How to waste time with Vista search
Vista’s new search capabilities certainly look neat. The demos run like a common rail diesel. But when you sit in the driver’s seat using Vista search on real-world problems, you may see things differently. Don’t be surprised if you go searching for something and can’t find it. Vista’s search marches to its own drummer, and the bugs seem to be calling the tunes.
You might think that tweaking search dialog box settings or flipping magical Registry bits or combining clever saved searches will make searching with Vista faster. Sure, you might be able to save a few seconds here or there with a little technical sleight of hand. But the big Vista search time-wasters don’t have anything to do with Boolean strings or indexed file types.
In my experience, the biggest time-sucking problem you’ll encounter with Vista’s search lies in puzzling over why in the blue blazes you can’t find something you know is out there. The second largest time-waster comes from wading through all the junk.
If you haven’t seen the junk yet, believe me, you will. Read on.
You can waste an enormous amount of time trying to understand Vista’s searching idiosyncrasies. In coming weeks, I’ll step you through the Byzantine rules that Vista employs to decide precisely what to index, and how you can bend those rules. I’ll also explain how to work with those rules to retrieve the things you want.
This week, I’m going to stake off a small corner of the Vista search world that will no doubt perplex you soon, if it hasn’t stumped (and infuriated!) you already. The problem arises from a devilish inconsistency between Vista and Outlook 2007.
Vista finds deleted messages, Outlook doesn’t
If you have a machine running both Windows Vista and Outlook 2007, try a little experiment. Start Outlook. Go into your Deleted Items folder and select a common word in one of the messages there — nothing fancy, just a term that you can easily find in messages in Deleted Items. Then go into your Junk E-mail folder and find a keyword in one of the messages there. Now click on Inbox, and go back to looking at your Outlook inbox. All is right with the world, and Outlook appears the way it always does, right? Good. Get ready to stumble down the Instant Search rabbit hole.
Press the Windows key (or click the "Start" button) to bring up the Vista Start Search box. Type in the keyword that you found in one of your Deleted Items messages. Wait a second or two for the search to stabilize, and you should see the matching deleted message in Vista’s list. (If the list is too long, click the link to See all results. You’ll see the matching deleted message there.) Cool. That works.
Now flip back over to Outlook. At the top of the list of messages, there’s probably a box that says Search Inbox. (If you can’t see a Search Inbox box, click Tools, Instant Search, Instant Search.) Click the down-arrow to the right of the magnifying glass and choose Search All Mail Items. Then type the same keyword into the search box. Wait a second or two for the search to stabilize. Guess what? Outlook doesn’t find the message. Wuh?
Forcing Outlook to find deleted messages
There’s a reason why Vista finds messages in the Deleted Items folder but Outlook does not: Outlook’s default is to skip all the messages in the Deleted Items folder. Vista’s default, by contrast, is to cough up all of the messages in Outlook. Big difference.
If you know that the message you seek is in the Deleted Items folder, you can search for deleted messages from inside Outlook 2007 by clicking on the Deleted Items line over in the navigation pane (on the left) and typing your search string in the search box. But if you start in the Inbox (as most people do) and ask Outlook to search all mail items, it doesn’t "see" anything in the Deleted Items folder. Worse, if you click on the Personal Folders line in the navigation pane, expecting to run a search on all of the mail in Personal Folders, Outlook won’t let you run a search: the Search command is grayed out.
It’s easy to correct Outlook’s boorish neglect. In Outlook, click Tools, Instant Search, Search Options. Check the box marked Include messages from the Deleted Items folder in each data file when searching in All Items. Click OK.
Outlook finds all your junk e-mail
While Outlook ignores the Deleted Items folder (at least, it doesn’t deign to search within it when looking for "All Mail Items"), Outlook works hard with Vista to make sure all of your spam is instantly available. Yes, it’s true: Outlook 2007 dishes up your entire Junk E-mail folder for Vista’s indexer. Chomp.
If your attempts to use Vista’s search didn’t bring up a healthy display of junk e-mail, press the Windows key or click Start to bring up the Start Search box. Type in a common word that’s in one of your Junk E-mail folder messages. See how Vista gladly displays every match in your Junk E-mail folder? (In fact, the search I’m looking at right now brings up two entries for some matches in the Junk E-mail folder, and it lists one matching junk message twice. It says that it’s both in the Inbox and in the Junk E-mail folder. Bugs.)
Fortunately, searching from inside Outlook doesn’t display matches in the Junk E-mail folder, unless you specifically click on the Junk E-mail folder in the navigation pane, and run the search from there.
I know one fellow who decided to show his boss Vista’s fancy new search box. He clicked Start, typed a few characters, and wham! Volumes of, ahem, shall we say "indiscrete" e-mail subject lines appeared on the screen. Instead of being wowed by the virtues of Vista, the boss left wondering aloud why that kind of crap was sitting on a company computer.
Eliminate spam e-mails from your searches
I don’t know of any way to make Vista’s indexer ignore junk e-mail, or any way to tell Vista that you don’t want to see matches from the Junk E-mail folder. In other words, I don’t know any way to use Vista’s search in front of the boss.
You can empty out your Junk E-mail folder periodically. (To do this, right-click on the folder in the navigation pane and choose Empty Junk E-mail Folder.) But that’s a poor second choice.
For now, if you’re searching for e-mail in front of the boss, you’d better go into Outlook and search from there. That’ll save some time. It might also save your job.
Woody Leonhard‘s latest books — Windows Vista All-In-One Desk Reference For Dummies and Windows Vista Timesaving Techniques For Dummies — explore what you need to know about Vista in a way that won’t put you to sleep. He and Ed Bott also wrote the encyclopedic Special Edition Using Office 2007.