Thomas search engine gets a tune up

New Thomas Features (BETA)

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Thomas refreshed

The Library of Congress is adding new features to Thomas, the popular legislative search engine, to make it easier for people to find the information they want.

In the beta version now available for a test drive, users can search the entire database — including the Congressional Record, committee reports and treaties — in a single search bar. Previously, users were limited to searching legislation by text or by bill number. Users can also limit the number of returns by searching legislation by topic and restricting their search to specific types of documents, such as bills or committee reports.

The new Thomas also will include a guided search tool that provides prompts to help users narrow their searches in specific topic areas. For the beta version, the guided search is focused on presidential nominees. The first prompt is a standard search box in which users enter a nominee's name. But if they don't have that information, the tool provides a series of pull-down menus to narrow searches by the nominee's organization, the year nominated, and the nominee's home state.

The library has hinted at future functions for the search engine on its online FAQ, such as creating RSS feeds for legislative updates and performing guided searches on other topics.

Users can submit comments about the new features through Thomas' beta Web site.

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