How to: search for topics

You can use the full-text search feature to locate all topics that contain a particular word. You can also refine and customize your search by using wildcard expressions, logical operators, and advanced search operators.

To open the Search tab, choose the Search tab in the Help Viewer window, or if you are a keyboard user, choose Ctrl+E.

  1. In the search box, type the word that you want to find.

  2. In the search query, specify which logical or advanced search operators to apply to the search, if any. To search all available Help, don't use operators.


    In the Viewer Options dialog box, you can specify additional preferences such as the maximum number of search results to display at a time and whether to include English content if your primary locale is not English.

  3. Choose the Enter key.

    A search returns a maximum of 200 hits, by default, and displays them in the search results area. Additional version information for each result may appear, depending on the content.

  4. To view a topic, choose its title from the results list.

Full-text search tips

You can create more targeted searches that return only those topics that interest you, if you understand how syntax affects your query. The syntax includes special characters, reserved words, and filters. This topic provides tips, procedures, and detailed syntax information to help you better craft your queries.

General guidelines

The following table includes some basic rules and guidelines for developing search queries in Help.

Syntax Description
Case sensitivity Searches aren't case-sensitive. Develop your search criteria using uppercase or lowercase characters. For example, "OLE" and "ole" return the same results.
Character combinations You can't search only for individual letters (a-z) or numbers (0-9). If you try to search for certain reserved words, such as "and", "from", and "with", they will be ignored. For more information, see Words ignored in searches later in this topic.
Evaluation order Search queries are evaluated from left to right.

Search syntax

If you specify a search string that includes multiple words, such as "word1 word2," that string is equivalent to typing "word1 AND word2", which returns only topics that contain all of the individual words in the search string.


  • Phrase searches are not supported. If you specify more than one word in a search string, returned topics will contain all of the words that you specified but not necessarily the exact phrase that you specified.
  • Use logical operators to specify the relationship between words in your search phrase. You can include logical operators, such as AND, OR, NOT, and NEAR, to further refine your search. For example, if you search for "declaring NEAR union", search results will include topics that contain the words "declaring" and "union" no more than a few words apart from each other. For more information, see Logical Operators in Search Expressions.


You can further restrict search results by using advanced search operators. Help includes three categories that you can use to filter results of a full-text search: Title, Code, and Keyword.

Ranking of search results

The search algorithm applies certain criteria to help rank search results higher or lower in the results list. In general:

  1. Content that includes search words in the title is ranked higher than content that doesn't.

  2. Content that includes search words in close proximity is ranked higher than content that doesn't.

  3. Content that contains a higher density of the search words is ranked higher than content that has a lower density of the search words.

Words ignored in searches (stop words)

Commonly occurring words or numbers, which are sometimes called stop words, are automatically ignored during a full-text search. For example, if you search for the phrase "pass through", search results will display topics that contain the word "pass" but not "through".

See also

Logical and advanced operators
How to: find topics in the index
How to: find topics in the TOC
Microsoft Help Viewer