| By Woody Leonhard |
Searching in Windows used to be a frustrating, error-prone exercise in which you depended on slow, space-hog programs to bring you dubious results.
In Windows 7, search has improved enormously. But there are tricks that make it work even better — some of which are applicable to earlier versions of Windows, too.
Simple settings changes improve searches
Windows XP performs searches but often misses things that should be found. Vista’s a little bit better but still suffers from a faltering memory. You can try one of the old, stalwart alternatives to get decent searches in XP or Vista — Copernic Desktop Search (info page), for example — as a stopgap, but your choices for reliable searching in XP and Vista have dwindled as both OSes fade into the sunset. Google Desktop (page), long one of my favorites, was discontinued two weeks ago.
(XP fading, he says? Yes, indeed. As of last week, according to Microsoft, more consumers now use Windows 7 than XP. MS hasn’t published numbers, so it’s hard to say exactly how it came to that conclusion. But the evidence of Win7′s ascendancy is everywhere — including among Windows Secrets subscribers.)
So, better search capabilities are one of the more compelling reasons for upgrading to Windows 7.
Whatever version of Windows you’re on, improve your search results with one simple change in settings: have Windows always show you filename extensions — the short, typically three-letter suffix on every filename that identifies its type (such as .doc, .xls, .jpg, and so on). If you let Windows hide filename extensions from you, it’s impossible to figure out how and why some searches go wrong.