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Best way to extend search capabilities

edited April 2010 in Vanilla 1.0 Help
I have an installation of vanilla (1.1.10) and I've modified it a little here and there. I've tried to keep my modifications out of the main code by putting them in extensions, but one fairly major one still eludes me. That is the search. I've extended the search to allow one to specify multiple categories, and to negate the category selection (the main purpose of the latter is to make it possible to have an RSS feed via the 'FeedThis' plugin that is "Everything but category X"). Now I want to add the capability of switching to a REGEX search.

The more complicated this gets, the less happy I am with keeping the changes in the main code! But scanning the docs, I can't figure out whether or not it is possible to write a plugin that extends the search capabilities. So, is it possible? If not, is there a "next best"? In looking around, I found a post (it was the wordpress+vanilla integration post) where Mark discussed swapping out the authentication class with a different one; I guess this would be possible with the search as well. Is that the best route to go down?
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