10 Craigslist Tips for Power Users

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Craigslist, the online classifieds site that has all but destroyed its print brethren, has blasted past MySpace to become the number one Web search term in the United States. That means more and more people have gotten hip to the site's expansive resources.

Almost entirely text-based, Craigslist is one of the simplest sites on the Net: Anyone can find what they're looking for with a few clicks of the mouse. But with the help of a few advanced tricks and tools, you can cut through the clutter and discover precisely what's available, all the while avoiding scams and wasteful search software. Follow our advice, and you can use Craigslist with greater efficiency--and with style.

Here are 10 tips that will make your Craigslist experience a more rewarding one.

1. Use Google as the Middleman

Using Google Advanced Search for Craigslist
One of the best ways to get the most out of Craigslist is to start outside of the site itself. Using Google Advanced Search can narrow down your browsing options in an effective, clean manner. Say you're looking for a couch in Boston, but you don't want to drive 25 miles to pick it up. Using Google Advanced Search, you can put your desired neighborhood in the 'this exact wording or phrase' field and keep "couch" in the generalized search. You can also add other words you'd like to see in the posting, such as "good condition." Specify your city's Craigslist site (boston.craigslist.org, in this example) in the 'Search within a site or domain' field, and tell Google to do its work. You'll see your results, organized how you want them, in Google's easy-to-read format.

2. Search on the Move, With iPhone Apps

Need to scour listings while you're on the go? A variety of iPhone/iPod Touch apps exist for that express purpose. Craigsphone and CraigSearch are both free and available in the iTunes App Store. Functionally and aesthetically, not much differentiates the two. I found CraigSearch to be superior, however, since it loaded results faster and it lets you e-mail posters directly from the app. Craigsphone, on the other hand, appeared on the edge of crashing at all times, and it failed to show me the results I wanted.

For those willing to drop some dough, there's CraigsMobileList ($1.99) and Craigster ($0.99). CraigsMobileList uses an interface similar to CraigSearch's but provides more-clear-cut results. Unfortunately, it has some formatting problems: You can't shrink listings with large pictures or massive text using multitouch; instead you must whisk the page back and forth. Craigster, in contrast, has the simplest interface--to a fault. Unlike with the other apps, when I looked for an apartment in Craigster I was unable to make any specifications (such as dogs allowed or maximum rent) to narrow my search. In the end, with free apps available, there isn't much point in paying for one.

One thing worth mentioning: CraigSearch does not display erotic or personal ads. But that's not what you're using it for anyway, right?

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