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4.12. Browsing Groups

From the main Google Groups page, you can browse through the list of groups by picking a hierarchy from the front page. You'll see that there are subtopics, sub-subtopics, sub-sub-subtopics, andówell, you get the picture. For example, in the comp (computers) hierarchy, you'll find the subtopic comp.sys or computer systems. Beneath that lie 75 groups and subtopics, including comp.sys.mac, a branch of the hierarchy devoted to the Macintosh computer system. There are 24 Mac subtopics, one of which is comp.sys.mac.hardware, which has, in turn, three groups beneath it. Once you've drilled down to the most specific group applicable to your interests, Google Groups presents the postings themselves, sorted in reverse chronological order.

This strategy works fine when you want to read a slow (i.e., containing little traffic) or moderated group, but when you want to read a busy, free-for-all group, you may wish to use the Google Groups Search engine. The search on the main page works much like the regular Google search; the differences are the Google Groups tab and the associated group and posting date that accompanies each result.

The Advanced Groups Search (, however, looks much different. You can restrict your searches to a certain newsgroup or newsgroup topic. For example, you can restrict your search as broadly as the entire comp hierarchy (comp* would do it) or as narrowly as a single group such as comp.robotics.misc. You can restrict messages to subject and author, or restrict them by message ID.

Of course, any options on the Advanced Groups Search page can be expressed via a little URL hacking ["Understanding Google URLs" in Chapter 1].

Possibly the biggest difference between Google Groups and Google Web Search is the date searching. With Google Web Search, date searching is notoriously inexact; date refers to when a page was added to the index rather than when the page was created. Each Google Groups message is stamped with the day that it was actually posted to the newsgroup. Thus, the date searches on Google Groups are accurate and indicative of when content was produced. And, thankfully, they use the more familiar Gregorian dates rather than the Google Web Search's Julian dates [Hack #16] .

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