How can I ensure whether a question that I have has been already asked and answered?

Ask Different currently has a huge and growing collection of questions. How do I effectively search through them, so as to avoid annoying people and find helpful answers?

migrated from apple.stackexchange.com Aug 7 at 6:01

This question came from our site for power users of Apple hardware and software.

up vote 11 down vote accepted

The Stack Exchange network of sites, of which Ask Different is a member are designed to make the process of finding answers quick and simple.

The member sites provide access to easy to use and powerful search tools. Also, the answer discovery is seamlessly interwoven in the process of asking the question itself.

Here's a typical list of steps one can take when seeking an answer on Ask Different, or any other Stack Exchange site for that matter:

  1. Start with the search bar

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Start by typing your query into the search bar. Try to include as many relevant keywords as possible. The search subsystem intelligently performs a textual search over the entire collection of questions. Experiment with variations on keywords and formation of query.

  1. Browse through the search results

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Browse through the presented search results to see if any one of the pre-existing question matches your query.

  1. Advanced Search Tools

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The sites provide access to advanced search operators using which you can quickly sift through the relevant result by specifying tags, section to search, see only results with answer(s) etc.

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As can be in seen in the above example, how using search tools have assisted us in filtering out irrelevant results and quickly arrive at the answer we are seeking :)

  1. Auto suggestions

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A simple but powerful search subsystem is built into the ask question UX. As you type the query title, potential matches are shown just below the text entry field. A number with green background indicates that the question has an accepted answer. Quite often, you'll end up finding answer to your query even before asking :)

  1. Leveraging Web search engines

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The entire collection of questions is crawled and indexed by Web search engines on an ongoing basis. You can also freely choose a search engine of your choice and use its available operator(s) to specify powerful search queries. This can be helpful if you feel Ask Different's built-in search is not yielding helpful results. Often, a lot of folks end up on Ask Different via a Web search.

  1. Related questions

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Sometimes, even after extensive searching, you may feel that you couldn't find an existing query matching your concern. It is worth looking through the related questions shown in a column towards right. Repeated navigation through this section can lead to you better matches.

  1. Asking question

    If the extensive search operation hasn't yielded the desired query in the existing collection, it's time to go ahead and ask your question. For first timers it is advisable to understand what type of questions can be asked and what can't.

    A friendly article explaining how to ask good questions is worth a read too.


This answer is meant to be a newbie friendly guide for discovering existing solutions to queries. A much detailed help article on how to search is available for further perusal.

  • 1
    Brilliant -- how does my question now become an answered question, i.e., have a green box round the number of answers? – NSBarnett Aug 7 at 13:10
  • Once you have one or more answers for your question and you find one of them to be the most suitable answer, you can click on the grey check button besides the count of votes on the answer. That way you indicate that the answer worked for you. Only one answer can be accepted. – Nimesh Neema Aug 7 at 13:21
  • @NSBarnett To learn more about how Ask Different and other Stack Exchange sites in general work, it is advisable to refer the brilliantly written guides available under help center (under ? icon towards top right). – Nimesh Neema Aug 8 at 4:35

@NimeshNeema's answer is great, but I have often found better results by using Google search hacks. (He did mention this but I wanted to add an example).

I enter my question followed by an site:apple.stackexchange.com. See below:

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  • 6
    What difference can an apostrophe make? i.stack.imgur.com/Urzas.png – Nimesh Neema Aug 8 at 4:25
  • @NimeshNeema point taken. – JBis Aug 8 at 10:28
  • 3
    That does seem like a flaw with SE's search engine, though. It shouldn't require correct spelling to find things. – Timothy Mueller-Harder Aug 12 at 4:04
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    @timothymh Deleting this post but please open question on meta. – JBis Aug 12 at 4:40
  • @timothymh Google/Bing etc hav invested a lot more in search than stack exchange so I would expect their searchs to be significantly better – Mark Aug 13 at 13:49
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    I think this is a valid answer, due to SE's search (which arguably could be much better) – Skeleton Bow Aug 15 at 13:06

At the top of the question, page is a search box. Just type in a phrase from an earlier question and the site will search its records. The Ask Different room will only search its questions. And the same for other rooms.

  • 1
    I had to accept Nimesh's answer jmh, as it was so detailed, which is what newcomers need: to get to know the ropes. But thanks for yours. One rope you mention is "room"; I had a question migrated to Ask Different meta, and another put on hold as wrongly directed; does this mean meta is a room, and there are other rooms for different topics? I've been to the tour, and that doesn't mention them. – NSBarnett Aug 7 at 17:24
  • I just used rooms as a way of saying different sies for Q&A. There are many. If you click the three-line icon at top right you'll get a menu option for "More Stackexchange Communities". If you click that you'll get a whole list of the communities or rooms. – jmh Aug 7 at 17:52

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