Search Engine Showdown
Live Search

Review of Live Search

Last updated Oct. 21, 2006.
by Greg R.

Live Search is the successor to MSN Search. Sometimes called just or Windows Live Search, this is the Microsoft Web search engine. Launched in September 2006, it uses its own, unique database. Use the table of contents on the left to navigate this review.

For More on Live Search
See News & Blog Posts

Databases: Live Search uses its own Web database and also has separate News, Images, Questions and Answers (QnA), Local, Video, Feeds, and Academic databases. Text ads come from Microsoft adCenter.

  * Large, fresh, unique database
  * Query building Advanced Search and full Boolean searching
  * Cached copies of Web pages including date cached
  * Automatic local search options.

  * No truncation, stemming, or wild card word in a phrase
  * Limited to 10 words in a query
  * Advanced search not on front page, but available after running a search

Default Operation:
Multiple search terms are processed as an AND operation by default.

Boolean Searching: Live Search offers full Boolean searching, although the AND is not needed since it is the default operation. Live Search supports Boolean operators AND (or the ampersand symbol &), OR (or the pipe symbol |), and NOT. Either AND NOT or NOT can be used. Operators must be in upper case unless symbols are used. Searching can be nested using parentheses. Live Search can also use - for NOT, but there must be no space between the - and the query term. The plus symbol + seems to make no difference unless used in front of a stop word. The advanced search (formerly called Search Builder in MSN Search days) includes has a drop down menu choice for All of these Term, Any of these Terms, and None of these Terms.

Proximity Searching: Phrase searching can be designated by double quotes "" around a search phrase. There is also an "exact phrase" option in the advanced search under Search Terms.

Truncation: No known truncation, stemming, or wild card word in a phrase capabilities exist. 

Case Sensitivity: Live Search has no case sensitive searching. Using either lower or upper case results in the same hits.

Field Searching: Live Search has several field searching capabilities, but it does not have a title search, one of the most common options elsewhere. The Search Builder helps to use these, or just use the syntax below. All these field searches can be combined with other terms and other field searches except for url:.

Field Explanation
site: Limit to specific site(s) or domain(s). Can include http:// and path designations. or site:
filetype: Limit the type of file for non-HTML Web pages. Available types include HTML, PDF, PowerPoint (ppt), Word (doc and rtf), or Excel (xls). Use file type extension after colon.  filetype:pdf
intitle: Hits have the term in the HTML title element. intitle:showdown (only one word per prefix)
inbody: Hits have the term in the HTML body element. inbody:comparison (only one word per prefix)
inanchor: Hits have the term in HTML anchor (<a href=>) element. inanchor:review (only one word per prefix)
inurl: Hits have the term within the URL for that page. inurl:live (only one word per prefix)
language: Invokes the language limit when followed by the two letter language code as in language:en
loc: or location: Specifies a country or region using two character country or region codes as in loc:au
link: Finds pages linked to the given URL. Can include http://, and the results are usually the same with or without an initial www.
linkdomain: Limits to pages containing links to any page within the specified domain. Alphabetic and numeric (IP) domains can be used. (do not include the http://)
linkfromdomain: Lists external links from pages on the specified site.
contains: Limits results to page with links to the file type specified as in symphonies contains:mp3
ip: Results are hosted at the given IP address which must be a dotted quad numeric address. ip:
prefer: Does not change number of results, but does change ranking (although not as much as I would expect) prefer:review
feed: Finds RSS and Atom feeds containing the search terms. feed:news
hasfeed: Finds Web pages with the search term that contain a link to an Atom or RSS feed. hasfeed:research
url: Finds if the given URL is in the database. Can include http:// or not.

Limits: In the advanced search, there are a number of limit options available.

Site/Domain: Searches can be limited by location/domain or can exclude a specific domain.

Country/Region: MSN can limit by country and/or region. This is more than just a top level domain limit. For example, limiting to Switzerland found some site with the top level domain of .ch (for Switzerland) along with some .com sites that are located in Switzerland. 92 are listed in the advanced search and on the country or region codes page, but other country top level domains can be used with the loc: field search or the site: field search.

File Type: Limits results to specific file types: HTML,  PDF, PowerPoint, Word (doc and rtf), or Excel. Default includes all these file types.

Safe Search: Only available on the "settings" page, there is a Safe Search limit for excluding sexually explicit content. By default, it is automatically set to exclude sexually explicit images but not text.

Language Limits: Default is all languages. 37 language limits are available as of October 2006. The advanced search can limit to one at a time. Use the "settings" link to search several at once.

Stop Words: MSN will search single stop words like 'the' or 'an', and it will search them within a "phrase search." However, it will ignore stop words if there are other non-stop-word terms unless a + is put in front of the stop word or it is within quotation marks. Look to see which of the small words are shown in the KWIC extracts to see which are being searched.

Sorting: Results are sorted by relevance. The advanced search Results Ranking section has three sliders that users can adjust to change the ranking algorithms. The three sliders are for updated recently vs. static, very popular vs. less popular, and approximate match vs. exact match. Each slider has a 100 point rating scale with a default of 50 for each. The command box variations are surrounded in curly brackets as in {popl=91} {mtch=8} {frsh=25}.

Display: The display includes the title, a brief keyword-in-context (KWIC) display, the URL, and a link to the cached copy of the page. A date is sometimes displayed to the left of the cache link when that page has been re-indexed recently. Live Search displays 10 records at a time, by default. However, users can request displays of 10, 15, 30, or 50 records at a time through the settings.

Site clustering: By default, Live shows only two results per site, but in the settings under Group Results from the Same Site, it can be turn off or changed to one or three. However, on many searches, especially when set to only one result per site and with only 10 results at a time, there is no "Show more results from . . . " link to see the additional results from a specific site.

Unusual Search Feature: Live Search automatically tries to identify a user's location for the local search. The location can also be changed by the user through the "settings" link. Then, clicking the "Near Me" button next to the "Search" button runs a local search based on the default location.

Help Files
Keyword and Symbol Reference