Despite the myriad of features in Sherpa Software’s Attender products, a large percentage of the support calls we receive are questions about how to craft effective search syntax for keyword searches. Originally introduced in Discovery Attender for Exchange, one of the most useful features is, sadly, one of the most overlooked. The Choose Keywords tab hosts a Test button which  invokes a Keyword Tester that allows you to evaluate your search syntax to ensure that it will return the results you expect. While the following example demonstrates the Discovery Attender Keyword Tester, the same functionality has also been introduced into Sherpa’s latest offering, Attender Online.


While the Keyword Tester can evaluate any of the three Evaluation Options, it is most helpful with Search Expressions, where  AND, OR, or various other operators are used to create complex Boolean searches that you may wish to first test before launching an exhaustive and time-consuming search. As an example, let’s look at a relatively simple Search Expression:

(red OR green) AND (blue OR yellow)

Essentially, we have two lists, separated by an AND operator. Our expectation is that, in order for a document to match our search criteria, it must contain at least one of the terms in List 1 (red OR green) AND at least one of the terms in List 2 (blue OR yellow). In other words, there are two conditions that must be met to satisfy the AND condition.

The Keyword Tester’s Keyword Logic Tree provides a visual, hierarchical display of how Discovery Attender evaluates a search expression or pattern, dividing individual criteria components into separate “branches” emerging from a common root. In our example, the AND operator is the logical root, anchoring our two distinct word list branches.


It is when you engage the actual test function, using one of the three Search buttons, where things get truly interesting. Where Search File or Search Raw Data allows you to browse to a file to test its contents (with some limitations, see below), Search Text allows you enter your own text within the Keyword Tester itself to evaluate your syntax. Another advantage of Search Text over the other options is that the Keyword Tester has limitations when it comes to searching compressed file types such as MS Word docs (the actual search functionality of the product doesn’t have this limitation – the caveat applies only to the Keyword Tester itself).
We’ll use Search Text to enter our own sample phrase to evaluate:


Our results tell us not only that our syntax did not work in this context; it also shows us where the search failed. Two of our search terms, red and green, were found. However, they only satisfied one of the OR branches. And since the other OR branch returns a value of “False,” the root AND condition is also not met and therefore our test phrase is not a hit.


However, if we alter our sample text to read “My favorite colors are red and blue,” we now meet the criteria of both branches and the Keyword Tester shows that we have a positive keyword hit:


Admittedly, this example is not entirely realistic, since we’re altering our sample material to match our syntax rather than vice versa. However, it does provide an example of how the Keyword Tester can help you troubleshoot your search expression on a small sample before launching an extensive, actual search.

For additional information regarding the Keyword Tester, contact your Sherpa Support Representative. Or, better yet, try out the Keyword Tester for yourself!