Help on AltaVista Personal 97

Help on AltaVista Personal 97


Welcome to AltaVista Personal 97 - a personal productivity tool that searches the content of documents, mail, and web files on a local disk or network connection. The AltaVista (TM) Search family is a collection of full-featured exploration products that index, search, and display local, departmental, and enterprise-wide information resources.

How AltaVista Works

AltaVista Search builds a compact, searchable personal index of every item of data (string of characters) in almost every file that your computer can read.

It searches the indexed information for specific words and phrases, entered in a query. Simple and advanced queries are created by entering a combination of words, phrases, or keywords associated with the document type.

AltaVista Personal 97 displays the results of a search by:

Installation Notes

By installing AltaVista Personal 97, the following updates are made to the desktop environment.

A new directory is created

The new directory contains the files necessary to run the software. The software is installed in the chosen location during the installation (typically in the C:\Program Files\Digital\AltaVista Search directory). The following sub-directories are also created in the installation directory:

AltaVista Search is added to the Windows 95 Task Bar

Click the Start button, and point to Programs/AltaVista Search or Find) to launch the software. The software is also launched from Windows Explorer, by selecting the Find option in the Tools pull-down menu.

AltaVista Indexer is added to the Windows 95 status tray

Click the Start button, and point to Programs/AltaVista Search/Indexer to launch the software. The Indexer is also launched from the status tray to the right of Windows 95 Task Bar. To setup the index, click the Indexer icon.

AltaVista Dispatcher is added to the Windows 95 status tray

Click the Dispatcher icon for more information.

Removing the software

Click the Start button, and point to Settings, then Control Panel, and click on Add/Remove Programs to remove the software.


Easy to capture information sources

AltaVista Personal 97 Indexer is a Windows application that captures data on local or network drives simply and comprehensively. The Indexer is visible in the Windows task bar or status tray, and provides the following features:

Index Setup

The index setup is customizable to your personal computer. To change your index settings, open the Indexer from the task bar or status tray.

Folder Options

Use the Configure button on the Indexer to select the information sources to include in the index. The options include Documents, Exchange Mail, Eudora Mail, Internet Explorer Mail, Netscape Mail, and Netscape Cache.

Schedule indexing

Use the Schedule tab on the Indexer to set a day and time for building an index. Optionally, use the System Agent application to run the Indexer. For more details, see the Indexer help.

File Options

AltaVista Personal 97 supports the most commonly used word processing document formats. Click the File Types button on the Documents tab in the Indexer to select the files to include in the index.

Internet setup

Click the "Configuration Page" link on the AltaVista Personal 97 home page to set-up proxy server settings for internet searches.

Complete coverage of desktop information

AltaVista Personal 97 ensures complete coverage of desktop information sources.

Local disk

You can include any folder, directory, or sub-directory on your hard disk in the index setup.

Network drives

The index setup can contain any network drive, including folders, directories, and sub-directories.


The index setup can contain Microsoft Exchange Mail, Eudora Mail, Internet Explorer Mail, and Netscape Mail.

Document formats

The Indexer supports the most common document formats, including Microsoft Word documents, Excel spreadsheet documents, Powerpoint documents, plain text, PDF, and Postscript.

World Wide Web

The AltaVista search services, including the global index of web pages, can be searched.

Broad range of search options

AltaVista Personal 97 provides powerful search options, allowing simple and advanced searches.

Simple Search

Use the Simple Search button to create a simple query. You can search for a word or phrase, or a combination of words and phrases. You can also confine the query to a specific part of the index source (for example, My Computer Mail, or My Computer Documents), or send it to the internet.

Advanced Search

Use the Advanced Search button to create a detailed query. This option allows you to search for a word or phrase, or a combination of words and phrases, using the AND, OR, NEAR, and NOT syntax. You can also use the Advanced Search button to:


A word means any string of letters and digits delimited either by punctuation and other non-alphabetic characters (for example, &, %, $, /, #, _, ~), or by white space (spaces, tabs, line ends, start of document, end of document).


A phrase is any string of adjacent words, although they may be separated by any amount of white space or punctuation. The preferred way to link words into a phrase is to use quotation marks.


Keywords refine Advanced Searches. Some are used with personal documents (for example, author, location, title, or subject). To filter internet searching, use the following keywords (anchor, applet, host, image, link, text, url).

Proximity (wildcards)

Use wildcards to search for occurrences of any of a family of several related words, such as sing, singer, singing. The * notation is placed at the end of the word you want to inflect (for example, sing*).

Flexibility in viewing search results

AltaVista Personal 97 provides several options for displaying search results.

Fast View

Outside In Quick View opens the retrieved documents much faster than the application associated with that document. Most document formats are supported and copy, paste, and print features are available.

Open in associated application

Double-click on retrieved documents to open them in their associated application. The functionality of the associated application is available (this does not apply to Eudora or Microsoft Exchange mail).

Ranking search results

Retrieved document are ranked by the number of occurrences of the word or phrase.

To setup an index

  1. Click the AltaVista Indexer icon in the Windows 95 status tray, or select the Indexer from the Windows 95 Task Bar.
  2. Click the Help button to display Indexer help.

To change internet configuration

  1. Click the AltaVista icon, or click on the "Configuration Page" link on the AltaVista Personal 97 home page to load the configuration page.
  2. Click the Help button on the Configuration Page for more information on changing internet settings.

Searching My Computer

Understanding General Syntax Conventions

Both the simple and advanced search functions use the same syntax rules regarding phrasing, case sensitivity, and finding related words.

Words and Phrases

AltaVista Search defines a word as any string of letters and digits that is separated by either

For example, AltaVista Search interprets and indexes HAL5000, 60258, www, http, and EasierSaidThanDone all as single words, because they are continuous strings of characters, surrounded by characters that are neither letters nor digits. The software indexes all words that it finds, regardless of whether the word exists in a dictionary or is spelled correctly.

Searching for Phrases

You can use AltaVista Search to find phrases, or groups of related words that appear next to each other. To indicate a phrase in a search query, enclose the words with double quotes. Phrasing ensures that AltaVista Search finds the words together, instead of looking for separate instances of each word individually. For example, to look for the phrase personnel policies, type

"personnel policies"

If you did not use the double quotes, AltaVista Search would find instances of "personnel" alone and "policies" alone, as well as any instances where the two words happen to appear together. Enclosing the words in quotes indicates that you want to find only instances of both words together.


AltaVista Search ignores punctuation except to interpret it as a separator for words. Placing punctuation or special characters between each word, with no spaces between the characters and the words, is also a way to indicate a phrase. As an example of when punctuation might be useful in indicating a phrase, consider searching for a telephone number. Entering


is easier than entering "1 800 555 1212", which is an equally acceptable syntax, but is less natural. Hyphenated words, such as CD-ROM, also automatically form a phrase because of the hyphen.

Normally, however, using double quotes to indicate a phrase is recommended over the use of punctuation between words, because some special characters have additional meaning:

Case sensitivity

Case sensitivity of a search is based on the case in which you enter your query.

Multinational characters

AltaVista Search supports exact-match searches for characters in the ISO Latin-1 character set. That is, you can enter a word containing an accent or other diacritical mark, and AltaVista Search will find only documents with the accented spelling of the word.

For example, if you search for the French word éléphant, AltaVista Search will find only documents containing an exact match for the French spelling of the word.

Entering a word with mixed case and an accent, (for example, Éléphant) would produce only results that match the word in terms of both case and accent.

If you omit accents and other diacritical marks from a search query, AltaVista Search finds documents containing words both with and without the special marks. Although this feature might produce some irrelevant results for users doing an English language search, it enables users to enter queries for non-English words even when they do not have international support on their keyboard.

To support searching for special characters without their diacritical marks, AltaVista search makes a mapping to the closest possible plain character or combination of characters. The software then indexes words in both forms: with special characters as they appear, and also with special characters replaced by the mappings. The following table illustrates the special characters and their mappings:

Character(s)Mapping Character(s)Mapping
ÆAEæ ae
Á Â À Å Ã Ä Aá â à å ã ä a
ÇCç c
Ð Dð d
É Ê È Ë E é ê è ë e
Í Î Ì Ï I í î ì ï i
Ñ Nñ n
Ó Ô Ò Ø Õ Ö Oó ô ò ø õ ö o
Þ THþ th
Ú Û Ù Ü U ú û ù ü u
Ý Yý ÿ y

Finding related words

You can use the asterisk wildcard notation ( * ) to search for a group of words that contain the same pattern. This is convenient for finding derivatives and spelling variants of the same word.

For example, to look for the word sing and any derivatives, such as singer, singers, and singing, enter sing* in the query field. Searching for cantalo* will produce matches for cantaloup, cantaloupe, cantalope, and their plurals.


Choosing Between Simple and Advanced Search

Both the simple and advanced search interfaces are equally powerful, flexible, and easy to use.

Advantages of Simple Search

The main advantages of the simple search interface are

Advantages of Advanced Search

The advanced search interface requires a more precise, logical syntax which, although it is more exacting, also gives you more control over the results of your search. Using the apple pear muffin recipe example, suppose you decide that you do not want to see any documents unless they contain at least the words muffin and recipe. In advanced search syntax, a more precise rendition of the simple query would be (apple OR pear) AND muffin AND recipe.

You can optionally enter your own ranking rules in the advanced search interface. If you do not enter any ranking rules, AltaVista returns the results in no particular order.

Although the two interfaces offer basically the same features, advanced search does offer some capabilities that are not available with the simple search:

For additional information on using the advanced search interface, see Doing an Advanced Search.

Doing a Simple Search

Simple searches use general syntax rules regarding phrasing, case sensitivity, and use of the asterisk (*) as a wildcard character. In addition, two operators can help to narrow a simple search:

This OperatorDoes This
+includes only documents containing all specified words or phrases in the search results
-excludes documents containing the specified word or phrase from the search results

Specify the operator in front of the word that you want to include or exclude, with no spaces between the operator and the word.

Simple search examples

To find the documents most relevant to your needs, construct your query as precisely as you can.

How the results are ordered

AltaVista ranks the results of a search based on a score that includes these criteria:

If you are not happy with the documents that AltaVista ranks first as the result of a search, you might need to narrow the scope of your search.

Doing an Advanced Search

Advanced queries use the same general syntax rules as simple queries, but they offer more options for refining a search based on operators and expressions. With the advanced query feature, you have more control over the results of your search, and you also have to be more precise in order to get the results that you want.

Advanced search syntax

You can group words into phrases as you would do for a simple search. However, you must use an operator to combine several words or phrases in the same search. The advanced search operators are as follows:

KeywordSymbol Action
AND&Finds only documents containing all of the specified words or phrases.
OR|Finds documents containing at least one of the specified words or phrases.
NOT!Excludes documents containing the specified word or phrase.
NEAR~Finds documents containing both specified words or phrases within 10 words of each other.

You can enter the keywords in all uppercase or all lowercase. Using uppercase is a convenient way to distinguish the keywords from words that are part of your search. Entering symbols instead of keywords is also an option, although it can make the query more cryptic and less conversational.


Advanced search examples

The following examples illustrate how to use operators and parentheses to construct an advanced search query.

(apple OR pear) AND (tart OR pie)
This query requests that either of the words apple or pear appear in the same document with either of the words tart or pie.
John NEAR Kennedy
The operator NEAR ensures that both John and Kennedy are within ten words of each other in any document resulting from the search. The NEAR operator is often useful in searching for names because of the possible different forms that the name can take. The example query would find all of John Kennedy; Kennedy, John; John Fitzgerald Kennedy; and John F. Kennedy.
vegetable AND (NOT broccoli)
The operators AND NOT ensure that documents found contain the word vegetable but not the word broccoli.
Note that the syntax vegetable NOT broccoli (without the AND) returns a syntax error. When NOT appears in a position other than the beginning of a query, use AND to connect the NOT portion with the rest of the query. (OR NOT is also valid syntax, but would probably return more results than would be useful in most cases).

Ranking Advanced Search Results

Unlike with simple searches, AltaVista Search returns the results of an advanced query in no particular order, unless you specify ranking rules. An example of when you might not want to rank results is when you are doing a search of all web pages that contain links to your home page, and you want to display the results as a count only. For a count, only the number, and not the ordering of the results, is significant.

In most cases, though, you will want to filter the results of your search so that the most useful documents appear at the top of the list. To rank results, enter words or phrases in the Ranking field. Use spaces to separate multiple words or phrases. You can use the words that are a part of your query, or you can enter new words as an additional way to refine your search. For example, you could further narrow a search for COBOL AND programming by entering advanced and experienced in the Ranking field.

Ranking also limits your ability to view the search results to the top 200 documents. Because ranking naturally gives priority to documents that best meet the search criteria, 200 documents should be a sufficient number to provide you with the most useful information. For details about the factors that influence ranking, see How the Results are Ordered.

Searching within a specific time frame

You can confine your search to a particular time period by entering dates in the Start Date: and End Date: fields at the bottom of the advanced search screen. AltaVista Search finds matches for the specified time frame based on the time that the web page was last modified. Note that the software gets this information from the web server where the page exists; it may not always be accurate.

Enter the date in the format dd/mmm/yy where dd is the day of the month, mmm is an abbreviation for the name of the month, and yy is the last two digits of the year. Be sure to use the name of the month instead of a number; this eliminates ambiguity between date formats in different countries. For example:


If you omit the year, the search assumes the date is in the current year. If you omit both the year and the month and specify only numbers for days, the search assumes the current month and year. For example, entering a Start date of 09/jan indicates that you want documents dated no earlier than January 9 of the current year. Entering a start date of 09 indicates that you want documents dated no earlier than the ninth day of the current month in the current year.

Formatting Search Results

On both the simple search and advanced search screens, you can choose from a number of options for formatting the results of a search for display.

This FormatDoes This
In Standard FormDisplays a hot link to the title and the URL of each document; the first several lines of the document; the size; and the date the document was posted to the web.
In Compact FormDisplays a hot link to the title of each document; the date posted; and the first several words. The information about each document fits on one line.
As a CountDisplays the total number of documents that match the search, without any additional information. This option is available only from the advanced search screen.


Using Keywords to Refine Searches

Both the simple and advanced search interfaces support the use of keywords to restrict your searches to pages that meet specific criteria regarding the structure and contents of a web page. Using keywords, you can search based on a URL or portion of a URL, or based on the links, art, text, and coding that a web page contains. With keywords, you can do useful things such as

To search based on keywords, enter a query in the format keyword:search-criteria where:

You must enter the keyword in lowercase, followed immediately by a colon. The conventions for specifying a phrase in the search criteria are the same as for specifying a phrase in a regular query; the most convenient method is to enclose the phrase in double quotes.

The following tables describe the keywords that AltaVista Personal 97 supports:


title The name of the file
location Full path name, including file name
extension File extension

Exchange Mail/OutLook Mail

author Same as "from"
cc Mail addresses from CC field
conversation Subject of post conversation
custom All custom defined properties
from Mail address of originator
location Folder in which the mail message is stored
recipient Same as "to"
subject Contents of the subject line
title Same as "subject"
to Mail address from the TO field
topic Same as conversation

Netscape Mail/Internet Explorer Mail/Eudora Mail

author Same as "from"
cc Mail addresses from CC field
from Mail address of originator
location Folder in which the mail message is stored
subject Contents of the subject line
title Same as "subject"
to Mail address from the TO field

Netscape Cache

title Contents of the TITLE HTML tag
location Full path name of cached file concatenated with it's associated URL

The url, host, and domain keywords all serve a similar purpose in that they search for URLs based on a specific portion of the URL itself, or on the hostname or domain name where the web page exists.

The link and anchor keywords are similar in that they both look for information about jumps. The link keyword looks for text in a URL that is the target of a jump (for example,, whereas the anchor keyword looks for the actual text of a hyperlink as users would see it on a web page (for example, click here).

The text and title tags both search for the contents of a document itself. The text keyword finds any visible text (other than tags, links, and URLs) within a document, whereas the title keyword restricts the search to text that the document's author coded as part of the <title> tag. The title is what appears in the window banner of your web browser. The title keyword can be a good way to hone your search to only the most significant pages about a topic.

Note that, in the Advanced search interface, you can enter a logical expression (containing any combination of the AND, OR, NEAR and NOT operators) as the search criteria. For example, if you want to find a web page whose title contains both the words spreadsheet and training, you could enter a query in the form

title:(spreadsheet AND training)

For additional information on advanced search operators, see Doing an Advanced Search.


Finds all pages with the words in the URL (the result is a listing of pages advertising volunteer opportunities in the Myagency organization).
Matches pages with host1.myagency in the hostname of the Web server.
Matches pages with the domain name org in the hostname of the Web server.
Matches pages that contain an image tag with a reference to demo_screens.jpg.
anchor:"click here"
Matches pages with the phrase click here in the text of a hyperlink.
Matches pages that contain at least one link to a page with the URL
Finds only external pages containing links to the specified URL (the - operator eliminates pages on the same web server as the page of interest).
Matches pages that contain the word training in any part of the visible text of a page (not in a hyperlink or image tag.)
title:"The Wall Street Journal"
Matches pages with the phrase The Wall Street Journal in the title.
Matches pages containing the Java applet class named NervousText.
author:Fred Flintstone
Matches mail or documents with the author Fred Flintstone entered as the author.
location:"c:\My Documents"
Matches documents in the locations C:\My Documents.
Matches mail messages with the word altavista in the title.


To view a document

AltaVista Personal 97 displays a list of retrieved items that match the query. To view and use the search results:

  1. Click on the title of the document to view it in its native application (for example: Microsoft Word for .doc files).
  2. Click on the path of a file to launch the Outside In Quick Viewer.


The Outside In Quick Viewer must be installed to view files. If Quick View is not available, either your program doesn't support it, or it is not installed on your computer. Quick View is an installable Windows component.

To open a document quickly

  1. Click on the path of a file in the list of files found.
  2. The Outside In Quick Viewer displays the document containing the word or phrase.


The Outside In Quick Viewer must be installed to view files. If Quick View is not available, either your program doesn't support it, or it is not installed on your computer. Quick View is an installable Windows component.

Tips and Tricks

Managing passwords

Displaying results

Changing index settings

Using combinations of words

Using upper-case and lower-case letters

Finding words with special characters

Finding a phrase

Using + and - in searches

Finding a family of words

Limiting your search

Refining a search

Questions and answers

I know a mail in my Exchange folder matches my query, but AltaVista Personal 97 did not find it. Why not?

The following reasons may explain why AltaVista did not find the mail, file, document, or web page:

AltaVista Personal 97 found a page I wanted to look at, but when I attempted to retrieve it, I got an error. Why?

This can occur when the status of the file, message, or the server it is on, has changed since AltaVista last retrieved and indexed it.

AltaVista Personal 97 found some files that do not match my query. Why?

AltaVista indexes the contents of a document as of the day it finds it, or at the time setup for an index build. It is possible that the owner of the document has made some modifications since AltaVista retrieved and indexed it. Even though the original document matched the query, the new version might not. When AltaVista finds a document that does not appear to match the query, the most likely explanation is that it does indeed match, but in some way that is not very obvious. For example:

After installing, I tried to find a phrase that I know is in a document on my hard disk. Why did AltaVista not find it?

This can occur if you have not built an index of the files on your hard disk. Remember, AltaVista Personal 97 needs to have an index created before it can find the phrase.

Contacting AltaVista Software Support

If you have any problems with this software, or want to provide feedback or comments, the following support services are available.

Internet Support

The AltaVista Personal 97 Support forum has been set-up to gather feedback, and is at the following location. Click on Support at this location to get technical support information.

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