Searching within Max didn’t used to be a thing – if you needed something in Max, you had to scroll through the documentation looking for keywords, and it could be a bit frustrating. As Max has matured, search has become a more important part of the process, and the tools have matured along with the software.
Search exists in a number of places in the Max environment; in this article we’ll look at a few of them, and consider how they improve the Max experience in unique ways.
The Sidebar Search
Perhaps the most exciting search function in Max is the search function in the right-side toolbar. It’s that magnifying glass at the top of the patcher interface:
Selecting this icon will open a sidebar that allows you to enter a search term, then does an extensive query throughout the world of Max: the documentation, help files, reference pages, object names, lessons, tutorials and even forum postings. I use this ‘sidebar search’ tool every day; it’s already completely integrated into the way that I patch, and It excels at every-minute-of-the-day assistance.
The sidebar search function is probably the best way to get a broad overview of any topic you are interested in. If you want to dig into depth on a specific object, you can get access to its help file, tutorials that reference it and even forum postings where the object is used as a solution.
But the sidebar search shouldn’t be limited to just object names. It is also a great way to track down Max answers to programming problems. For example, if I want to find out some available options for creating a filter for my Max synth, I can type in “lowpass filter” and see everything: objects to try, examples to see or articles to read:
This single search point provides an amazing set of resources for almost any kind of query you can imagine. It is well worth your time to experiment with the sidebar search, plug in interesting phrases, and seeing what unfolds.
Another important place to try searching is within the documentation. The easiest way to get to the documentation search is through Reference selection of the Help menu. When you select this, you will see the documentation browser – which has a help entry at the top. Entering in a search word/phrase gives you a three-tab view of the results:
You can choose to look at matches for Object reference pages, Gen reference pages, or general documentation (which includes guides, tutorials and topics). It is a comprehensive view into the textual information for Max programming, and really enhances ones use of the documentation.
While the sidebar search function provides a broad range of information from many locations, the documentation search is focused on text. I like to think of it as a research tool; when I’m digging deep into the use of an object, or trying to wrap my head around a complex system (like the MC objects), focusing on the provided reference docs, tutorials and guides is ground zero for the information I need.
Don’t forget to check out the third tab, labeled “Documentation”:
This is a great place to find narrative text that can provide some context to the objects you are using, and topics that are ‘home base’ for a lot of related material. While patches and videos can often be helpful, sometimes you just need to dig into the documentation text to get to the heart of a subject!
Searching in the Max Window
Sometimes you don’t need to know about objects – you need to know about results. Most Max users know that it’s smart to have the Max Window open during programming sessions because it allows you to see errors as they happen, and it is easy to post data into the Max Window (using the print object) to track what’s going on.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that there is a search system for the Max Window. It’s at the top-right of the window, and it allows you to search the contents of the window (including items that have scrolled off the display) for specific data. Additionally, you can ‘stack’ criteria, allowing you to zero in on specific values, messages from a specific object or from a selected patcher.
This function is extremely useful when you are trying to find problems in your patch or problems in the data. When you are working with streams of data (incoming Internet data or a rapid-fire MIDI sequence), it can be hard to stop the display at ‘the right spot’. Using the Max Window search system allows you to pinpoint a specific dataset – and even postings coming from a specific object – in order to step back in time to review your patch’s progress.
Also, when you are really having problems, you can combine the search function with the “Only Show Errors” button at the bottom of the Max Window to reduce the amount of information on the screen and make it easier to see problems as they occurs. The combination of “Only Show Errors” and Max Window searching can be your best friend when things go awry.
Searching from a Browser
Another less-known place for searching is within the browsers found on the left sidebar. When you bring up a browser – whether the File, Object, Audio or even Plug-in browsers – you have a search function that helps you limit the items currently displayed:
These searches allow you to hone in on a specific file or subset of files, and is also sensitive to any subset selection (like a specific kind of plug-in, or a length range of audio files). It’s lightning fast; when combined with the drag-and-drop function of the browsers, is one of the fastest ways to find and place content and high-level modules.
Using searches within the browser is obviously useful in a lot of contexts, but I find it particularly useful when working with the high-level Vizzie and BEAP systems. Each of these has a seriously large number of modules, so sometimes zeroing into the right one can be time- and click-consuming.
However, using search with something I need to find (like MIDI in the above example) quickly peels through the available modules and presents just the applicable modules. I find this a lot faster than clicking and scrolling through categories, and it keeps me focused on implementing new ideas.
Searching Docs on the Website
Finally, it would be foolish to not mention the online browser, which has the content of the documentation, but is available for any device that has a web browser:
One of the most important aspects of this is the accessibility of the information. You can get at it with a cellphone wherever you are. You can run it on a tablet when you are programming Max in full screen mode. And you can easily have multiple browser tabs with different documentation results, keeping all that info a single touch away.
Using the documentation in a browser is another one of those everyday Max tricks that I subscribe to, and if you try it, I’ll bet you get hooked too!
As you can see, there are a lot of ways to take advantage of search functions within Max. Clearly, Max search is about a lot more than just documentation – it includes search functions that cover everything from forum postings to patch examples. There are still more searches available to the Max fanatic: for example, the main Cycling ’74 website’s search can provide a different view into the available articles, tutorials and forum postings, while the Package Manager search can help you find exciting new content for your upcoming projects. I’ve just scratched the surface with this article, but I hope that it launches you into a searching frenzy!