EUR-Lex additional feature, December 2006

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Publication Date 2006
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In August 2006 the advanced search function in EUR-Lex at {} was quietly made available, not through the Advanced search option on the home page but via a news item linked from the home page. The search is basically the old CELEX advanced search, slightly modified to fit in with the look and feel of the new service. The functionality has not been changed so it still uses Java applets and hence many potential users will run into the same firewall problems as were previously encountered. This search function does however have the power of the Mistral software of the original CELEX database and enables users to specify very precise searches which have been impossible using only the Simple search of the new EUR-Lex service. An example of this would be searching for all legislation based on a specific article of the treaties. The difficulty is that to use the system effectively it is essential to understand the sectors and document codes of the CELEX database. Given the time gap between the launch of the new EUR-Lex - which does not rely on a knowledge of codes - and availability of the advanced service, many experienced users will have lost their expertise in constructing advanced searches. It is vital too to have access to the latest document code information and full details of which documents types are available at different dates, as content has changed over the years.

At the end of November the Advanced search was fully launched when the menu link from the home page went live. The issue of document codes was addressed too with the publication of an online guide to the expert search, matching the simple search online guide which was made available in September. Both guides are clearly laid out and show with screen shots how to use the various features. The expert guide also includes tables of the sectors and document codes.

The LexAlert service, which is intended to allow users to set up automatic alerts either using pre-defined options or matching a profile specified by the user, is now being tested with a number of users who have been added manually. The facility to self-register online is not yet available. Notifications are being sent out by e-mail and as RSS feeds. Problems have arisen however with the distribution of multiple e-mails, causing spam alerts. It may be that RSS feeds will have to be used rather than e-mail if the issues cannot be resolved.

While undoubtedly there is a need for an advanced search to enable information providers and other expert users to define their searches efficiently and quickly, as well as to extract a more detailed level of information from the database, the advanced search remains complex and far from intuitive. It is more likely now that what users expect of an expert search is something closer to the advanced search option of a database such as PreLex which allows users to specify a number of search parameters on one screen instead of repeatedly having to return to earlier screens to refine the search. As in PreLex different document types or procedures could be selected from menus. Developing such an interface would however require investment.

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