Searching Linux Documentation

Basic Help

OMFSearch can help you find information about installing, using, and developing open source software. The search engine offers access to Metalab's collection of OMF (OpenSource Metadata Framework) records. The OpenSource Metadata Framework was developed by the OpenSource Research Team at UNC, Chapel Hill. The idea of the framework is very similar to a library's card catalog. Each record describes a piece of open source documentation: a HOWTO, a guide, etc. The record for a document will tell you useful information about the piece, such as its authors, revision history, scope, etc. It will also tell you where you can retrieve the document. By separating descriptive metadata from the records themselves, we hope that OMF will allow us to build a comprehensive, centralized database of open source documentation that may be distributed around the Internet.

The OMF is based on the Dublin Core element specification. It has 16 fields, a full description of which is available here. Of these, 13 are available for structuring searches:

Creator: [who originally wrote the documentation]
Maintainer: [who is currently maintaining it]
Contributor: [anyone who has worked on the resource]
Title: [the name of the document]
Date: [when the document was made available in its current form]
Version: [date, number, and description for a specific version of the document]
Keyword: [a word or phrase that describes the content of the document]
Description: [a prose description of the document]
Type: [i.e. HOWTO, mini-HOWTO, guide, etc.]
Format: [describes the mime-type of the resource, and DTD info]
Language: [the main language of the resource]
Coverage: [info on the intellectual scope of the resource]
Rights: [copying/distribution policy information]
Because each of these fields is optional and repeatable, not all OMF records will show all of them.

Your search will retrieve any OMF records in our database that have the terms you have requested. They will be ranked, with the records most likely to be relevant at the top of the return list. After your search, you can retrieve the actual documentation by pointing your web browser to the URL specified in the Identifier field of the records.

Search Strategy

Querying the database can be as simple or elaborate as you make it. From the Simple Search page selecting the Full Text option will return documents that show your search term in any OMF field. You may also limit your search to specific fields of the OMF record. For instance, you might search only within the Creator field. You may also define relationships between search terms using Boolean operators (AND, OR, and ANDNOT).

After selecting which OMF fields to search, enter a search term. This may be either a single word or a phrase. For instance, linus is a term; so is linus torvalds. Capitalization doesn't matter here. So Linus and linus get parsed the same.

If you want to query on more than three fields, or if you want to specify precise relationships between search terms, you should use the Advanced search. This interface allows you to query on as many fields as you want, and to specify Boolean relations between terms. The syntax for these queries goes as follows:

field/term boolean_operator field/term etc.
The field declarations shown here are optional, but you probably should use them. Otherwise, the Simple Search is likely to be your best bet. By placing parentheses around terms or sets of terms in the advanced query, you can control things even more:
(keyword/mail and rights/gnu) andnot coverage/X11

This will return all OMF records that contain both the keyword mail and the copying policy GNU (GPL) and do not show X11 as a supported platform.

If this document has not answered your questions regarding the MetaLab Linux Archive, please send email to the Linux Archivist.

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