Q: I just don't get it. What is this thing doing?

A: It's showing you where each of your chosen keywords occurs within each document that is on the screen. That lets you see at a glance how often your keywords occur in each document, and whether the keywords cluster at a particular place in the document, and so on. That's useful both for finding relevant documents, and for finding relevant sections within long documents.

Q: How does this relate to search engines like Google and Yahoo and Bing?

A: It can act as a front end for them. It can also work as a front end for in-house proprietary search engines.

Q: What does it do that they don't already do?

A: Several things. It lets you assess the relevance of a record much more swiftly than if you were reading the text – you can visualise thousands of words in a single image on your screen. It also lets you see structure within each document, in terms of where your keywords are occurring – are they scattered throughout the document, or clustered in just one part of it, for instance? That's something you can't do with text-only search engines. You can do other things too, like identifying relevant records in a language that you don't speak, if you're a researcher trying to keep up with research in other countries; you can simply use an online translator to translate your keywords, type them in to SV, identify relevant-looking documents, and then run them through an online translator.

There's a lot more you can do, including increased confidentiality if you use it to search sensitive records – you can find relevant records without needing to see any text that isn't relevant to your search.

Q: How have you protected this against being ripped off?

A: The core of it is patented.

Q: What languages and scripts does it handle?

A: The version on this site is the basic version, which can handle anything in standard Roman script (i.e. the alphabet used for English). If you use this version on a language which uses accents (like the French acute accent) then the results may be unpredictable. The SV can handle other scripts, including Cyrillic and Arabic, but results for these may be unpredictable, depending on factors such as how your browser handles them. We are working on this.

Q: Who owns copyright in the images?

A: We retain the copyright in Search Visualizer images, but you’re welcome to use them without fee, provided that you don’t sell the images themselves, or sell products where the SV image is the main feature (e.g. mugs with SV images).

Q: How do I use it?

A: Please see our help page which provides some brief instructions.

Q: What can I use it for?

A: Please see our Why Use SV? page which gives you some ideas of what you can use Search Visualizer for.