Searching Your Computer
Posted on: July 13th, 2010
Computers today usually have a large hard drive and computer users take advantage of this. We load thousands of photos, documents, or videos on our hard drives. We also load dozens of programs. This amount of information and the large number of items could create a challenge when something needs to be found. Fortunately there are quite a few tools that can be used to locate what we are searching for. Many of these are already built-in your system. You just need to know where to look for them.
Let me start with Windows XP. This one is now considered an old version of Windows but it’s still around on very many computers. Its main search feature is called the Search Companion. It comes with an animated character of a yellow dog. You can see that on the right here. The easiest way to bring up the little dog is by navigating to a folder in Windows Explorer and then pressing F3.
In Windows XP this is the only built-in search feature that I know of. It’s not too fast but it works.
Starting with Windows Vista, Microsoft included some more search features. One of the most convenient one is right at the start menu. When you click on the start button (Windows logo in a circle). You will see a little box where you can enter text.
This could be really useful when you want to, let’s say, run a program like Defrag. That one is not easy to find because it’s two folders deep in the programs menu. But if you just type “defrag” it will pop right out.
Another way, that in Vista the searching got easier is that you don’t need to call upon the dog to search. The search box is located on the top right corner of each folder Window:
If you type something in there the search results will come up pretty quick. You also have option to do some more advanced search, for example narrowing down by the date of the file, or some other criteria. I found this nice article that goes into details on searching for files in Vista: http://www.askdavetaylor.com/search_for_files_in_windows_vista.html
Now Windows 7 has all the above, even better implemented. Plus it has one search feature that was crudely implemented in Vista but it’s made really useful in Windows 7. And that is searching in the control panel.
Why is that useful? Well, the number of options in Windows is pretty high, so finding the one that you need is not that easy. And, to make things harder, Microsoft kept reorganizing the Control Panel so things were located at different places, under different names, in each version of Windows. In Windows 7, when you go to the control panel, it has a search box on the top right corner. If you type in a word, or phrase of what you want setting you want to change then it will search for them. For example you want to change the size of the fonts on your screen. Just type on “font size” in the search box and you’ll find the spot where you can adjust them. As in my example on the right. I use this feature quite a bit and I like it.
Third Party Search Tools
Besides Microsoft’s built-in search tools and features there are many other ones. I’m just going to mention two of these.
One of them is Google Desktop. I found this pre-installed on many people’s computer but almost nobody used it. I think simply because they didn’t what this one was for. Google desktop does pretty much the same thing on your computer than the Google web search engine does on the Web. It indexes your files and allows you to make quick searches of your files. It not only indexes by the file names but by their content (for most common file formats at least).
If you have Google Desktop installed then you can most easily access it by pressing the CTRL key twice in a row. It should pop-up with a little search box where you can enter the search query on what you want to find on your computer. The results will come up in a browser window but that doesn’t mean the search was done on the web. The search results are local, but you can extend them to the Web.
It is a good tool if you have a standalone machine with a lot of files (pictures, documents, etc). That’s the case for most people. Unfortunately, Google Desktop does not support using it on a file server, so for that reason I don’t use it.
You can download Google Desktop from: http://desktop.google.com/
Another tool is called Launchy. It’s a specialized search program in the sense that it indexes only your installed programs. Once indexed, it allows you to quickly launch your applications by bringing up a search box with a key combination (which is by default ALT+Space) and then entering a few letters of their names. If you working like me, having a lot of Windows open all the time and using a large number of various software then it’s very useful. I don’t need to use the start menu, or go back to the desktop to launch things but simply by a few keystrokes I can get them going. I can also use it as a quick calculator, or even to launch a Web search query.
You can download Launchy from: http://filehippo.com/download_launchy/
Pictures are not always named in such a way that they’d indicate what they are about. A file named “DSC00021.jp” doesn’t tell much, except that it was most likely downloaded from a Digital camera.
What I usually recommend is to use Picasa. It’s another Google product which is excellent at finding and indexing your pictures on your hard drive. Once indexed, you can quickly flip through the pictures, tag them, or find them by date. We have more information on this and how to use it under another article: Tips on Digital Photography.
Good Hunting! (for files and programs )
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