Finding Files Faster with Windows 7 Search

“Where’s that document I used a few weeks ago?”

We’ve all come across this problem, where we can’t find a file. Microsoft claims that Windows 7 provides better ways to find and organize files. In Windows 7, searching is faster and works better than ever before. This guide shows 5 handy tips that can help you find that file you’ve been looking for within minutes and get the most out of Windows 7’s search.

1. Search Where Your File is Most Likely to Be

There’s no point of searching the whole of “My Documents” when you already know that the file is somewhere in the “Work” folder. So if you’d like to make searching faster, try reducing the number of places to search in by specifying the file’s location. How? Simply open the location in Windows Explorer and use the “Search bar” on the top right of the window.

Windows Explorer Search bar

The location you search in doesn’t have to be very precise. The aim of this is just to avoid searching in places that you know for sure that the file can’t be in.

2. Use Wildcards in Your Search

This was available since Windows XP, yet a lot of people don’t really use it. A wild card is a character that is used to represent one or more unknown characters. The most common wildcards are the:

Asterisk (*)Represents any number of characters in this part of the filename.Windows * Back-up could give: Windows Vista Backup, Windows XP Back-up, Windows 8 Backup, Windows ME Backup,…
*ology could give: histology, biology, geology, physiology,…
Question Mark (?)Represents one character only in this part of the filename.Windows ?? Back-up could give: Windows XP Backup, Windows ME Backup,…
??ology could give: biology, geology,…

The asterisk (*) represents any number of alphanumeric characters, while each question mark (?) represents only one alphanumeric character.

3. “Search Filters”, a Very Powerful Feature

This feature is what (I believe) makes Windows 7’s search better than search engines in previous OS. Search filters allow users to search for a file using its details such as its size, date created, etc. These details can vary from one type of file to another. For instance, you can search for an MP3 file using the artist’s name or album. While search for a document by its author or tags. The following is the syntax of search filters:

property:data

For instance, if you’d like to find music with the genre (genre is the property) jazz and contains the word ‘can’ in its filename, your search would be: genre:jazz can. There are MANY properties that you can use. For a full list of properties you can use, I strongly recommend you check Windows Search Advanced Query Syntax.

Also, operators can help you obtain more precise results. The following table shows the list of common operators that you can use in your search:

OperatorWhat it doesExample
ANDSearch results must contain specified terms togethercar AND race could find car in a race, race car,…
ORSearch results can contain either one of the terms specifiedcar OR race could find car in race, car, race, race car…
NOTSearch results should not contain the term(s) specified*car NOT race could find car, sportscar (but not car in race, race,…)
Quotes (“)Search results must contain the EXACT term specified“car” could find car, car in race,

4. View before Opening

Let’s assume that you want to search for a document and know its location, but can’t remember any of its details. Thus, you type in the search bar kind:docs and Windows Search returns a list with all the documents in that location. Let’s say 20 search results are returned. You obviously don’t have enough time to go on opening each and every document until you find the one you’ve been looking for. Hence Windows 7 provides a panel called the “preview panel” to make life easier. The preview panel views the contents of the file when selecting it.

To show the “preview panel” simply click on the second item at the right top under the search bar as shown in the screen shot below:

'View Panel' button

5. Group the Search Results

After Windows 7 has finished displaying the search results, you might want to group the results found according to their details (such as their type, tags, date created, etc.) by right-clicking anywhere inside the window (without highlighting a search result) and then clicking on “Group by” to select the how you want to group the search results. If you’d like more details, click on “More…”.

If you need any help or would like to add anything, ask in the “Comments”. :)

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79 Responses to Finding Files Faster with Windows 7 Search

  1. SuperJ January 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm #

    I much prefer FileSearchEX for this sort of task … I need to find a file quickly and don’t to mess around with a complex GUI.

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