Search relaunched

We’re very pleased to announce the launch of the latest iteration of our search engine. As indicated in the previous post, there are a range of improvements that users should notice straight away.

  • Improved look and feel, especially on small screen devices
  • Filtering of results by preset refinements (news, events, etc.)
  • Introduction of image search
  • Auto completions that prompt users as they type
  • Introduction of promoted results

The service will be launched with just a few promoted results configured, but requests for new ones can be made through the ITS Service Desk. There will be a governance process to ensure that the value of promoted results is not diluted. General feedback and suggestions about the new service are welcomed via the UserVoice forum, accessed through the feedback button on the search page.

Improvements coming soon

Excited about some coming changes to search at the University of Melbourne!

In a short while (within the coming month), we’ll be upgrading our public search tool. For years, we’ve stumbled along with a ‘free’ Google Custom Search, but this has meant forgoing many features that users take for granted. So, as a first step in the process of implementing an Enterprise Search, we successfully proposed that a paid Google Site Search would deliver some short term gains, as well as providing valuable insights and experience.

Some of the things you’ll notice straight away:

  • Improved look and feel, especially on small screen devices
  • Filtering of results by preset refinements (news, events, etc.)*
  • Introduction of image search
  • Auto completions that prompt users as they type
  • Introduction of promoted results**

* Keen observers will note that this feature used to be available, but had to be disabled due to restrictions imposed by Google under the terms of the ‘free’ search.

** Promotions will be managed via a system of governance that is yet to be formulated. Initial promotions have been generated based on statistics of popular searches, as well as information from the A to Z directory.

In the future, we’ll be looking at other features that we may be able to implement, but we’re hoping that the immediate improvements will be significant, and well received.

And finally, a note for those with the inevitable question – no, this upgrade will not enable searching of ‘private’ (password, token, or network based authentication). The index is all publicly available and cannot be restricted or controlled. This is the key feature of the coming Enterprise Search, however, we’re hoping that this small upgrade will give a taste of what’s to come :-)

A long time dormant

More than three years! Not really good enough, but things are happening on the search front, so it’s time to reactivate this blog and get some information out there.

It’s going to be a big year in Search for the University of Melbourne. After 5 years of what can only be termed a sub standard service, funds have been committed to development of a quality Enterprise Search. Naturally, this won’t happen overnight, it’s a big commitment and it will take time to implement.

The exciting part for our end users is that you won’t need to wait all that long before seeing some improvements. A small portion of funds have been made available to improve our current public search tool. It is, after all, part of what an enterprise search should do, and the experience we’ll gain will help us make better decisions through the course of the project.

Anyway, keep an eye on this blog for updates and information right through the process.

map me

Just snuck in a small, incremental feature on the search engine… a “Campus Maps” facet. So that now when you search you are offered an option to restrict the query to sites known to contain campus map information.

The intention was to implement this a long time ago, but it’s taken literally months for google to fully index the maps.unimelb site.

Improved search queries

Piece by piece we’re trying to improve our google search tool. We can finally announce a few features we think will please you.

Simpler search queries

It’s been a major bugbear that we’ve had to include the long and unfriendly google account codes in our search forms and query strings, however, we’re now inserting these at the server level, so that you  don’t have to do it in your code. This has two effects:

  1. You can create simple url searches like this
    which not only look better, they make sense, are easier to insert and maintain and don’t break in emails.
  2. …and following on from that is simpler search forms. There is an updated include file that you can add to your existing site, and all the template downloads have been amended. It will have no effect at all apart from nice clean code – but what maintainer doesn’t like that?

Smarter search queries

Search by site is commonly requested, happy to say, it now seems to work! You could always manually add something like to your search query and it would restrict to that url, but that’s not much help if you want to create a site search form. To achieve this, simply add this variable into your search form:  <input type="hidden" name="as_sitesearch" value="" /> substituting your own domain/path in the value. Will no longer work when the search engine changes in mid 2013. Whatever you do, DONT use this to turn the search box at the top of your page into a site-restricted search, that will confuse your user – put it in a different place and clearly label it as a ‘your-site search’.

A similar approach can be used to search for particular filetypes. Not a common request, but just to place it on the record, inserting this field:  <input type="hidden" name="as_filetype" value="pdf" />will yield results of pdf files only again, will not work in the updated search engine.

Search tweaks

This morning we made some changes to the University’s google search tool which will deliver us more control and fix an annoying bug or two. Impact is expected to be virtually nil – users should not experience any degradation of service, but the following features should be added.

  • The search term will remain in the input field
  • Faceted searches will be introduced (initially News, Events, Experts)
  • Domains outside, but still part of the University can be added
  • We can start gathering stats on our searches
  • Greatly simplified search query syntax

The added control this change will give us means that we will be able to add more features over time. We’ll let you know as they happen.

Advanced searching

For a little while at least, it seems like the ‘interim’ search is going to stay. So we might as well get to know it a bit better! Some people have complained about the lack of features compared to the old search engine, but I can assure you that they are still there, just not as obvious as before.

If you’ve ever used the advanced search operators in Google, then you’ll be pleased to know that they work here too. Check out this Google Cheat Sheet, which gives you a few simple tools that allow you to conduct more powerful searches. The only things that don’t work on our local search are the ‘calculator operators’.

Search engine woes

You wouldn’t need to be observant to have witnessed the anguished death throes of our Ultraseek search engine this past fortnight. It’s been up again, down again many times – at the moment it’s displaying some sort of awful error output. Not a good look.

As most of the University’s templated pages point to this search engine, I’ve been very keen to release a replacement include file so that everyone can update their sites, but one last piece in the puzzle has been holding me up for months.

I give up! This zip file contains a number of interim include files that will update pages on the new ’07’ standard template as well as the old ‘blue curve’ standard template. Site admins should copy the files to their appropriate folders, (perhaps keep a backup of the old files!).

Download the new include files.

What do you mean, ‘interim’?

As soon as the aforementioned piece of of the puzzle falls into place, a new version of the include files will be released. It will sport a much simpler URL which will provide longevity to our search engine. The interim include will not stop working any time soon, but when the next/final include is released, it should be updated.

The files have been tested and are working in two sites, so as long as your templates haven’t been messed with too much, you should have no troubles. All the same – remember what I said about backups ;-)


Welcome to the search engine blog.We have created this fine blog in to keep all those people interested in search (yes, both of you!) up to date with what is in the works for will notice that there is a Google customised search now available at Over time this engine will be modified to provide a range of exciting options, finally becoming self-aware in 2011.

Number of posts found: 19