Feedback Request: Default to AND or OR in Local Help Search

The VS Help team is looking for feedback wrt a last minute default setting.  Anyway, here is the feedback request:

We’re making some last-minute decisions about the behavior of the local search engine for Visual Studio’s local MSDN search engine.   We’re need to decide how to behave when you search for multiple terms, like “VB database connect access”. Here are the options:

Option #1: Visual Studio Local Search should put an implicit AND between all terms, so “VB database connect access” becomes “VB AND database AND connect AND access”.  This means if a page has three but not all 4 of the terms you specify, it won’t show up in search results at all.

Options #2: Visual Studio Local Search should put an implicit OR between all terms, making “VB database connect access” into “VB OR database OR connect OR access”.  This means that pages with all terms matching will usually (though not always due to quirks in the local search engine) show up near the top of the list, but other results which match fewer terms will also show up in search results too.

Regardless of what option is chosen, you’ll be able to override by using an explicit OR or AND in your search queries; our choice is simply what to do by default. 

Which option do you prefer, and why?

Comments (57)

  1. The VS 2005 help team is looking for some last minute default setting feedback.  Click here to sound…

  2. Mikey says:

    Option #1, please, this is the expected behaviour of so many search engines.

  3. Dean Jackson says:

    "AND" them together.

    I think most tech. people put in precise keywords and therefore are expecting an "AND" search.

    Thanks for asking.

  4. Matt says:

    It should default to "AND" because if there are too few results, I would know to change it to "OR".

    If it defaulted to "OR" and too many results showed up I would not know whether to change to "AND" and try again or continue hunting for the right result.

  5. Mattie says:

    Option #1, please.

    I think ‘and’ searches are far more common for me! I can’t think of the last time I wanted to do an ‘or’ search in documentation.

  6. Matt says:

    Why not do both but put AND results at the top of the list as more relevant?

    Or run an AND by default but revert to OR if no results are found.

  7. Jose says:

    Option #1, please.

    The more specific I get with terms, the more specific I want with results.

  8. BobM says:

    Option #1 Please.

  9. Like the others I agree, option 1.

    Most people expect the results to be ANDed together. Nothing worse than working with a Search Engine that defaults to OR.

  10. Steve Neel says:

    Option 1: I’d expect it to AND my terms. Thanks for checking!

  11. John says:

    Do what Google does.

  12. And, definitely.

    If you don’t know the right syntax for AND and OR, or whether the search engine in question supports them at all, you can still get the functionality of an OR by doing multiple queries. But you can’t replicate an AND with only ORs.

  13. I agree with the suggestion to do what Google (or MSNSearch) does. To be honest, these are the searches that people are most familiar with, so whatever they do is ehat we are all used to.

  14. Robin Curry says:

    I think Option #1 feels more natural and is what most people would expect. This is the default for Google searches as well.

  15. Bruce Morgan [MSFT] says:

    Option 1. You’d be insane to do anything else. I mean, really. Insane.

  16. I think AND is the option that most people are going to assume.

  17. Trevor says:

    And! For the love of God and all that is good default to And!

  18. Robert says:

    AND please. Same reasons everyone else is saying.

  19. Shane says:

    Option #1 is more consistent across searching tools, so I recommend using that paradigm.

  20. John says:

    Option 1.

  21. Tadeu says:

    Option #1 , that is the expecte default behaviou of most search engines, even if someone else prefer the other way !


    Tadeu C. Maia Junior.

  22. Ken Cox [MVP] says:

    Option #1 is preferable. I’m often searching for content in a topic where I know all the words appear.

    If there are no results, you could offer "Try an OR search?"



  23. Norman Diamond says:

    And me to the list.

    Even if someone ever had the idea that implicit Or might yield useful results, surely 10 minutes with just about any search engine would teach them that implicit Or is useless.

  24. Sachin Nayak says:


    After all, when i (or for that matter any developer) type "VB database connect access", i am expecting smaller set of results. Not maybe 1000 pages about VB + 900 pages about database +…., most of them unrelated to my search. Yes, there may be page ranking, and whatever, but the result count will look intimidating.

  25. Kevin Dente says:

    AND please! Most searches that I do are keyword style searches, where I’m looking for all matching words. OR searches are actually quite rare.

  26. Josh Koppang says:

    AND – I won’t repeat the reasons (All of the above).

  27. Jason Wilden says:

    Option 1 – although I tend to use NEAR more than either AND or OR.

  28. slee says:

    It should default to "AND" searches…

  29. Fred says:

    I can’t believe this is even being asked. If there were enough resources or time, you’d want them sorted by relevancy. The local search will end up not even being used if it is just and and search and the same information is on Google. Hasn’t this been the experience of almost any other serious Visual Studio developer? Google provides the results you want at the top of your search, not is a random order of ones that included your terms…

  30. doctorsolberg says:

    #1 🙂

  31. Niels says:

    "AND" please, that’s logical behaviour for every search engine I know and trust.

  32. Joku says:

    AND agrees with Fred.

  33. Joku says:

    query: a b c

    should sort the results such that first are the matches with all of the terms, and if there’s less than x matches with all terms then give something close to that perhaps (first a NEAR match then dropping the terms descending by their length?).

    query: a,b,c could be same as a AND b AND c if the , is ignored otherwise, and only give results with all the terms.

    "a,b,c" would find exactly that of course.

  34. Jarno says:

    Not really relevant any more, but definately AND. I agree with all the reasons given above, including that it would in fact be slightly silly to even consider making it default to OR. Except maybe as in one of the suggestions above: default to OR if AND yeild 0 results? (Maybe mentioning that this different default behavior has been used and what triggered it.)

  35. DNsoft says:

    I agree with other comments, but for me option #2 seems to be better (OR)

    I think it’s better to sort in results than resume a few searches because of missing results.

    And also, if the search was not correctly made, the "OR" option might give the opportunity to propose the good result.

    … Just my opinion… 😉

  36. Gavin Greig says:

    Replying on behalf of myself and a colleague here.

    Of the two options given, I prefer 1 and my colleague prefers 2. We would both prefer something like Matt suggests that does both and prioritises any AND results.

    Having seen that there’s an overwhelming response in favour of AND here, my colleague suggests that some visual feedback as to what the engine is doing (like displaying the fully expanded search string at the top of the results) would really help, as at least it would then be clear that the search engine isn’t doing what he expects and he could adjust his approach by using explicit ORs.

    My reason for choosing AND is that current MSDN searches feel like they throw up too many hits and it’s difficult to search through them for the result you really want. I think an implicit AND might help with this. My colleague’s reason for choosing OR is that he doesn’t feel confident that he stands a good chance of hitting exactly the right terms to bring up what he wants to find. Thinking about it, I can see where he’s coming from!

    Matt’s suggestion of doing both OR and AND and prioritising the AND results seems best to both of us. Otherwise, count us as one vote for each option.

  37. Definitely shoudl default to AND. Normally when I am searching for something I know what I am looking for.

    And the best argument… OR is one letter shorter then AND so it’s quicker to type OR explicitly then it is to write AND.

  38. Definitely shoudl default to AND. Normally when I am searching for something I know what I am looking for.

    And the best argument… OR is one letter shorter then AND so it’s quicker to type OR explicitly then it is to write AND.

  39. Jim Holmes says:

    +1 to AND. I most always want to search for an entire phrase, not search for hits anywhere in a list of keywords.

  40. Jeff Parker says:

    Option one

    I am capable of refining my search if I do not get what I want, I know when I search too precise but sometimes I am looking for something specific

  41. Bart Vries says:

    Option 1

  42. blazed says:

    AND, of course.

  43. Björn Graf says:

    Only AND makes sense :]

  44. Simon says:

    I would prefer option #1.

    regards simon

  45. mark says:

    AND, for the love of all that’s holy, AND. Nothing’s more irritating than having to dig through irrelevant results because of OR searches.

  46. alicorn says:

    implicit AND, explicit OR

  47. pete says:

    Definitely AND. I almost never use an OR search, except for job searches ;-).

  48. davidoof says:

    AND (if you still have any doubts)

  49. How about just embed MSN Desktop Search engine into the help… 🙂

    They just released their API… Maybe this will solve everyone’s problems… 😀

    However if that is too tough this late in the game, I vote #1 as well. It just seems to be more natural that if you are doing a search on a statement, that AND is the prefered method.

  50. AND (actually, NEAR). The problem with OR is that as you add keywords your search gets broader, not narrower.

    I’d also love to see a smart search that checks for phrases first, then the keywords NEAR each other, then AND.

  51. Option #1. AND of course. OR? Who the heck uses OR for searching? Searching is only useful if it narrows the results down.

  52. Mark Levison says:

    And – because that’s what all the internet search engines do.

  53. Brad says:


    I’d actually prefer it search for NEAR. Why? 99% of the time I’m typing in a phrase to search for not several words to AND / OR on.