April 2020 - this page is in the process of getting updated. Some sections and tools are yet to be added and other ones are still missing details.
While Google is the most popular search engine, it is not the only one. There is no “best” search engine as it depends on what you are looking for. Every search engine has it’s own database of web pages (called an index), method of ranking pages (algorithm), and various features, and it is worth trying others out.
By default, Google includes results that do not exactly match your search terms. The “Google — verbatim” tool finds more exact matches.
Bing (by Microsoft) is the second most popular search engine. Yandex is very good as well, and is the most popular in Russia.
Qwant’s results come partly from Bing, but it does have it’s own index. Qwant is popular in France, where Exalead is also based.
Amazingly, Gigablast is run by a single person, and Mojeek is run by a very small team in the UK.
iseek.ai is a small search engine which allows you to narrow down your results by several attributes including topic groupings (similar to Yippy).
Another option is YaCy, a distributed search engine that is built by software running on the computers of its users. You will have to download it to use it.
You will have a much better time finding what you are looking for if you learn some of the special keywords and symbols that search engines use. The most common is to include "quotation marks" around a phrase, and all major search engines support this. Another common one is to put a minus symbol before a word to exclude it, such as -excluded.
Learn more about these (known as search syntax and search operators) for each search engine: Google (not all are listed on their own site, see a more complete list), Bing (and more Bing), Yandex (and more Yandex), Qwant, Exalead, and Gigablast.
Alternative search engines
These are tools which (mostly) do not have their own database of web pages to search. Instead, they use others’ while providing different features. All those listed here aside from Startpage and Biznar display results at least in part from Bing.
- DuckDuckGo is the most popular of these alternative search engines. Features include instant answers and bangs. See also DuckDuckGo search help. Results are mostly from Bing, but depending on what you search for may come from other sites as well as their own index.
- Ecosia is the most popular cause-based search engine. A portion of their revenue is donated to help plant trees. Their results are from Bing.
- eTools.ch is the only meta search engine included above. Meta search engines combine results from multiple other search engines, and were more common before Google dominated the industry.
- Biznar (not included above), is another meta search engine, combining results from over 70 sources for news, data, business, and more; mostly United States and global sources. It has filters to narrow your results by source, topic, date, format, author, etc.
- Startpage’s results come from Google, with the main difference being how they handle your privacy.
- Peekier’s results come mainly from Bing. What really makes them different is the large previews of each web page.
- Swisscows’s results come from Bing, although they do have their own index if you use their German-language version. While most search engines have an option to filter adult content, Swisscows attempts to always exclude it.
- Yippy’s results appear to come mostly from Bing, and their main feature are the topic groupings (similar to iseek.ai) that can help you narrow down the results.
Privacy and personalization
Many search engines now claim to make privacy a central feature. These search engines may also offer less personalization, which is when they use what they know about you to affect the ranking of results. These privacy-focused search engines includes Qwant, Mojeek, DuckDuckGo, eTools.ch, Startpage, Peekier, Swisscows, and Yippy. If privacy concerns you, read the policies of each search engine or read the reviews by Restore Privacy.
In addition to the search engines listed above, another privacy-focused one is Searx. Searx does not have a single website. Instead many people have set up their own copies of Searx, so you can visit the list of Searx instances to find one to use.
Filtered search engines
Million Short, which shows results from Bing, has a few options to filter the results. They exclude the most popular websites, which helps to surface pages which you may not otherwise come across. Here, it is set to exclude the top 10,000 sites, although you can adjust this from the results page.
Million Short also has an option to exclude e-commerce sites (here labelled “non-commercial”), which does not always work perfectly but may still be useful.
Non-English search engines
These search engines do not have an English version, but are useful when looking for information in other languages and regions. Some of the search tools listed in other sections are based in non-English-speaking countries, such as Qwant which is French.
In China, Google is not available. Baidu is the most popular search engine, followed by Shenma, however Shenma is not available from their website. Sogou and Haosou are also used.
In Russia, Yandex is the most popular search engine, followed by Google, with Mail.ru in third.
In Iran, Parsijoo is the second most popular search engine after Google.
In South Korea, Naver is the second most popular search engine after Google. Daum is used as well.
In Vietnam, Cốc Cốc is the second most popular search engine after Google.
In Bangladesh, almost all searches are run on Google, however Pipilika seems worth trying as well.
In Czechia, Seznam is the second most popular search engine after Google.
Wolfram|Alpha is an incredible tool that stands in a category of its own. It does a great job of understanding what you have typed in, and then organizes its own data and calculates a response. To get an idea of what it can do, see the Wolfram|Alpha tour.
Wolfram|Alpha is used by Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistants. Most virtual assistants cannot be accessed online, however you can use Echosim.io to try out Alexa online. You will need to be logged into an Amazon account.
The Google Translate tool here is set to translate from any language into English. To translate into another language, visit their site directly.
Wikipedia hardly needs an explanation. You can read all about it on the Wikipedia article. As with anything that you read anywhere, you should verify the information using multiple sources if using it for anything important. Wikiwand is a copy of Wikipedia, but with a nicer design for reading.
The largest language versions of Wikipedia are included here or in the Asian encyclopedias section, ordered by size.
Encyclopædia Britannica is the most comprehensive traditional encyclopedia. Not all of the content is free to access, however you may be able to get the non-free parts through your local library.
World Book Online (not included above) is not free, but your local school may have access to it. It includes several versions of the World Book Encyclopedia (for different age groups) as well as other books.
Encyclopedias — Asia
These are encyclopedias (mostly Wikipedia) in various Asian languages.
While Wikipedia has a Chinese version, it is blocked in China itself. As a result, there are two similar sites, Baidu Baike and Baike.com, both of which are larger than the Chinese Wikipedia. Baike.com is listed here but is not entirely like an encyclopedia, as it includes content that is not neutral, lacking citations, etc. Baike.com is owned by ByteDance, makers of TikTok.
LibGuides (not included above) searches for guides made by librarians on how to do research on specific subjects.
WikiLeaks is a not-profit organization which publishes leaked information from anonymous sources.
iseek.ai Education combines results from a number of sources including Khan Academy, Project Gutenberg (books), and web pages and certain PDF files.
Guinness World Records holds many records, although not all are listed on their website. You will need to create an account in order to view these search results.
Global-Regulation is a database of laws and regulations from many countries and subnational entities. Laws which are not in English are machine translated so that they are searchable. It is a subscription-based site, however you can do 4 searches for free.
Questions and answers
These are sites where anyone can ask a question, and anyone can answer it. Quality of the answers varies. Your local library most likely also offers a question answering service, and it is probably available online and over the phone.
Quora is the best general-purpose site. StackExchange is a network of many question and answer sites, each for a different subject area, with the most popular being technical subjects. Reddit, listed above under social media also includes questions and answers.
Brainly is used for homework help.
Yahoo Answers and Answers.com are popular but contain lots of poor answers.
Non-English questions and answers
These are question and answer sites in languages other than English.
These web hosts are widely used publishing platforms that anyone can use. While many of their pages can be found in Google, many others cannot. These search tools are not as good as Google at putting the most relevant results first, but they do have content you may not be able to find anywhere else.
The Wordpress.com search tool finds pages and blog posts published using their service, including those not using the wordpress.com domain name. After searching you can switch to sorting results by date if you prefer.
Medium is a blog-hosting service. Wikidot is a wiki-hosting service, also known as a wiki farm.
See also social media.
These are sites where you can search the full-text content of books, not just the title, author, and other metadata. Many other books, full-text and otherwise, can be found in the libraries and archives sections.
Details about the below sites, and additional sites are coming soon.
Publications and documents
The sites here may include books, magazines, newsletters, brochures and catalogues, articles, presentations, and a variety of other documents. Other than PDF Drive, they all allow individuals and publishers to add content to their sites, typically by uploading files in PDF and other formats.
- PDF Drive crawls the web (like Google and other search engines), to find PDF files.
- Scribd is not free to access. You can either pay to subscribe or upload your own documents in order to access the ones they already have. Their catalogue is larger than the other sites listed here due to their relationships with publishing companies, and they include audiobooks and sheet music as well.
The “Google by format” tool uses Google to search for files in various file types used for text documents, including Portable Document Format (.pdf), Microsoft Word (.doc and .docx), OpenDocument Text (.odt), Rich Text Format (.rft), PostScript (.ps), TeX (.tex), and Corel WordPerfect (.wpd). You will need to download software to view files in some of these formats.
The “Google by site” tool uses Google to search on all the sites in this section (except for Scribd as it is not free), along with Google Docs, Publitas, Joomag, Flipsnack, and Foleon.
SlideShare, Prezi, and Slides are sites for sharing slideshow presentations. Presentations may also be found in the publications and documents section.
The “Google by format & site” tool uses Google to search for files in presentation formats (PowerPoint, Keynote, and OpenDocument Presentation), and on slide-sharing websites including the ones listed above as well as Google Slides, Notist, and Speaker Deck.
Academic search engines
More details about these tools is coming soon.
These tools find journal articles, conference proceedings, theses, posters, and other academic works.
To find a freely-available version of a paper where one exists, use Google Scholar Button, Unpaywall, Lazy Scholar, Open Access Button, or Kopernio. All of these work as browser extensions, although Open Access Button can also be used directly from their site.
Look up a paper on PubPeer to see or add comments to it.
If you are looking for a particular journal, find it on JournalSeek (not included above).
Open access academic
Details about these tools is coming soon.
Paid and library databases
Details about these tools is coming soon.
Libraries and archives
Libraries and archives contain tons of records that are often not available on Google. Some of the sites here may include items from galleries and museums as well. They include many records which are freely available online, as well as ones which are only available to their members. They may also contain records that are only available in-person.
So many are included here that there are separate sections for libraries and archives in Europe, Asia, and the Americas. See also List of national and state libraries and List of national archives on Wikipedia.
Worldwide archives and libraries
- WorldCat, run by the OCLC, is the combined catalogue of over 10,000 libraries, in almost every country. It includes about 2 billion items. For each item, it will show you the closest library which has it, including for online and downloadable resources.
- ArchiveGrid is also run by the OCLC, and most (but not all) of what it has is also in WorldCat. ArchiveGrid is specifically focused on unique archival content. In some cases you can find individual records, but many items are descriptions of collections of non-digitized records.
- While the Internet Archive is best known for storing copies of web pages, it also has vast collections of books and texts, movies, software, music, and images. Unlike the search from their home page, this searches the full-text contents, not just titles and other metadata.
- Google Books includes books (over 25 million), magazines, and newspapers, many with their full text searchable. Some of these are available entirely for free, some allow you to preview a portion, and others provide only metadata. See also their advanced search.
- The World Digital Library is run by the Library of Congress and UNESCO, and has items from institutions around the world.
- Google Arts & Culture has content from museums and galleries.
Spanish and Portuguese language
The sites below combine Spain, Portugal, and the countries in the Americas which speak Spanish and Portuguese. Together these are known as Ibero-America.
Africa and the Middle East
Trove combines results from libraries across Australia. See also the National Archives of Australia, which is not included above.
Libraries and archives — Europe
These tools here are libraries and archives located in Europe. European content can also be found in the international sites, especially Spain and Portugal. Because of the former power and colonialism of some European countries, their archives also include content about many countries outside Europe.
- Europeana is an enormous collection that includes content from libraries, archives, and museums across Europe, and European content from non-European organizations.
- Osmikon is a German-language site covering Eastern, Eastern Central and South Eastern Europe. Access to a lot of the content may be limited to people in certain institutions.
- See also European History Primary Sources (EHPS), which is not included above.
United Kingdom and Ireland
- The National Archives of the United Kingdom
- The British Library is the largest library in the world. Some of its content can also be found in Europeana.
- Jisc Library Hub Discover is a combined catalogue for many libraries in the UK and Ireland. Access is limited to members of academic institutions or people on-site at the libraries.
France and Germany
- Gallica is run by Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF), the National Library of France. Much of its content is included in Europeana. It includes a lot of content about places outside of France.
- The Catalogue collectif de France (CCFr) searches through the catalogues of many libraries and archives across France, and is not included above.
- Archives Nationales (France)
- Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek (DDB, German Digital Library) is partly included in Europeana.
Libraries and archives — Americas
These tools here are libraries and archives located in the Americas, so they predominantly hold content about their own countries. There is also content about the Americas in international and European libraries and archives.
NewspaperCat (not included above) is a searchable directory of newspapers from the United States and the Caribbean.
- The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) combines the collections of many organizations, including the Library of Congress, National Archives, the Smithsonian, and other national, regional, and state institutions.
- Also included above is the Library of Congress itself. It is the second-largest library in the world. Unlike the search from their home page, the tool here includes all their materials, not just the ones fully available online.
- The United States National Archives
The Caribbean, Central and South America
See the Spanish and Portuguese-language sites above which include most countries in the Americas.
Metabase is a library catalogue for countries in Central America (including Mexico) including books, academic papers, articles, and other items. It is not included above as you must fill out a form to request access to any record.
The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) includes content from a number of Caribbean countries as well as the United States, Mexico, and Brazil.
Libraries and archives — Asia
These tools here are Asian libraries and archives, so they predominantly hold content about their own countries. Most (outside of India) will not be in English. There is also Asian content in the international archives as well as those of other countries such as the UK and Australia.
CrossAsia includes content mostly from China, Japan, and Korea. Their primary search includes just the metadata (such as titles), and much of it is not available online. Their full text search is a separate set of content that does not include Korea, and access is limited to academic institutions in Germany. The site itself is available in English.
- The China Academic Digital Associative Library (CADAL) has several million digitized books, however only their metadata is searchable. There is a limited English-language version of the website, which you can switch to.
- The Chinese Text Project is a full-text search of pre-modern Chinese text.
- Cross Search, by the National Archives of Japan, is a shortcut to searching several archives including their Digital Archive, the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records (JACAR), and several others. Many titles have been translated to English, so some English searching is possible.
- Japan’s NDL Search includes content from multiple libraries, archives, museums, etc., including the National Diet Library itself. You can actually search in English, and it will translate your words into Japanese to run the search.
See also CrossAsia’s Online Guide East Asia and the list of East Asian resources from Heidelberg University.
- On the National Digital Library of India, access to the content may be restricted to members of academic institutions in India.
- Abhilekh Patal is the site of the National Archives of India. Access to the content is limited to Indian citizens.
- Granth Sanjeevani is the digitized contents from the Asiatic Society of Mumbai, which includes books, newspapers, manuscripts, maps, and other items, mostly in English, as far back as the 15th century. A paid subscription is required to view the content.
The Asean Digital Library searches the metadata of collections from the national libraries of Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The Philippine eLib tool here is filtered to only content with full text available online, although access to some is limited. See their website directly to include results that are not available online.
Engines by recency
These options use either Google or Bing, filtered to only show results which have been created or updated within the given time frame. You can specify a more precise date range from the results page. Some other search tools on this page also offer date filters.
News search engines
These tools gather news articles from hundreds or thousands of news sources.
- Google News groups together articles on the same topic.
- Yahoo News
- Newslookup.com by default shows articles from the past 36 hours, but you can change the time filter and include articles back to 2000. They have a lot of additional search filters and options if you click the arrow just to the left of their search box on the results page.
- NewsNow is based in the UK, but has good international coverage as well.
- Bing News
- PressReader is a paid site (also available from many libraries), but it does include many articles which are free to read.
- Knewz is run by News Corp.
- One News Page has good coverage, just be wary of all the advertising on the site, and note that when you click on a headline, you then need to click on “View full article.”
IBM Watson News Explorer is a bit different. It extracts topics, people, companies, organizations, and locations, and visualizes their relationships. The graph visualization and a map of the news can be used to filter the results. Content is limited to the past 30 days. Media Cloud is similar and offers even more tools for analyzing the news.
Factual News Search uses Google and limits the results based on the reviews of news sources on Media Bias/Fact Check. Here it is set to include only sources rated as having the “least-bias” and “very high” factual reporting.
See also news videos on Video search.
News archives — free
News from about the year 2000 and more recent can be found on Newslookup.com and some of the other news search engines. The tools in this section are free collections of mostly digitized newspapers. Digitization means that newspapers on paper or microform (microfilm or microfiche) are scanned or photographed. The images are then converted to text using optical character recognition (OCR), which is what enables searching by keyword. OCR is not perfect, especially for older newspapers. One useful strategy is to take into account common OCR errors when searching.
Every newspaper archive is a collection of various individual newspapers across various years. Any one newspaper may have some years available through several sites, other years available through a different site, and some years not yet digitized.
Many significant newspaper archives are only available from paid and library services. There are also newspapers in many of the libraries and archives, including those that have never been digitized and are only available in-person.
Elephind.com searches through a large number of collections of newspapers from the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.
Europeana has full text newspapers from various European countries including Germany and the Netherlands. It also has other newspapers with only their article titles searchable, from France, Poland, and elsewhere. These two sets of newspapers can only be searched separately.
The Internet Archive’s newspapers collection includes a variety of papers from around the world.
Newspapers on Google Books include those from a number of countries countries. You can browse the full list of titles but if you want to search use the first link or this page, as searching does not work properly from the second link.
The Library of Congress tool here includes all Library of Congress newspaper collections aside from Chronicling America. This includes a few from the United States, but also listings of what other non-digitized newspapers are held by the library including ones from around the world.
United States archives
Despite the name and its focus on New York, Old Fulton New York Post Cards (Fultonhistory.com) includes newspapers from all around the United States, as well as a handful from Canada and a few other countries. This incredible service is the work of a single person. The tool used here is FultonSearch, which offers some advantages over the search engine available on Fultonhistory.com. The results may not be identical, so try their search as well.
Chronicling America, from the Library of Congress is one of the largest newspaper collections and is also included in Elephind. It covers the years 1789 to 1963, but there are limited newspapers after 1923. Most newspapers are in English but there are some in German, Spanish, and other languages.
SmallTownPapers (not included above) does not have a method to search all newspapers at once, you will have to find a specific newspaper to then search within it.
Other country archives
To search on Hemeroteca Digital from the Brazilian national library (not included above), you must select a specific newspaper to search within.
On Hemeroteca Nacional de México, some newspapers are available everywhere, and some require you to be at the library.
Trove, from the National Library of Australia, is also included in Elephind.
More newspaper archives
There are many more newspapers archived online, that are only available individually or in smaller collections. See List of online newspaper archives on Wikipedia, and Newspaper links from The Ancestor Hunt.
News archives — paid/library
Many large collections of digitized newspapers are only available for a fee (usually a subscription), or through libraries. ProQuest, Gale, and other tools listed under paid and library databases also include news archives. Check your local library to see which services they subscribe to. See also free news archives above for more on how to search.
NewspaperArchive.com includes newspapers from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany and other counties. Their newspapers can also be found on Findmypast.
The “Google by site” tool uses Google to find pages on both NewspaperArchive.com and Newspapers.com. If you search directly on those sites without a subscription, you can’t view the results, but using Google this way allows you to see them somewhat and to view their text.
Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Findmypast are all genealogy sites which include newspaper archives. If you are searching for people, you should do the searching from their sites, which are more suited to that purpose.
Ancestry runs Newspapers.com, which includes newspapers from a handful of countries including the United States and United Kingdom. The newspapers on Ancestry.com are not all the same ones, so that search is also included above. See their site for a list of included countries. On Ancestry, you can see the search results without subscribing, but you will not be able to open them.
The newspapers on MyHeritage (not included above) include many from the United States (including those from Chronicling America), Canada, Australia, the Netherlands, and some others.
Findmypast includes newspapers from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and other countries. Their United Kingdom newspapers are the same as those in The British Newspaper Archive, and their ones in other countries are mostly from NewspaperArchive.com.
Gale (owned by Cengage) is only available through libraries. It includes newspapers from at least the United States and United Kingdom.
PaperOfRecord.com (not included above), includes newspapers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, and a number of other countries. Your library may have access or you can pay to subscribe.
The British Newspaper Archive includes the same newspapers as Findmypast does for the United Kingdom. Your library may have access or you can pay to subscribe.
NewsBank (not included above) includes newspapers from the United States, and is only available through libraries. They also run NewsLibrary.com, which is news from 2003 and later, where you can get articles by buying a subscription or paying per article. NewsBank is included within the results from the EBSCO service listed under paid and library databases.
Accessible Archives (not included above) includes United States newspapers from the 18th and 19th centuries.
East View (not included above), includes news from mostly non-English-speaking countries. It is described in paid and library databases.
In addition to the tools listed here, newer magazine content can be found under news search engines and publications and documents, and older magazine content under paid and library databases and libraries and archives.
These tools search the full text of magazine articles:
Long-form articles are about 1,000 to 2,000 words. Longform and Longreads are two sites that list long-form articles from various publications, including magazines.
The “Google with keywords” tool uses Google but adds keywords and phrases to help you find databases or other large collections of information.
re3data.org (the name comes from “registry of research data repositories”) lists over 2,000 repositories of academic data from around the world covering a wide range of topics.
Graphs and charts
Details about these tools is coming soon.
Details about these tools, and addition tools, is coming soon.
The dark web is web content only available with specific software or configuration. See dark web on Wikipedia for more. The dark web includes a lot of illegal, illicit, and adult content, but is included here as there is useful content as well. Read up on the dark web before accessing it.
The search engines below are “clearnet” (not dark web) sites, however their results are on the dark web. They are Tor (.onion) sites which can be accessed using the Tor Browser or by a proxy that displays the page on the clearnet.
- OnionLand has a cached version of each result. They also provide links to open each using one of a number of proxies, although many of them may not be working at any given time.
The following search engines do not have a clearnet version, and are included here using a proxy, Onion.ws.