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Fine Tuning your searches
You'll be able to fine tune your searches by trying different combinations in the Artist and Title fields. A few minutes of trial and error will usually yield good results. Bear in mind that your results will vary depending on how many people are connected to Napster's servers at any one time.

The basic idea: the more people online, the better your chances. Learn to look at the status panel in the lower right hand corner of the search window to see how many files are available for share and how many people are connected to Napster to keep track of this.


The Bad news...
It won't be long before you figure out that Napster has a number of glaring weaknesses when it comes to running searches. Unlike most search engines, Napster does not allow you to fine tune your searches by excluding terms or using Boolean operators like "and" and "not." This is hardly a fatal flaw but it does make finding the stuff you want a little harder. Most people are still able to find more than enough music to keep them happy, the trick is mastering the art - and it is an art - of finding the stuff you want on Napster.

Other file sharing programs - like Gnutella - allow you to do considerably more fine tuning. Unfortunately, as a whole, these applications have other weaknesses which make them considerably less effective than Napster for the time being.

Expect Napster Inc. to add this feature - and many others - in the not so distant future. For now, you'll have to be patient. Speaking of which...

If at first you don't succeed....
If all of your attempts to find a particular song fail it is always a good idea to try again later. Remember: your search is only returning results based on what is available at that moment. Most people don't connect to Napster every day. With 40 million users signed up for the service as of December, chances are good you'll find what you're looking for if you are persistent and try connecting regularly at different times of day and on different days of the week.

As a rule of thumb, the number of files available is much higher after business hours are over and on weekends. The size of the available file pool also increases dramatically at times when Napster is in the news.

Another thing to consider: People all over the world use Napster. Obviously, many of these people operate in different time zones than you do. If you're looking for mainstream US pop and you live in North America, the time of day won't matter quite as much, but if you're looking for something more eclectic - something from Japan, from Europe or from the Middle East for example, you'll want to take this factor into account.

Advanced features
Once you've got the hang of the program's basic search features, you'll probably want to fool around with some of Napster's advanced search functions. If you want to limit your searches to only fast downloads for example, you can try doing a search restricting your results to only faster connections. This is a very good idea, as you will soon discover.

You also may want to experiment with limiting your searches to only files of the best possible bitrate. Generally speaking this will return files of better sound quality and weed out the annoying tracks which you don't want cluttering up your hard drive.

For more on searching Napster see mo' better searches.


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