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SearchTools Blog

Product Report: WAIS

This is an off-site copy of the corresponding Product report page on the website, and it is designed to allow you to comment on the product and/or the reporting. For more information about the topic of search and tools visit where you can browse many articles, in-depth analysis and overviews of external resources.


"Wide Area Information Server" search engine based on parallel processing search algorithms developed at Thinking Machines in the 1980s. Free source makes this a widely used engine, although I personally don't like the default relevance rankings in the results.

Warning: old versions of WAIS may not be Y2K-compliant: if you're running it, check your code.

  • freeWAWIS-sf An extension of freeWAIS adding structured fields such as number and dates; complex Boolean searches, improved installation and more. This page includes a note about the date problems with versions earlier than 2.0.41.

FrontPage WAIS

Microsoft has included a version of WAIS in various releases of FrontPage.

Articles & Reviews

  • Comparing Open Source Indexers Infomotions Musings; May 29, 2001 by Eric Lease Morgan
    Describes the history and features of eight open-source search engines, freeWAIS-sf (aging code and hard to install, but good for searching email and public domain etexts); Harvest (powerful gathering features for frequently-changing data stores, good with structured documents); ht://Dig (tricky to configure, no phrase searching, automatic stemming and match word highlighting); Isearch (weak documentation and support, easy to install, dated interface, Z39.50 support); MPS Information Server (zippy indexing of both text and structured data, Z39.50 support, Perl API, limited documentation); SWISH-E (simple to install engine, CGIs in Perl and PHP still beta, good for HTML pages, recognizes new META tags, sorts results by field; WebGlimpse (easy to install and configure, requires commercial version for customized output); Yaz/Zebra (mainly Z39.50, no Perl API, mainly a toolkit to index and respond to distributed client queries). Article also points out that chaotic information is less than helpful and encourages organization, structure and vocabulary control.

  • Internet Publishing Handbook: WAIS and Indexing Alternatives

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