Maybe I am missing something, but when I have a daily gis problem I haven't found any good way of searching gis.stackexchange for an answer (or similar question).

Is there some search syntax in the search box? If so, maybe the documentation about it could be more visible.

When I find an answer from gis.stackexchange that I am looking for it is almost always through a google search.

What I would like is

  • possibility to search for multiple tags
  • exclude tags from my search
  • exclude search words from my search

Is the functionality somewhere but I just can't see it?



3 Answers 3


Google is extremely important in searching the site. However, we do offer our own syntax. When you do a search, notice the information at the top of the right sidebar:

search info in right sidebar

The link in the screenshot above takes you to the advanced search page which lists search tips and syntax.

  • thanks a lot I had missed that one :-) Commented May 30, 2011 at 20:00
  • 3
    +1 Now if only advanced search had spatial search capabilities it would really be advanced :) Commented May 31, 2011 at 14:59

I think I remember reading somewhere that the developers decided that Google does such a great job, that there is no use in developing a more sophisticated search for stackexchange sites.

You can simply use

<keywords> site:gis.stackexchange.com

in a Google search.

  • This is how I do it even to search <keyword> site:stackexchange.com is useful in picking up other questions & answers
    – Mapperz Mod
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 18:44
  • yes, I agree google does a good job. Commented May 30, 2011 at 20:02

The Stack Exchange search is not very good, and has not been very good for a long time (though it has improved greatly). It's been discussed many times on Meta Stack Overflow and for reasons beyond my ken the powers that be are simply not interested in changing it appreciably. I presume they have good reason, as they've demonstrated many times in other areas their ability to think deeply and come up with good solutions to core issues.

The most popular workaround seems to be to use google and their site: syntax to restrict searching to a particular domain. Although effective I've never really liked that because of the extra friction of keeping an extra tab open just for that purpose, and it's too much extra typing.

As MatrixFrog suggests, a very effective and non-traditional method of "searching" is to "click on Ask Question and write out the full question (as though you had searched thoroughly and not found it). Then, look at the list of questions that comes up, under your question title. Maybe it's a different search algorithm, or maybe it just does better with full well-written titles than with keywords, but it seems to do a little better IME." -- however please don't actually post your question unless it truly is unique!

Today I discovered Google Custom Search. I think I like it, even though it does still mean having an extra tab open. Here's a GIS.se_custom_search which searches GIS.se and meta.GIS.se, and the code which you can plop into any web page for the same (though unfortunately not here on this site):

<div id="cse" style="width: 100%;">Loading</div>
<script src="http://www.google.com/jsapi" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script type="text/javascript"> 
  google.load('search', '1', {language : 'en', style : google.loader.themes.SHINY});
  google.setOnLoadCallback(function() {
    var customSearchControl = new google.search.CustomSearchControl('003470880514237939557:dzuoqbegndm');
  }, true);
  • thanks, some great tips Commented May 30, 2011 at 20:43

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