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Advanced: Comparing Search Options in the Finder

Almost everything constructors need can be easily done with the basic [Search] button and a few question marks.

Done.

But more is possible. OneLook is an external data set that knows a lot about word meanings and usage and pronunciation. Seeing their results in the context of what XWord Info knows about crosswords can be interesting. RegEx is a specialized syntax that programmers use to do complex matches.

If you're just curious, click the links in the table to see what's possible. They simulate typing the query and hitting the relevant button. If you want to dig in and become an expert, start with the numbered notes below the table. There's a tutorial video below that.

Comparison Table

Description[Search][OneLook][RegEx]Results
1All clues used for GEESEGEESEIncludes Variety & pre-Shortz
2Definition for GEESEGEESEIncludes "related" words
3? for any single letterP??CHP??CH^P..CH$peach, parch, psych, ...
4* for any number of any lettersP*CHP*CH^P.*CH$pitch, patriarch, ...
5ABC in the middle of a word*ABC**ABC*ABClabcoat, crabcake, etc.
6X and Y separated by 2 characters*X??Y**X??Y*X..Ytaxpayer, sextoy, ...
7$c for consonant, $v for vowel$c$c???$v$v$c$c???$v$v^$c$c...$v$v$blondie, chateau, ...
8Square brackets for any enclosed letter[QJXZ]????^[QJXZ]....$quail, jelly, ...
9Hyphen for range of letters[X-Z]?????^[X-Z].....$xrays, zygote, ...
10^ negates letters or range[^A-W]*[^RSTLE]^[^A-W].*[^RSTLE]$year, zoned, ...
11Use only letters following +*+ABCDEFG^[A-G]+$cabbage, facade, ...
12Disallow letters following -*-AEOUY^[^AEOUY]+$diminish, wriggling, ...
13Words related to a topic:CROSSWORDwordplay, oreo, ...
14Combine pattern p* with topic sportsP*:SPORTSpole vaulting, postseason, ...
15Phrases with the word love**LOVE**free love, love bite, ...
16Phrases with word break*t v*exit visa, light verse, ...
17Words containing XX or YY or ZZXX|YY|ZZbuzzkill, antivaxxer, ...
18Words with a Q and V in any orderV.*Q|Q.*Vvicesquad, equivocal, ...
194- or 5- letter palindromes^(.)(.).?\2\1$civic, deed, ...
203 consecutive double letters(.)\1(.)\2(.)\3bookkeeper, sweettooth, ...
21Specify counts using { and }^[a-m]{4,7}[^a-m]{3}$bigfoot, headfirst, ...

Notes:

  1. Enter complete word and click Search to see clues from our own database.
  2. Click OneLook to see definitions from their external data.
  3. The ? for pattern searches is the most common use for any Finder page. Enter the letters you know, and use ? for ones you don't.
  4. The * means any number (including zero) of any letters. It can be combined with ? for complex searches. ??E*F??G?* looks for words where the third letter is E. Somewhere later in the word there's a sequence of F followed by two letters and a G. There is at least one letter after that G.
  5. For searches like this and the previous one, try both Search and OneLook for different results.
  6. * and ? can be combined in searches.
  7. Use $c for any consonant and $v for any vowel. $c is the equivalent of [aeiou] meaning pick one of the letters within the square brackets. $c is [^aeiou] where ^ means not this set. You can also use @ for vowel and # for consonant. The difference is that for @ and #, Y is considered a vowel.
  8. As mentioned, square brackets means any of the enclosed letters. This is the first pattern search that has no OneLook equivalent.
  9. Square brackets can identify ranges of letters instead of lists. In this example, [X-Z] could also be written as either [XYZ] or [^A-W].
  10. Square brackets can occur more than once.
  11. OneLook has nice syntax for only including specified letters. The example here finds words that can be spelled with musical note names. The RegEx link here searches the local database, so its results are different.
  12. The example here finds words where the only vowel is i because the others are excluded.
  13. The OneLook database tries to understand word meanings. (It sometimes makes mistakes.) Enter a topic name after a colon.
  14. You can combine patterns with topics in complex ways. *T*-EO:MUSIC means find words with a letter T but excluding E and O, that are in the topic MUSIC.
  15. OneLook knows about phrases. ** before and after a word means find phrases that include that word.
  16. Since OneLook knows about phrases, it also knows about word breaks within a phrase.
  17. Now we get to the first query that requires RegEx. The vertical bar, called a pipe, means OR. In RegEx, if a query starts with ^, that identifies the start of a word. If it ends with $, that's the end of the word. This query has neither, so we're looking for any words that have any of those specified double letters anywhere.
  18. In RegEx, . means any letter. You'll see some examples that use \w for any alphabetic letter. Since we only have alphabetic letters, . is easier to use. The * after the dot means repeat the previous thing zero or more times.
  19. (.) means any letter but the brackets means it's captured and assigned a number. .? is similar to .* except ? means either 0 or 1 instance of the previous thing. \2 means the second captured sequence, and \1 means the first one. So we have the first letter, the second letter, zero or one more letters, then the second letter again, then the first letter again. The result is 4- or 5- letter palindromes.
  20. This example doesn't have ^ and $ so the sequence can occur anywhere within a word. There aren't many English words with three consecutive double letters, but SUBBOOKKEEPER famously has four. See this puzzle by Tom McCoy.
  21. You can match the previous thing 0 or more times with *, 0 or 1 times with ?, 1 or more times, with +. Or you can use, say, {3} to match three times, {4,7} to match from 4 to 7 times, or {2,} to match at least twice. The example here find words where the first 4 to 7 letters come from the first half of the alphabet, and the last 3 letters comes from the second half of the alphabet.

You can read more about OneLook (blog post) and Regex (intro here).


If you'd prefer to watch a video instead...

This video covers some of the same information. It's not up to date with the latest user interface changes here, but you'll get the idea. It might be easier to see if you click the full-screen button next to where it says vimeo.