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Plain Text Searching

www4mail boasts a sophisticated plain text search system based on the use of a SEARCH keyword. A user can send the following request to a www4mail server:

SEARCH yahoo My search text

When www4mail encounters the search keyword, it internally converts the line to:

GET http://search.yahoo.com/bin/search?p=My+search+text

This line is defined in a special alias' configuration file. What is even more interesting is the behavior when www4mail encounters the use of the SEARCH keyword with a site that is not defined in the alias' cfg file. For example:

SEARCH google My Search Text

Based on some internal heuristic algorithm (used for fixing bad URLs), www4mail will convert google to http://www.google.com. www4mail then obtains the HTML page from the site and searches for the first HTML form. The first empty HTML variable in this form is assigned the rest of the line and the form is submitted. This method works for most search engines; however, an extended syntax of the alias' configuration file permits indicating which form variables and which particular form to obtain when in auto mode. The auto mode also fails for sites that do not have the query form as the first form, or have more than one submit button.

Other possibilities for plain text searching include initiatives like:

  • ILIAD from the NASA/JSC Learning Technologies Project. It allows you to search the Internet by receiving answers in the body of an email message.

  • PageGetter.com also allows you to use email to perform an Internet search via the Web's most popular search engines.

  • Web2Mail is another free service that delivers Web pages and searches the Web by email. The result of a plain text search is always delivered as plain text in the body of the email message.

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