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  1. #1
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    Getting the most from Windows Search Part 2




    WOODY'S WINDOWS

    Getting the most from Windows Search Part 2


    By Woody Leonhard

    In my Sept. 22 Woody's Windows column, I stepped you through the basics of searching in Windows 7 in particular, Win7's two undocumented search idiosyncrasies that can cause no end of confusion.

    In Part 2, I give you the advanced course, including how to search in Win7 the way you used to in Windows XP, Windows 95, or (gulp!) even DOS.

    The full text of this column is posted at WindowsSecrets.com/woodys-windows/getting-the-most-from-windows-search-part-2/ (opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.

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    This is all good stuff but for searching in Windows, there is simply no better program than 'Find Everything' - download it from http://www.voidtools.com/ - it's free, it's fast, and you don't need to index your drive. This is on my top-5 essential software list Works with Win XP and Win 7 for sure, maybe others too.
    Last edited by Admiral_Kang; 2011-10-06 at 02:24.

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    Add another vote

    Quote Originally Posted by Admiral_Kang View Post
    This is all good stuff but for searching in Windows, there is simply no better program than 'Find Everything' - download it from http://www.voidtools.com/ - it's free, it's fast, and you don't need to index your drive. This is on my top-5 essential software list Works with Win XP and Win 7 for sure, maybe others too.
    I came to the forum to say exactly the same thing (except that the app is just called "Everything"). There's also a portable version if you don't want to install it. It's one of the first apps I install on a new PC.

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    You all beat me to it. You must try Everything. It responds instantaneously as you type. What a valuable tool for file searching.

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    I can't tell you how frustrated I was with the "new, improved" Windows 7 Search, particularly when I wanted to "find all of the files with Bob in the file name, but don't look in Hidden Files". I found some information on the Web (written by Microsoft, but still confusing and typically not what I needed). Never saw mention of system.filename:~="secret". I'd love to know where you found this, or how you figured this out ...

    Bob Schor

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    One problem I've recently had with Windows Search is that it will not index files located on a mount point. I'd created several Windows 2008 R2 file servers to replace our 2003 ones and I didn't want to create one large volume with the OS and data. For a variety of reasons, I mounted the data partition as a mount point, but it just would not show up for indexing.

    A web search confirmed the issue and offered a few workarounds, but all were very inefficient. I had to go back to using a drive letter for the data partition.

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    Windows 7 search tool too complex for me...

    Hello ;

    I'm part of those who began with MS-DOS and UNIX, then tried almost all Windows versions, and finally... find Windows 7 hard to understand and to appropriate, especially when you have very few time...
    I don't say it's not "user friendly", but it's clearly - for some things - not (as you say) old-fashioned-people friendly.
    Especially about search function : with XP, I was used to either hit Win+F or right click the folder in which I wanted to search a file and then hit H to call the search interface, then I was able directly to look for a filename, optionnally specify some text to look for inside files, and even to specify "on the fly" where to search and a few other criterias such as date. Simple, easy, quickly done : efficient.
    As I very rarely look for text inside files, I was used to even turn off the indexing service and, "of course", I was not using Windows Search but the basic version - at work where it has been installed, it adds a step to my description here above : clicking on the message "use standard search" - because I compared the results : I find nothing interesting with Windows Search, whereas I easily gets to my files with the standard version.
    And I'm sorry, but I can't figure why Microsoft spent so much time to program a complex search system like Windows Search where the simple version does a much better job in most cases. Oh sorry, you're right, I'm not alone in the world and some other people can find the new version better - but please Mr. Microsoft, give us the choice, give me back my old-fashioned basic search system... it would be much easier for me than, as I must do now with 7, opening a "cmd" prompt in the right folder and type "dir /S/A search_expression"...

    One more word. I'm not against changes. The way you search today will be old-fashioned tomorrow and you'll learn a new way to do it. But WHY would you really HAVE TO change when you're pleased with today's tools ?
    The system should serve the user, not the editor's ego or I_don't_know_what...
    Don't you think so ?

    Best regards,
    Bertrand L.

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    Woody, and your other responders,
    The info you have provided is helpful, and I thank you all for that. But why are you all, particularly you Woody as a professional journalist, not writing about what seems to me the main point? MS introduces new stuff all over the place - fine - but why is there no DIRECTLY accessible concise and accurate info about the change available?! This is sheer arrogance or sheer laziness, or both, on MS's part. It would have been very simple to have added a "?" box in the search window - which could have at least directly pulled up the MS article you provided the link to (or better to the"basic search" MS article that the advanced one points to). However even this would have taken us only part way down the road, since the MS articles are neither complete nor accurate. For example the standard 'old' explanation of "?" and "*" is given - with not a word about the new meaning of these characters. Even your article does not cover searching on "?fred" (without the quotes). Is this restricted to searching file names, or contents, or ..... ?

    Again - I see the news story here as 'Once again MS has the arrogance to toss out a significant new feature with a clear 'Let them figure it out for themselves.'' attitude.

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    How crude. Why does Microsoft even bother to add a "search" feature when it is so lame. With hundreds (maybe thousands) of programmers working on Windows, you would think getting "search" even half as good as the add-ons you can download would be a priority. This is like having a switch on your car dash that isn't labelled and appears to do nothing. I have one of those too.

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    Not much help.

    Woody --

    Don't bother trying to help explain this convoluted searching to us, if an interface is not natural and self exposing, it should die in future releases. Imagine Google's chances for success with such an interface.

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    I also like to add Everything as an alternative to filename search with windows search. It gives amazingly instant replies and works with the old wildcards.
    For text search in files I use Agent Ransack. It has al lot of options and works fast.
    Its incredable that windows comes again with a bad solution and with other wildcards than usually.

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    Great post, but I have to say that the head-shaking started as soon as you began to explain the ridiculous syntax one has to use, and the cussing started when you mentioned that Search uses wildcards in a nonstandard (for DOS-->Windows) way. Petermat mentioned that you may have missed the main point and suggested that it was that Microsoft doesn't advertise changes accessibly, but for me, the main point is that Windows Search does not work. By that, I don't mean that it doesn't function or doesn't work in the way your much-needed documentation explains, but that it attempts to give the average user an interface that often returns unusable results. Over the years, and especially when helping someone on their own computer, I've had to use the various incarnations of Windows Search, and the times that it returned the file I was looking for is in the neighborhood of 20%. Now, I understand that this was probably due to my not using it correctly (or is it that Windows uses wildcards incorrectly?), yet that points back to the main issue: A search tool should default to returning files with or without a standard wildcard and with or without some key text that might appear in them. Period. Any advanced uses beyond that should be accessible with simple, clear visual controls and labels. And the idea that a general Windows search tool would automatically return the contents of emails is simply stupid. That's what email software is for.

    Finally, the main reason one actually resorts to searching for a file (as opposed to checking where you know it's supposed to be) is that you've lost it somewhere on the drive (a victim of drag-and-drop or a download whose destination wasn't what you assumed). When that happens, I use the search tool in my favorite two-pane file manager to do a brute force search of the entire drive. If that fails, I know that the file isn't there and don't have to worry that an over-engineered tool has second-guessed what I was trying to do.

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    The article said: "Note, however, you can add a folder to your PC's index only if it's located on the PC — you can't add a networked folder...."

    I've found that you can add networked folders under the following circumstances:
    1) The folder/share is indexed on the server (I'm running 2008R2/SP1)
    2) You add the network share to your Library (I've not tried indexing otherwise)
    3) You add it with the actual \\machinename\share and NOT \\dfsname\share

    I may have overlooked something on the DFS issue, but can live with the single server share name in my environment so I quit experimenting.

    That said, I, too, have found the new 'improved' search to be less useful so will explore the suggested alternatives mentioned above.

    Thanks!

    Greg

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    Quote Originally Posted by petermat View Post
    Woody, and your other responders,
    The info you have provided is helpful, and I thank you all for that. But why are you all, particularly you Woody as a professional journalist, not writing about what seems to me the main point? MS introduces new stuff all over the place - fine - but why is there no DIRECTLY accessible concise and accurate info about the change available?! This is sheer arrogance or sheer laziness, or both, on MS's part. It would have been very simple to have added a "?" box in the search window - which could have at least directly pulled up the MS article you provided the link to (or better to the"basic search" MS article that the advanced one points to). However even this would have taken us only part way down the road, since the MS articles are neither complete nor accurate. For example the standard 'old' explanation of "?" and "*" is given - with not a word about the new meaning of these characters. Even your article does not cover searching on "?fred" (without the quotes). Is this restricted to searching file names, or contents, or ..... ?

    Again - I see the news story here as 'Once again MS has the arrogance to toss out a significant new feature with a clear 'Let them figure it out for themselves.'' attitude.
    In general I agree with the sentiment. For those few of us who actually try to find documentation it is almost laughable to see what is provided. Unfortunately, Microsoft is no different than any other software developer these days. No one explains new features any more. I'm sure that Microsoft can give you plenty of data about how "help" is not used. People just don't take the time to read directions or explanations.

    Joe

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    Quote Originally Posted by BSchor View Post
    I can't tell you how frustrated I was with the "new, improved" Windows 7 Search, particularly when I wanted to "find all of the files with Bob in the file name, but don't look in Hidden Files". I found some information on the Web (written by Microsoft, but still confusing and typically not what I needed). Never saw mention of system.filename:~="secret". I'd love to know where you found this, or how you figured this out ...

    Bob Schor
    Bob -

    I found the general keyword description that MS has posted, and then played with the details quite a while to figure out exactly what was happening. I don't think this stuff is documented anywhere. Which is strange, because there used to be reams of documentation about searching in XP (and 98 and 3.1 and DOS) with wildcards...
    Woody

    For Dummies book author, Senior Contributing Editor for InfoWorld, and long-suffering Windows victim. Check out the latest at AskWoody.com.

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