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Google Search Engine most confusing Boolean operator is OR

The OR operator, represented by the pipe symbol ( | ) or simply the word OR in uppercase letters, instructs Google to locate either one term or another in a query. Although this seems fairly straightforward when considering a simple query such as hacker or “evil cybercriminal,” things can get terribly confusing when you string together a bunch of ANDs and ORs and NOTs.

Let’s take a look at a very complex example.

intext:password | passcode intext:username | userid | user filetype:csv

This example uses advanced operators combined with the OR Boolean to create a query that reads like a sentence written as a polite request.The request asked of Google would read, “Locate all pages that have either password or passcode in the text of the document. From those pages, show me only the pages that contain either the words username, userid, or user in the text of the document. From those pages, only show me documents that are CSV files.” Google doesn’t get confused by the fact that technically those OR symbols break up the query into all sorts of possible interpretations. Google isn’t bothered by the fact that from an algebraic standpoint, your query is syntactically wrong. For the purposes of learning how to create queries, all we need to remember is that Google read our query from left to right.

The previous query can also be submitted as

intext:(password | passcode) intext:(username | userid | user) filetype:csv

This query is infinitely more readable for us humans.

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