Yes. PicoSearch offers two kinds of Hit Highlighting in the search
results for paid accounts. Free accounts can also test the feature from
the account manager's "Hit Highlighting & Navigation" section.
Introduction to Hit Highlighting
What is hit highlighting? Seen in some web search engines, hit
highlighting is the option to go to a modified version of a web page
from the list of search results, and see the words you are interested in
highlighted with bright colors. This definitely helps users to find
what they're looking for more quickly, and it's even kind of fun.
Drawbacks traditionally include that the user may see an older version
of a page, hits still have to be scrolled to manually in long pages, and
the colors can be distracting with no way to turn them off. Sometimes
the display isn't even right.
PicoSearch has now re-invented hit highlighting in a major new way, just
for the needs of webmasters and focused site search. Limitations of
highlighting have been addressed with never-before-seen functionality
that is fast, accurate, and exciting for users. If this catches on
across the internet, remember you saw it here first!
Try it and see! Let's search for "PicoSearch hits" on this very FAQ that
you're reading. Of course, there will be an unusually large number of
hits, so it's a good test for that highlight off switch too. Click here to try Traditional or Frame Navigation
- Up-to-date results for HTML and text
Hits are calculated live from your site, not from previous (cached) data
that risks showing users old information. This is the most desirable
solution for webmasters, and the process has been optimized for maximum
speed so users won't notice a difference. Future releases will include
more formats like PDF.
- Traditional or Frame Navigation
If you like the usual hit highlighting approach that forces users to
scroll down a single page, the Traditional option is available. At least
in PicoSearch, clicking on a hit from the top will jump to the first
word occurrence. But things get really interesting in Frame Navigation.
An easy-to-use navigation bar shows total occurrences with arrows to
automatically scroll the user to the next hit that interests them most.
Users love it, and webmasters can know that the best information is
being found fast.
- Full accurate integration with your custom search
PicoSearch offers great accuracy and flexibility in search, and so does
the highlighter. When a user types a word, they can find not only the
exact word but also the singular and plural forms, upper or lowercase,
possessives, accented or unaccented, British and American spelling
variants, spelling corrections, phrases, and even your own user
synonyms. All of the hits can be highlighted and found, and in just the
places you want them found. If you're searching drop-down menu items or
skipping parts of navigation, the highlighter will know. If you want to
include or exclude certain files for highlighting, you can set that
- Customizability of appearance and messages
Don't like the standard highlighting colors? Set your own, including
white fonts on dark colors. Need to localize the translation or give
messages tailored to your website? No problem, PicoSearch gives hooks to
set your own text for the various highlighting conditions. Also decide
where the link to highlight appears in your search results, and what it
will be called.
- Users turn highlighting on/off at their convenience
In Traditional hit highlighting, you're kind of stuck. If the colors
annoy you or you're trying to print, you have to open a new window and
find your place without the hits. But in PicoSearch's Frame Navigation
Highlighting, there's even an on/off switch for the highlights that
won't lose your place. The current highlight is still highlit when
scrolling (the highlight highlight!)
Hit Highlighting for Webmasters
Okay, let's get into the details of the hit highlighter's functionality.
To start, see the "Hit Highlighting & Navigation" section of your
account manager, under the "Designing" features. Here you choose all the
essential settings, including which type of highlighter to use, the
placement of the link in the search results, the name of the link, and
the sequence of colors to be used in highlighting. Clearing any input
boxes will restore defaults.
Frames and Link Targeting: Both the
Traditional and Frame hit highlighters work by serving a version of your
site's page from the PicoSearch domain, so that highlights can be
inserted for the search hits. This poses just a few challenges to make
sure that your page and its links behave properly. We try to think of
everything for you, and your site will probably work just fine, but here
are the issues.
If you have relative links on your site, that is links that don't start
with http:// in the URL, then the browser depends on the site they're
coming from to fill in the full address. When the highlighting is coming
from www.picosearch.com, the HTML tag <base> is inserted with
href equal to the URL of your page. This tells the browser that any
relative URLs should be filled in from your site and not PicoSearch.
This should work well for most everyone. But if you already play with
the base tag, or if you have some kind of unusual applet linking that
doesn't get the base, just make sure that your links are all fully
qualified (starts with http:// in the URL).
If you choose the Frame highlighting, make sure your site doesn't mind
code so that other websites can't present your pages as their own. The
solution is easy: you can surround your frame-buster, and anything else
that shouldn't run in the frame highlighter, with <!--
PICOSEARCH_HIGHLIGHT_CUTSTART --> and <!--
PICOSEARCH_HIGHLIGHT_CUTEND --> This will simply remove that section
from the version of your page that will go in the highlighter frame.
Speaking of frame busting, what happens when the user clicks on your
page's links inside the highlighter frame? That's when we do want the
frame busted, so if the user chooses to go on to the rest of your site
from the hit highlighter then they won't be stuck in the highlighter
frame. Again the HTML tag <base> comes to rescue, because it can
take a target="_top" attribute value to target links out of the frame.
But if for some strange reason this doesn't work for you, we have
another solution here.
Special overrides: Here are some tags and args that can override the usual hit highlighter behavior.
<!-- PICOSEARCH_HIGHLIGHT_CUTSTART --> ...
<!-- PICOSEARCH_HIGHLIGHT_CUTEND -->
Put in your page around anything that you don't want to
display or run in the hit highlighter. It's good for removing
<!-- PICOSEARCH_HIGHLIGHT_SKIPSTART --> ...
<!-- PICOSEARCH_HIGHLIGHT_SKIPEND -->
Put in your page around anything that you do want to
display or run in the hit highlighter, but you don't want any hits to
highlight within. The implication here is that for some reason this is
searchable text, but when it comes to highlighting you don't want the
user's attention to go there. If you're using this tag to skip text such
as navigation that probably shouldn't even be in the search results
either, then you can rely on the PICOSEARCH_SKIPALL and PICOSEARCH_SKIPTEXT tags. They can make your search results more accurate (less noisy), and
the highlighter will by default skip them too (unless
mode_skip_skiptags=0 in the customizations, see below).
<input type="hidden" name="hits" value="1">
Even if you have the hit highlighter turned off from your
account manager, you can turn it on from specific search boxes with the
run-time argument "hits". Put this in the scope of your PicoSearch
search box code, and a value of 1 will make the Frame hit highlighter
available in links of the search results for applicable documents. A
value of 2 will make a Traditional highlighter. For controlling which
documents get a highlighter link, see the Add/Exclude URLs feature
Multiple Language Support: The search results page has
translations in many languages available in your account manager's
Results Language section. From these, you choose one to be your default
display language, and then the runtime argument "lang" can invoke
alternate languages for multi-lingual support from different search
boxes. For details, see the language override FAQ.
Since hit highlighting is invoked from the search results page but it is
also a separate feature, it has its own way of supporting multiple
languages. The search results page will pass along your "lang" override,
and the highlighter will use this to match the alternate language
settings that you specify. The value can be anything as far as the
highlighter is concerned, although the value has to be one of the
selectable languages if you're depending on it to also match search
results page translations.
Both the highlight hits link name which you enter in the account
manager, and any customization fields described below, will take
additional text preceded by <lang=(language)> For example, you
could enter in the link name box:
highlight hits<lang=French>mis en surbrillance
Here, the search results page will use this French translation whenever
lang=french. The first text will be used as the default if no language
matches, whether or not it has a language tag of its own.
Customizations: In your account manager's "Hit Highlighting &
Navigation" controls you can also turn on a kind of config file for the
highlighter. Any changes you make from the default values will be
stored and used. Clearing the box restores defaults. This is good for
modifying or translating any of the text instructions of the
highlighter, plus it accesses class styles and behavior modes:
Lastly, note that the highlighting feature uses three new template codes
for customizing the highlight link in the search results. These are
PICO_CLASS_A_HIGHLIGHT and PICO_CLASS_SPAN_HIGHLIGHT (more..), and PICO_TEMPLATE_SEP_HIGHLIGHT (more..)
Click the links for details in the template codes FAQ. In particular,
if you don't like the bullet that appears next to the highlight hits
link in the search results, that is set by the
- arrow_left, arrow_right
- set these to customize the nagivation arrows, including adding any surrounding styles (Frame highlighter only)
- change the grey background color of the top header box
- mesg_loading_frame, mesg_loading_header
- change the two message points displayed while the Frame highlighter is loading
- extra instructions can display at the navigation row (Frame only)
- If the browser says a hit is not visible,
such as in a hidden layer, a box can pop up with this message in the hit
word's color (Frame only). Browsers aren't always this helpful, so if
you have a lot of hidden layer hits, you might consider the
HIGHLIGHT_SKIPSTART tag described above to avoid users wondering where the hit went.
- message displayed when, for some reason, no hits were visible at all for the user to see highlighted.
- message displayed when hits are only found
in one, two or three non-visible page positions which you may have made
searchable from your account manager's Index Options. The location
markers _LOC3, _LOC2 and _LOC1 are where the names of the positions will
be plugged in. These markers are ordered 3, 2, 1 because if there are
two positions the message will say _LOC2 and _LOC1, and so on. The
location names come from mesg_only_menus, mesg_only_metas, and
- If you choose to search the text in
your HTML menus (on by default in your account manager's Indexing Modes
section) then this can present a problem for hit highlighting.
options won't highlight. So any hit that is only found in menus will be
listed in the format of mesg_only using the name from mesg_only_menus.
You can make this blank to never say when a hit is only in menus.
- If you choose to search the meta
descriptions or meta keywords of your HTML pages (off by default in your
account manager's Indexing Modes section) then this can present a
problem for hit highlighting since they won't be visible to the user.
Any hit that is only found in meta data will be listed in the format of
mesg_only using the name from mesg_only_metas. You can make this blank
to never say when a hit is only in metas.
- If you choose to search the titles of
your HTML pages (on by default in your account manager's Indexing Modes
section) then this can present a problem for hit highlighting since they
won't be visible to the user. Any hit that is only found in the title
will be listed in the format of mesg_only using the name from
mesg_only_title. You can make this blank to never say when a hit is only
in the title.
- mesg_terms_frame, mesg_terms_trad
- change the message in front of the hits, different for Frame or Traditional highlighting.
- mesg_toggle_off, mesg_toggle_on
- change the link text for turning hits on/off (Frame only)
- change the description of the hits on/off
link (Frame only). The marker _TOGGLE is where the text will be plugged
in from mesg_toggle_off and mesg_toggle_on
- change the description for the original URL. The marker _URL is where the actual page URL will be plugged in.
- default 0, set to 1 if you need to install the additional frame buster solution here (Frames only of course)
- default 1, set to 0 if you have used the PICOSEARCH_SKIPALL and PICOSEARCH_SKIPTEXT tags in your pages to make some text not searchable, but for whatever
reason when it comes to hit highlighting you want this text highlighted
too. Default is 1 to skip only because the tags are usually for skipping
noisy navigation that you don't want the user's attention drawn to
- list of CSS styles used on the hit totals seen between the arrows (Frame only)
- style_hit, style_focus_hit, style_focus_only
- lists of
CSS styles used on the highlighted hits. Usually, a hit is bolded, a
focussed hit (the current hit in the Frame navigation) is bolded and
boxed, and a focus only hit (seen when highlighting is toggled off) is
A Word about Matches: As mentioned in the introduction above,
PicoSearch will robustly match variations of the search word under the
hit. This is the same as is done in the concordance (text excerpt)
bolding seen in the search results, so it is generally desirable
although it is certainly more highly visible. This includes matching
upper and lower case (automatic), possessives (automatic), accented or
unaccented (Alternate Character Options section), singular and plural
forms (in the section for Synonyms, Spelling, Query Rules), British and
American spelling variants (Set Synonyms & Spelling section), and
even your own user synonyms (Set Synonyms & Spelling section). Most
of these should make perfect sense to hit highlight for the user, but if
you have particularly generous user synonyms (perhaps grouping a
variety of product names) you might want to change the wording of the
highlighter to say something like "Here are the suggested hits for your
search". This can be done in the customizations by the mesg_terms or other settings.
Add or Exclude URLs: The link to highlight hits will be offered
in your search results for every eligible document. The first release of
hit highlighting works for HTML and text files, and later releases will
highlight other formats such as PDFs. But what if you want to force the
highlighter to add or exclude certain documents from highlighter
linking? Just enter those URLs in the Add/Exclude box in your account
manager's highlighting features. The wildcard * can be used to capture
many URLs efficiently, and a minus sign - in front of the pattern will
exclude. With this feature, you can control exactly which search results
can get highlighted by the user.
Password Protection and Security Issues: If you have password
protected areas (members only) on your website, PicoSearch needs to get
in there too for hit highlighting those pages. So your account manager's
highlighting section has the option to "Use Password Protection
settings to access hits". If you entered htaccess or cookie settings in
your Password Protection & Cookies feature for indexing, these
settings can be used for highlighting too, just choose the option.
you turn the option on, BE SURE THIS DOES NOT RESULT in unauthorized
searchers seeing a protected page. If your search boxes are only inside
your protected areas anyway, then you're safe to turn the option on. But
if you keep the option off, or if you never used the Password
Protection settings but rather relied on a special Entry Point to get
PicoSearch into your protected pages, then the hit highlighting will
never work on protected pages because PicoSearch's highlighter can't
fetch them even when the user is authorized! See if you can use the
htaccess and cookie settings to be consistent with hit highlighting.
you must keep the option off but you want to use the highlighter, then
you may need to help PicoSearch know which URLs to avoid for
highlighting. From htaccess settings PicoSearch will know to avoid the
htaccess directory for hit highlighting. Otherwise, if you keep the
option off for cookie settings, or if you relied on a special Entry
Point for protected area access, you should use the highlighter's
Add/Exclude box to exclude the URLs that should never get hit
highlighting. This will prevent users from getting a login page or other
loading failure when they try to highlight a protected page.
We're sorry if that's complicated, please contact us if you need any assistance. We'll be happy to help!