A new day, a new thing

My goal to learn something new every day

Day 4: Searching Twitter

Yesterday, I learned how to spell occasionally. Perhaps not the greatest triumph in the world, but something that I should have done a long time ago (incidentally, I can happily report that I’ve so far had a 100% success rate with my “Oh, Si, Si” memory aid!)

In yesterday’s post, I wanted to illustrate the problem I’d been having with the word by embedding a couple of tweets that I knew I’d posted a while back. One from 2013 and the other from 2014. I remembered that a few years ago Twitter launched a service via its website that allows you to download your Twitter archive (more on that below). I remember trying it out back then just to see how it works, but had not used it since.

Essentially the Twitter archive is exactly what it sounds like: The entire archive of all of your tweets since you started. You request your archive from Twitter and they send you a download link. You then download a .zip file, and contained therein is a .csv file  (I’ll save the technical definition of what a .csv file is. Should you really want to find out, this link will provide answers).

Once downloaded you can use Excel, or some other spreadsheet software, to open the .csv file and then browse a rather technical looking list of all of your Tweets. Using the find function in Excel, I was able to locate the tweets I wanted to embed by searching for keywords. From the Excel file, you can work out the ID of the tweet you want to find, and using that you can find your tweet on Twitter.

However, today, I got to thinking about it a little more and thought that it wasn’t actually all  that easy or convenient. It turns out that I was being a typical male by not reading the instructions. Included in the .zip file was also a README.txt file. The file that I had completely ignored yesterday in my haste. So when I went back to my archive today, and opened up the file, I found this:

# How to use your Twitter archive

The simplest way to use your Twitter archive is through the archive browser interface provided in this file. Just double-click `index.html` from the root folder and you can browse your entire history of Tweets from inside your browser.

Clicking on the index.html file opens up your browser, and from there you can browse through your entire tweet archive by year/month, or use the search function at the top right of the page to locate a specific tweet containing a keyword. Exactly what I wanted to do yesterday!

My Twitter archive as of yesterday

My Twitter archive as of yesterday

The Twitter support site has instructions on how to request your archive. There’s a note below that says you might have to wait a couple of days(!!!) for the archive. I had to wait less than a second, so I’m not sure how many tweets you will have had to send before it takes that long to prepare your archive.

But wait! There’s more.

If browsing through your tweets is what you’re after, then requesting the Twitter archive seems to be the way to go.

However, what if you just want to search for one specific tweet? It seems like quite a lot of work to have to request your Twitter archive, get the download link just to find a couple of tweets. Or what about another user’s tweets? You can only download your own Twitter archive and not that of another user.

As it turns out, Twitter does have an advanced search function that allows you to do exactly that, search for a specific tweet sent by a specific user. And this way is so much easier! Getting to Twitter’s advanced search is not so intuitive at first though. There doesn’t seem to be a link anywhere on the site to guide you. But going to https://twitter.com/search-home will take you to the search page. Once there you’ll have to click on the advanced search link, which doesn’t necessarily look like a link, but trust me, it is.

Twitter Advanced Search

The advanced search link doesn’t appear to be a link at first site


That will take you to this page where you can type the words/phrases you want to search at the top, and the Twitter handle of the person (either your own or another user’s) whose feed you want to search below. As you can see there are a few other options to play around with on the form.

Twitter Advanced Search 1


When you’re happy, click on search to see your results:

Advanced search results

You might need to click on all at the top of the results in order to see all of the tweets. I think you’ll agree, a much more efficient way to search for a specific tweet from a specific user using just a keyword.

Just when you thought that was it.

But if you think that having to manually type the address to get to Twitter’s advanced search page is too much, there’s one more short cut that the eagle-eyed readers may have already spotted. If you look closely at the very top of the page in Twitter’s search bar, you’ll see:

Search bar

So to search for a keyword from a specific user from anywhere on Twitter’s site, all you need to do is enter your search terms followed by ‘from:[username]’. It’s as simple as that. There are of course other operators you can figure out for yourself by playing around with the advanced search.


Seeing as I had my Twitter archive lying around it seemed like the perfect time to create a Wordle of the most common words arranged by frequency:

Wordle 1

4 comments on “Day 4: Searching Twitter

  1. eflnotes
    January 5, 2015

    hi David

    you should check out Martin Hawksey’s script to keep an updated copy of your twitter archive via google spreadsheets https://mashe.hawksey.info/2013/01/sync-twitter-archive-with-google-drive/

    and this script to keep a record of things i fav in twitter https://twitter.com/mhawksey/statuses/353647703265247233 (though i think you can do that with newer version of TAGS HERE – https://tags.hawksey.info/



    • David Harbinson
      January 5, 2015

      Hi Mura, thanks for this! I’ll take a look at those links soon. So much I still have to learn!


  2. Matthew
    January 5, 2015

    Really interesting! Seems worthwhile to really maximize what happens on twitter! Also, exciting to see my handle on that wordcloud! #littlethings


    • David Harbinson
      January 5, 2015

      I liked seeing my most tweeted peeps too. Although somewhat slightly worrying to see my own handle in there. Does that mean I talk to myself too much? 🙂


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This entry was posted on January 4, 2015 by in Tech and tagged , , , , .


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