! character in practice


Staff member
Quick design question, for people who use the feature where you enter a ! character at the start of a search to put flashcards at the top of search results.

Is it actually useful to have this be a thing you manually activate by entering that !, or would it be better if there was just a checkbox in settings to have it work this way all the time? We built it the current way because at the time we shipped that feature it was kind of slow and we didn't think people would want it for every search, but on a modern mobile device the performance cost is negligible and I don't know if it's still better with a dedicated character or if it's something people are likely to want all the time.

(the ! character is actually being used to negate parts of searches now, so I don't think we're keeping it in 4.0 in any case, but we could potentially take another character like & and have it perform that function if it's something that's still useful to have at the start of a search)


I use the feature only rarely because I think it is only useful for those users who have been highly economical about creating new flashcards and have studied almost all of them, but I would say an on-off switch in the Settings would be preferable, for the following reasons:
  • There is little reason ever to turn the setting off: One usually wants to see words one has already studied first to reinforce one's memory, and it's a quick operation to scroll down past one's flashcards.
  • It's more convenient to use: The user won't need to enter a special character such as ! or & each time.
  • It makes Pleco look less technical. I've heard from a few users who chose other, simpler apps over Pleco only because Pleco looked too technical for them.
One could also keep a & prefix active for users who prefer it, perhaps as part of the new Expert mode. But for the Basic mode, I think what I’ve mentioned above applies.

Best, Shun


Staff member

The !/# prefixes in general are kind of an ugly hack, yes. The preferred way to do this sort of thing now is through a nice little 'filter' button, from which you can easily layer whatever additional filters or sort order you like onto your search results - can do something much more specific than just checking whether or not it's in flashcards, e.g. specific categories or learning status or whatever.

I'm just trying to reassure myself that there isn't some constituency out there that really needs this feature to be something they can quickly turn on from the keyboard.
I didn’t know the “!” trick, and will probably forget it soon. I fully agree with Shun’s comment: the simpler the better, and the words I’m most interested in are generally those that are in one of my decks.