdowns of the full locations, file types, and languages of the results set. Also, click on the preview from the thumbnail to see a cached copy of the page. Note that it includes the date crawled in the upper left under the Exalead logo with the preface of "Copy of . . . ."

Search Help (link no longer works as of Oct. 9, 2006. I hope they'll have updated documentation soon at this URL or another one.)
Search Syntax
Exalead Corporate Information