The ASSTR Search Engine is a "work-in-progress" that has been in development since 1999, with the number of search options made available to readers increasing dramatically over the years. Today, the ASSTR search engine offers readers the ability to search for words or phrases within a story, with the ability to place restrictions on search results such a story title, author, story codes/keywords, summary, chapter, universe, point of view, size, and date posted.

In addition, search engine query terms can be negated, meaning readers can look for stories that do not contains given words, phrases, titles, authors, etc. The engine also supports AND and OR searches of SHS-based search terms.

The instructions below explain all the search engine options currently available and how to use them. As always, the ASSTR team is open to any comments and suggestions our visitors may have.

Phrase Searching

Searching for phrases within stories is made possible by using quotation marks (quotes). Phrase searching facilitates searching for story titles, authors whose names have multiple words, and small pieces of a story you may have read before and still remember. Phrase searching works across any line breaks in the story. Phrases can be combined with non-phrase search terms. For example, suppose you are trying to find a story with the phrase "...hot blonde was incredible..." and you remember her name was Katie. The following would be an appropriate search:

"hot blonde was incredible" Katie

The quotation marks around the phrase tell the search engine that the words within the quotes must appear next to each other in the order specified.

Negative Queries

To find stories without certain words or phrases, use the minus sign. For example, suppose you enter a search query, but many of the results contain a story titled "Jenna's Adventures at Boot Camp" that you have already read. The following would be an appropriate search:

"boot camp" army -"Jenna's Adventures at Boot Camp"

Point of View

The ASSTR search engine also permits restricting search results based on the point of view in which the story was written. Stories are usually written in either first, second, or third person, as follows:

First Person: "My alarm went off, waking me as I lay in the arms of the most beautiful woman with whom I had ever had the pleasure of spending a night..." In first person stories, the main character describes events as they are happening to him/her. Insight is only given into the mind of the main character, and the reader only knows what the main character knows.

Second Person: "As the alarm goes off, you slowly wake up in the arms of the most beautiful woman with whom you had ever had the pleasure of spending a night..." In second person stories, "you" the reader are the main character, where the story "interacts" with you.

Third Person: "As Joe slowly woke to the sound of the alarm clock going off, he took great comfort in realizing he was in the arms of the most beautiful woman with whom he had ever had the pleasure of spending a night..." In third person stories, the writer describes the story as an unseen observer. Insight into the minds of most or all the characters is usually given.

Search Results

After completing a search, a list of search results will be displayed, assuming any results are available for the given query. The format of the search results is as follows:

The first line of a search result contains its number followed by the title of the story in green. If a chapter number is available, it will follow the title.

The second line of a search result displays the story's location at ASSTR (similar to an URL, but relative to ASSTR).

Starting at the third line, any available SHS headers, such as the story's author, story codes/keywords, and summary are listed.

After the SHS headers, the next line shows the size of the story and language abbreviation in brackets. The most popular language for stories at ASSTR is English, which is abbreviated as "en". After the size and language, the date the story was posted to ASSTR is listed.

Finally, if any search words (other than search parameters as discussed below) were specified, excerpts from the part(s) of the story containing the given search words are listed.

Standard Header System (SHS) Features

SHS is an ASSTR-sponsored open standard that permits persons distributing stories at ASSTR to supply the search engine with detailed information about a story, such as the author, title, and a brief summary. The ASSTR search engine allows users to enhance their search queries by searching for SHS-based information. In this way, readers can search for stories by author, story code/keyword, and title.

The advanced search engine makes it easy to search for stories based on SHS information. Clicking on a search field of interest (such as Keyword, Author, title, Summary, or Chapter) reveals a search box and information about that search field.

Opening a SHS search field shows the number of stories indexed by the search engine for which that search field is applicable. For example, clicking on the "Author (SHS)" search field reveals that 68.1% of all stories contain indexed author information. This means that any searches using the search term "author" will only search 68.1% of all the indexed stories.

For example, if a story is written by an author "Jacob Robinson", but the search engine was unable to identify Jacob as the author of his stories, then any author search for stories by Jacob would not appear in the search results. In cases like this, it is still possible to do a phrase search for Jacob Robinson in order to find all stories containing his name. The disadvantage to this method, of course, is that the search results would contain any story reviews, author/collector web pages, etc. that mention his name in addition to his stories.

Specifying search parameters manually

The Advanced Search Engine allows for simultaneous searching of words within the story, author name, title, keyword, etc. by filling out the different applicable parts of the search form. This is how most users will probably use the search engine. However, a more concise way of performing searches is available by supplying all search parameters in the main search query.

For example, a search for stories with the word dragon in the title but that do not have the name Crimson Dragon in the title and that contains the words teen, blonde, Roger, and the phrase "go fly a kite" somewhere in the story could be entered as follows:

title:dragon -title:"crimson dragon" teen blonde Roger "go fly a kite"

As shown in the example, searching for a story title is done by using the title: keyword. Searching for a phrase is done as normal: with quotation marks. Notice that there is no space between the colon and the search term when using keywords. That is, title:dragon is correct, but title: dragon is not.

A list of all keywords is as follows:
      author, title, summary, universe, chapter, keyword, pov, maxsize, minsize

pov is the Point Of View (see above), and can be either pov:1, pov:2, or pov:3

maxsize and minsize are specified in kilobytes (KB), such as minsize:10 maxsize:100

AND and OR Searches
When specifying search parameters manually, the search engine supports advanced AND and OR queries. Such queries are entered by using parenthesis and repeating query keywords (such as "author:", "title:", and "keyword:"). For example, consider the following search query:

keyword:(pregnancy pregnant) keyword:teen

This query instructs the search engine to find stories that contain at least one of the keywords "pregnancy" or "pregnant" as well as the keyword "teen". Thus, stories that have keywords "teen pregnant" as well as stories that have keywords "teen pregnancy" would both match the query. However, a story that only had the keyword "teen" or only had the keyword "pregnant" or "pregnancy" would not.

As shown in the example, the use of parenthesis allows for an OR search of the keyword search field. By specifying the keyword search field twice, an AND search is performed in that the results must contain the keyword "teen" and must also contain the keyword pregnancy and/or pregnant.