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Searching by file formats
There are a number of different file formats that searchers can use. Each will provide access to different types of information.
Other file formats
There are plenty of other file formats available for people to use, but few of them work with search engines. However, if you want a good overview of file types, or you've got a filetype and you want to know what it means, try:
Fileformat has a search option and an A-Z directory.
FileInfo contains a searchable database of thousands of file extensions with detailed information about the associated file types.
Filext lists over 50,000 filetypes.
Search engines to use
Google Advanced search for all of the file types mentioned above. The format is term filetype:txt which is to say without a space after the filetype:
Yahoo Advanced search for .htm .pdf .xls .ppt .doc .txt The format is term filetype:txt OR filetype: txt which is to say you can go with a space or not.
Bing has a blog post that lists the type of search that can be done with filetypes and extensions.
There are other search engines that will search for specific types of file for you however.
Great PDF Search Engine. is a pdf search engine for PDF ebooks, manual, catalogs, sheets, forms and documents.
PDFSearchengine Searches for PDF, CHM, DOC, RTF and TXT files.
SlideFinder A Search engine for PowerPoint presentations.
soPDF searches over 435 million PDF files.
Fagan Finder Search by file format has the option of searching for 17 different file formats from 7 search engines. However, this is now quite elderly, so may not be entirely accurate, but it's still worth a try.
If you have never tried limiting by file type, think laterally and give it a go. You may well find that your results are smaller, more accurate and better focused!