Using Search Engines to Find Information on the Web
Search engines on the World Wide Web are remotely accessible programs that let you do keyword searches for information on the Internet. There are several types of search engines and searches may cover titles of documents, URL's, headers, or full text. Keep in mind that the results you get from one search engine may not match the results you get from another search engine. In fact, they are often different due to the way each search engine behaves. Therefore, it may actually be beneficial to use more than one search engine on a regular basis.
In this section, we briefly look at Google and Yahoo!. Web pages are often dynamic and can change at any time. As a result, you may find that if either site changes, your experience with JAWS may be different than what is described here.
EXERCISE: Use the link below to go to the Google web site and follow along with the instructions.
When you first go to the Google web site there is a blinking cursor in the search edit box near the middle of the page. But you can also perform searches right from the address bar. To move to the address bar, just press ALT+D. Either way, as you begin typing, an autocomplete list may appear. You can press DOWN ARROW to move through the list and then ENTER to perform a search, or you can simply continue typing what you are searching for without using the list.
After you have typed in some text, press ENTER to activate the Search button. Results appear on the page below. We will discuss some techniques for finding the results on the page in a moment. But first, Google only returns web pages that contain all of the words in your query. If you find that you get too many "hits" or web pages that match your search, you can enter more words in your search query to narrow the choices.
Using good keywords gives you better results. Be as specific as you can. For example, a search for the keyword "musicians" will yield far more results than a search for the keywords "Elvis Presley." You do not need to include "and" between terms, but the order in which you type your keywords will affect the search results. You can also search for a specific phrase by including words in quotation marks. Google searches are not case sensitive.
You can also use the following items within your keywords for Google searches:
- - (minus) sign. Causes Google to exclude a word from your search. For example, "JAWS" can refer to a screen reading software or a famous movie. You can exclude many of the movie-related hits by searching for "JAWS -movie." (Be sure to include a space before the minus sign and no spaces between the minus sign and the word "movie.") Searches for JAWS with different conditions yielded the following results:
- JAWS, about 1,690,000,000 results
- JAWS windows -movie, still yields about the same number of results, but you find much more information about JAWS screen reader and very little, if any, information about movies. There will most likely still be links to videos on YouTube or other sources.
- "JAWS screen reader" (in quotes), about 49,600 results
As you narrow your search and use better keywords, you get more relevant results. Putting a phrase into quotes tells Google to look for the exact words in that exact order.
Try typing different things such as names, phone numbers, and more to find people or things.
Try a search for Freedom Scientific. Use this link to go to the Google web site. On the results page, there are a couple of things you can do to get more information about the results of the search:
- The statistics of your search are typically placed between the search edit box and the search results. You can use the JAWS find command CTRL+F to look for the word "Results," and then read that line. For example, when testing this, the search found, "About 203,000,000 results (0.80 seconds)." This can be useful if you need to narrow the search.
- Google uses a "main" region to guide you to the search results. You can press R to move from one region to another.
- The items found as a result of your search are placed on the page as both links and headings. You can press the navigation quick key H to move quickly among the headings that match your search. Since they are also links, you can press ENTER to activate them and move to those web pages of interest.
- Below each heading (and link) that match your search is a short synopsis of what that page is about. After pressing H to move to a heading (link), just press DOWN ARROW to read the text below it for more information.
- Remember, you can also press SHIFT+H to move backwards.
- There is also a good structure to the headings. The search results are typically listed after a heading level two. The matches found for the search are typically level three headings.
EXERCISE: Google uses regions to make navigation easier. Explore them by pressing R to move from region to region, and then press DOWN ARROW to move into the next section.
You can also read through the search results page using normal reading keys or use INSERT+F7 to open the list of links and see what related links were found. Use the Move to Link button in the links list, ALT+M, to move to a particular link and then down arrow through the associated text to find out if this might be what you are looking for.
In addition to the information displayed on the initial results page, there are often links to more pages of information that meet your search criteria. These pages are reached by activating the link for the number of the page. Usually you will find links for additional pages 2 through 10 near the bottom of each page, along with a Next link. Each page beyond the first page also contains a number of items that match your search.
Google Search Tools
Google also provides easy-to-use search tools. For example:
- "Weather Chicago" yields the current weather in Chicago
- "25 kilometers in miles" converts kilometers to miles
- "Define screen magnification" yields definitions for screen magnification
- "Seafood restaurants 33716" yields restaurants that serve seafood in or near that zip code
- And so on...
NOTE: For both the Google web site and the Yahoo! web site discussed in the next section, be sure to check out the other links on their sites for Advanced Search, Help topics, and more.
Yahoo! is another search engine that many people use. The main Yahoo! page also has more information on it, such as sports and news headlines, entertainment links, and links to many other items. This tends to cause the page to appear more cluttered than the Google site, but may prove itself useful to you as well. As with Google, when you first go to the Yahoo! web site there is a blinking cursor in an edit box.
Forms mode comes on automatically when you get to a web page which has the focus set to a blinking cursor in an edit box. If for some reason forms mode does not come on automatically on your computer, you can also press ENTER to go into forms mode, or you can press INSERT+F5 to open the Select a Form Field dialog box for JAWS.
TIP: Mouse users can also click inside edit boxes and forms mode comes on automatically.
After you have typed in some text, press ENTER to activate the Search button.
Yahoo! behaves very much the same way as Google and displays a list of hits of matching items. These are links to further resources, and each link here also has a text description taken from that source that matches your query.
After a Yahoo! results page loads, press the letter H to move to the different headings on the page. Since the headings are also links, pressing ENTER on one takes you to the web page indicated. Beneath each heading/link is text that describes a little bit about that page. Press INSERT+F7 to use the list of links to explore the links, or you can also press TAB to move from one link to another.
To find the number of matches, use the JAWS Find and look for the word "results" without the quotes. You may have to use the function key F3 to repeat the JAWS find. The results for Yahoo! are typically near the bottom of the page, so you may find the number of matches more quickly by pressing SHIFT+F3 to search backwards.
Yahoo! also has links to other results pages, just as Google does. These links show as numbers 2 through 5, along with a Next link, and are located near the bottom of the page.
Going Beyond the Search Engine Results Page
OK, so what happens when you choose one of the links you find on a search engine page? What strategies do you use to find the information you were initially searching for on the resulting page?
ANSWER: All of the strategies you learned in this series of Surf's Up lessons, including:
- Use N to jump past a series of links to move to the next block of text that has at least 25 characters without a link.
- Use the list of links (INSERT+F7) to look for links that begin with specific words.
- Use the list of headings (INSERT+F6) to look for structure in the headings on a page.
- Use the JAWS Find to search for words or phrases on a web page.
- Look for regions.
- Use the JAWS Quick Settings dialog box (INSERT+V) to change things as needed such as:
- Stop page refreshes
- Search for <title> attributes, acronyms, abbreviations, and more.
- Use the Custom Label feature of JAWS to label unlabeled links or unlabeled form fields on pages that you visit often.