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How do I search by location?

The location-based search can take various forms:

  • Leave the option blank: (All Locations search) If you don't include any location information, all locations will be returned.
  • City, State/Country: (Location-Based search) If you search from a specific point such as a city, park, address, or zip code, all locations within the specified distance will be included in the search results. If the distance is zero, all boxes within the specified park, city, or specified address will be included and no others. This little trick does not work for zip codes, however--it will include all boxes within the city that the zip code matches instead. For more details about what sorts of locations can be used and the proper format for entering them, check out How does a location based search work?
  • Latitude, Longitude: (Location-Based search) If you use a GPS and want to search based on latitude and longitude coordinates, not a problem! Go for it!
  • City, County, State, or Country: (Area search) If your search radius is smaller than the location being searched, AQ will generate an "area" search that includes all locations within that area. For instance, a "10 mile search for all boxes in California" doesn't really make a lot of sense-California is HUGE!-so AQ assumes you want to run a search for all boxes in California. On the other hand, a "100 mile search for all boxes in Rhode Island" has its own paradox since Rhode Island has a much smaller radius than 100 miles. Atlas Quest perceives this request as a search for all boxes in Rhode Island along with neighboring boxes in bordering states. So specifically, it's the radius of your search compared to the radius of the location being search that determines if the search is a location-based search or an area search. If you keep the default search radius at 15 miles, any location larger than 15 miles becomes an area search while any location smaller than 15 miles becomes a location-based search.
  • BETWEEN Location AND Location: (Rectangle search) If you run a search for all objects (box, event, virtual, or whatever) between Point A and Point B, AQ will run a "rectangle search. The two points mark opposite corners of a rectangle, and any objects within that rectangle will be returned. The distance, if specified, will be ignored.
  • FROM Location TO Location: (Linear search) If you run a search that specifies a location to another location, AQ will run a linear search between those two points, and the distances will include both the distance along that path from the first location and the distance off the linear path that the object (box, event, virtual, etc.) is listed. The colons are required to distinguish it from locations that might actually use the word as part of a location.
  • ALONG Route FROM Location TO Location: (Trip planner search) This will run a search from Point A to Point B following one of the pre-defined routes-mostly Interstates and popular long-distance paths.

If you use the trip planner but Atlas Quest cannot find the requested route, the search will be converted into a linear search and the ALONG part will be ignored.

Search Options

  • Use Exact Locations: This option is particularly useful for area searches when you want to run a search for mystery boxes within a specified area.
  • Use Original Locations: Premium members can override the location of events, letterboxes, and such, and when AQ runs a search, it will use these custom locations by default if they're available. By checking this option, you can force AQ to use the original locations specified by the owner and ignore your custom locations. Since custom locations are a premium member perk, only premium members will see this option.
  • Directional Search: A location-based search, by default, returns boxes from all directions, but you can narrow your search even more by specifying what direction to include results for: N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, or NW. Only boxes within a 45° slice in that direction from your specified location will be included in the results. For all other types of searches (area, linear, rectangular, and trip), AQ marks an imaginary rectangle that fits completely around your search and using the center point of that imaginary rectangle, will only show matching boxes within the quadrant you specify. For example, if you ran a trip search for the length of I-5 and specified a "north" direction at the same time, it'll only include boxes in the northern half of I-5 in your search.

Advanced Search Option

The Use Exact Locations options seems relatively straight-forward, but it's actually trickier than you might expect. For instance, what if there's a mystery box whose location is listed as "somewhere in Northern California"? If you run a search for mystery boxes in California, even if you "use exact locations," you'll usually still want it to return boxes somewhere in "Northern California." People expect AQ to sort boxes into certain levels-address, city, county, state, and country. Any box that doesn't fit neatly into a category (such as "Northern California") can be problematic, and for searching purposes, AQ will "upgrade" Northern California into a "California" level, allowing it to show when you run an "exact" location for boxes in "California." Otherwise, you might miss such a letterbox completely.

Another example where "exact" can be a little fuzzy is park names and addresses. What if one person lists the location of their box as "Lincoln Park, 2323 Elm Gove Road" but you run an "exact" search for "Lincoln Park"? Most people would expect this to match even though, technically speaking, it's not really exact. Close enough, though!

So that Use Exact Locations option isn't accurate in the strictest sense of the word. It is possible, however, to force AQ to run an exact search in the very strictest sense of the word-set the radius of your search to 0. It's somewhat of a hack and for most people, you shouldn't ever want to use this option. But if you find yourself ever wanting to run a very strict exact location for your search, that's how you do it.