Searching and browsing on the AO3

Published: 2012-11-08 02:51:00 -0500

We have shiny new tag filters and a new, improved Advanced Search form! See below for a few tips searching and browsing on the new-look AO3!

Browsing via tag filters

The new tag filters look similar to our old tag filters, but they have lots of greatly-improved code behind the scenes, and a few visible tweaks to improve performance. You can use the filters to browse for works on the AO3 - see below for a few tips on how they work and how to find what you want.

Select a fandom

The first step of browsing is to select a fandom to help us narrow down the results. (If you're going in search of crossovers, then just pick one of the fandoms you'd like to see included in the crossover - you can add the others later.) You can also filter from a Character or Relationship tag to start with a narrower selection, or even an Additional Tag, such as Kinks.

Narrow down your results

Once you've selected, for example, a fandom, you can narrow down your results further by filtering by Rating, Warning, Category, Fandom, Character, Relationship, or Additional Tags. The filter boxes will show the ten most popular tags for each category. This is different to the old filters, which showed all the tags for each category; this created impossibly long filter options and was a drain on performance, which is why we've limited the options.

If the tag you want isn't showing in the filters, you have two options:

  1. Type the tag you're looking for in the 'Other Tags' box. Some suggestions will come up in autocomplete to help you out, but if what you want isn't among the suggestions, you can type it in yourself. (Note that tags that don't appear in the autocomplete are non-canonical and may not always give expected results.) All types of tags can be mixed and matched: John Luther (character), The Losers (2010) (fandom), Crossover (additional tag) can all be entered in the same text field and will all be factored into your filter results.
  2. Select some options from the available choices to narrow down your results, then filter again. For example, if you start with Stargate - All Series you'll get filters showing the top ten characters across the whole of the Stargate universe, including characters from Stargate SG-1 such as Teal'c. If you select 'Stargate Atlantis' and filter again, the filters will show you only the top ten characters from Stargate Atlantis. You can drill down to get more and more specific filter results.

Please note that selecting multiple options in the filters will always produce an AND search - so if you select 'Naruto', 'Bleach', 'Mature' you'll get works tagged with Bleach AND Naruto AND with the Mature rating. If you want to add OR or NOT options to your browsing, you'll need to use the 'Search within results' option.

Search within your results

A search box has been added to the filter sidebar that mirrors the search box at the top of every page. It will search all types of tags plus summaries and notes for the keywords you put in, and narrow down the results to only those matches.

Unlike the ticky boxes and the autocomplete field, this search box allows to you to generate results containing one thing OR another, not both of them. So, ticking 'Thane Krios' and 'Liara T'Soni' on the Mass Effect page will find you only works that contain both characters. Leaving the tickies alone and entering Thane OR Liara in the search field will find you works with one or the other or both. You can ticky any of the other boxes, e.g. only Explicit works and only F/M pairings, to narrow down your search results, and pick a sorting option. Note that this field only searches within your selection, so if you're already on a fandom page, adding unrelated fandoms in an OR search won't add works from these fandoms to your results.

Conversely, you can use the NOT search operator (or the minus sign "-") to specify things you don't want to see in your results. So, for example, on the Death Note page you could ticky "Mature" in the Rating options and "L/Yagami Light" under Relationship, and then enter -"major character death" or NOT "major character death" into the search field. This will exclude works with that warning.

Sort your results

You can use the drop-down box at the top of the filters to order your results. This replaces the sort options which used to show at the top of your list of results - we've moved them into the filters so that we could include a lot more options. As many users have requested, you can now sort by the numbers of kudos and comments a work has received and the number of times it was bookmarked, in addition to word count, hits, title, date posted, and date updated.

One downside of moving this to the filters is that you can't reverse sort order (e.g. starting with low word counts instead of high) with a second click on the button anymore. However, you can now browse through all the works returned with a given search, so you can go to the last page of results and work backwards to get the same effect.

Filter bookmarks

You can now browse bookmarks using the filters! First select a fandom, then hit the 'Bookmarks' button on the page of results. You can then use the filters in much the same way as if you were browsing a list of works, but you'll find two additional options: you can browse Recs only, and you can choose to show only bookmarks with notes. Note that you don't have the same sorting options as for works (kudos, hits, title etc.), as those belong to the work, not a bookmark. You can, however, sort by the date the bookmarked item was updated and by the date the bookmark was created.

Another much-requested improvement is the ability to filter your own personal bookmarks. You can use all the same filter options when looking through bookmarks you created, and sorting by Date Updated will show you at a glance which of your bookmarked works has new chapters waiting for you. Hurray!

Advanced work search

Advanced search is still much the same behind the scenes, but the search form has been radically redesigned to make it easier to access the Archive's powerful search capabilities. Upon popular request, we've also added sorting options to your search results! By default, best matches will be listed first; you can change the sorting order before submitting your search by picking another option from the drop-down menu.

Search fields

The search fields are now grouped into topical chunks roughly along these lines:

  • General information about the work (title, author, language, posting date, completeness, etc.)
  • Tags attached to the work (ratings, warnings, fandom, characters, additional tags, etc.)
  • Stats concerning reader interaction (hits, kudos, comments, etc.)

Each section is broken down into separate fields for each kind of tag (Fandom, Character, etc), with ratings, warnings, and categories displayed in the form of a drop-down menu and checkboxes. You can choose to enter options in all these categories, or just in one, to get precisely what you're looking for.

Where applicable, an autocomplete will suggest tags as you type. If the autocomplete doesn't offer the option you want, you can type it as free text.

Boolean searches

By default, each search term you enter will be searched for as an AND search, i.e. will be treated as if you're looking only for a work that has ALL these things.

If you want to exclude some terms, or look for works containing one term OR another, add your search terms to the 'Any field' and use the search operators NOT (or minus sign: -) and OR (or two pipe symbols: ||). All spaces between search terms will automatically be interpreted as the AND operator, although you can also add the AND if you like.

Searches with quotes

Search terms consisting of more than one word, such as "Riza Hawkeye", or containing characters like / or -, such as "X-Men", will return more accurate results when surrounded by quotes.

We plan to add more enhancements to search and browse in the future, but we think this new system will be much more flexible and useful than before. Happy browsing!