Telling a computer what to search for is a complicated business. Many of you are used to the SPIRES syntax with all its power and quirks. We’ve worked hard to retain the search syntax you are familiar with as well as allowing for a new Google-style search syntax.

What you might not realize about SPIRES syntax is that is actually the database query language. When you search SPIRES, you are searching the raw data. The language is actually incredibly powerful and only a few people even know all the possibilities it has. But because of that power, there are many ways to search and different people become fond of different ways.

Moreover, a search system must interpret the values you type in your search queries. It would not be reasonable to expect you to type query strings with raw data exactly as it occurs in the database. When you search SPIRES, the search system `massages’ the values you enter, trying to recognize various date formats, or incomplete article numbers, or trying to tell author first names from family names. INSPIRE uses different search technology than SPIRES also in this respect. To reproduce SPIRES search experience in INSPIRE therefore means not only to support SPIRES search syntax per se, but also to perform the SPIRES style of query value massaging, again with all its power and its quirks.

Most individuals, we find, use a small subset of functions of the SPIRES database query language, but different people tend to use different subsets.

That means we had to built in a translator for SPIRES query language into INSPIRE. Unfortunately, that is a daunting task with limited returns at some point. We know that some you use some fairly obscure feature of SPIRES that is rarely used overall and that would be extremely demanding to port to INSPIRE so we might not be able to provide every single search syntax that you use. However, we have scoured our search logs to ensure that a very high fraction of you will be able to use identical syntax as you transition from SPIRES to INSPIRE.

We urge you to try out the new INSPIRE syntax as well as you’ll find it is just as powerful and has extra features because of how the underlying Invenio engine uses the ideas of papers being described by logical fields and their values, as opposed to SPIRES method for handling search.

Take a look at the information about the new kind of search here, or just experiment with it yourself. Please let us know your search experiences, either with the SPIRES or the INSPIRE search methods. Hearing about your search experience will enable us to improve it!

One Thought on “Syntactically speaking

  1. Not connected to this post, but …

    the link to the blog on the right hand side of the inspirehep.net page is broken.

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