Feature request: search operators

I am truly impressed by the quality of the website: beautiful formatting, visually appealing, very rich in features, etc. Thank you!

Unless I have missed something, one area where the functionality of the site could be improved, I think, is with the search options. For instance, even using the advanced search, I have been unable to search for all categories menus one/a few.

Something (again, unless I missed it if it is there) that would greatly facilitate searching the growing number of threads and finding relevant posts would be to implement easy filtering thanks to search operators. Something that should be quite easy I think. A classic syntax could be along the lines:

  • AND (implied, so nothing between terms is the same as AND) or &
  • OR or |
  • XOR
  • NOT or !
  • query words and their short forms (tag: or t:, topic: or T:, user: or u:, date: or d: and a date query system, new: or n:, unread: or U:, etc.)

Of course, to be even more fancy, there could also be blob and/or regexp search syntax. But the filtering would already make things a lot easier (and might be enough):

Not only this would make searching very quick (without having to open the "advanced search" page, then entering things in various boxes or selecting in drop-down menus), but it would allow searches that are currently very hard to do (excluding a tag currently means selecting all the other ones) or impossible altogether (only one category can be selected at a time-or all-so excluding one is impossible) straightforward, in one box, on the main page.

Finally, it would allow to bookmark the main page with filters on (for instance, if some categories do not apply to me, I could filter them out and it would make it easier to spot threads where I can try to help people each time I visit the site).

Please let me know what you think. Thank you for your time reading this. And thank you for a beautiful website!!

(And if these functionalities already exist and I missed them, which is very possible, my sincere apologies for being blind!)

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Note: after some looking around, I found the "Tags" page in "Preferences" that makes part of this easier. But it still does not help with "Categories" and it is much less dynamic (preferences are not meant to be edited all the time) than a simple search box with filters/search operators.

Haven't done a thorough search for this yet, but, just an FYI that might be helpful (esp. since I know you're a fan of looking under-the-hood, which, high-five :hammer_and_pick:) — this site (community.rstudio.com) uses Discourse. Discourse (unsurprisingly) has its own Discourse forum, Discourse Meta, which is where I often find myself when trying to see if a functionality exists/how it might be implemented.

So, I suppose this is a meta answer about Discourse Meta :laughing:!

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I agree that search functionality is lacking. As an example, searching in advanced-search for "NOT or !" in this thread did not return it. I usualy find myself turning to google's site:community.rstudio.com feature.

search syntax - I will add that for a limited set of your requests, the discourse advanced search gui is just helping you add your search syntax to your query.

rss search queries - I briefly looked into using discourse's .json and .rss url suffix feature for search queries for some report automation tasks I wanted to set up. But this too isn't an option for each. In the end I just turned to discourse's api. If the public api is too limiting for you, I'd consider giving you a key (so long as I can make sure it doesn't also review private info... which I am not sure I can. But I'd be happy to look into it)

watching / tracking / muted If you haven't seen it already, I think the feature you might like is the "watch" setting. There, category by category and tag by tag, you can adjust your interest level. I personally watch and track categories and tags I'm really interested in, which creates an "Unread" tab at the top of the community.rstudio.com homepage. And then checkout "New" when I've worked through all those.

But I do admit that all of this is working around your desired functionality. We'd have to request these features from discourse.

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Thank you @mara and @EconomiCurtis ! I had no clue that this site was using discourse. I naively thought that it had been built from scratch. That's why I thought that implementing search queries (something so common, from Google, to Gmail, to Remember The Milk, to Thunderbird, to Stack Overflow, etc., etc.) would be a piece of cake and worth talking about. As things are, I feel that it could be a lot of work. So maybe not such a good idea after all. It sure would be great, but maybe not worth all the uphill battle to change the discourse api.

I had missed the watch features in my exploration of the site, so this does indeed solve some of my "problems". I totally can live with that. So no worries if this idea gets dropped. Knowing more about the functioning of the site explains why things are the way they are :slight_smile:

Anyhow, thank you again both: this was very helpful!


(I think, subconsciously, I was also a little surprised that R people would build such a GUI search/filter system rather than a search query system based on syntax like RTM. But since the api was not created by the people who created the forum, this makes a lot more sense too! :smile:)