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Using Find Files or Folders [F3] or [Windows Key+F]  

The Find window shown is for Windows 9X OSs. Windows Me and Windows XP users will see a different look but the operation is the same. Windows Me will also perform more types of searches.
note: Before we start, all Windows Me and Windows XP users must realize that Search Files or Folders is the same as Find Files or Folders. Windows Me users will not hear it called Search by me again. It will always be referred to as Find. Get used to it!

I’ve stopped being surprised by how many users can’t find files on their computer. Many need to open the application that created the file and hope that they can locate it. To use Windows Explorer to move, delete, or copy files is totally foreign to them. There is a straight forward method to find files or folders and then delete, move, copy, etc. Press the F3 key or if you are working in an application press [Windows Key + F]. By putting something into the brackets means to hold down both keys at the same time (the + sign is not pressed.) Try it. You should see a window with the title Find: All Files. Now lets go find those files.

The goal is to find the missing file. To aid the search insert as much information as possible. If only part of the name is known then input as much as possible. Use the wildcard characters to complete a name. The most common one is the asterisk [*] character. For example ‘noc*.doc’ will find all files whose name starts with ‘noc’ and with a file extension of ‘doc’. If you know what was in the file, text wise, then input this information into the ‘Containing Text:’ field. The ‘Look in:’ field will tell Find where to start the search.

What Is A File Extension?

'Of type:' can be used to find files where the file extension is unknown.
Find File 'at least' or 'at most' in size.
Also in the Advanced tab you can narrow down the search by size estimation. Who ever knows the file size?

A file extension is the  characters that follow the last ‘period’ in a file name. If you do not know what this is then not to worry.  Just click on the ‘Advanced’ tab and in the ‘Of Type’ field is a drop-down list of all the file types that Windows knows about. The file type you are looking for is most probably in this list.


What Date Is It?

The Date tab can be used to find all files created or modified since last backup.You can also narrow the search to specific dates. Go to the ‘Date’ tab and provide as much information as possible. The Date tab can be used to find all files modified or created since the last backup.

The Big Find Tip

Up till recently I, like millions of Windows users, rarely used the Find utility. Then I found out about the Save capabilities of Find. Let me give an example.

I spend a good deal of time on the Web searching for articles dealing with Windows. When I find one I usually download the Web page to my computer using Netscape Composer. Now I can read the page at leisure. The problem is the finding the right page and doing it quickly. Using Windows Explorer involves wading through everything in a folder. Instead I use Find to locate the HTM files and only the HTM files. I can then save the search for future use. I can even save the search with the results. You’re now saying ‘He can do what?’ Here’s the way it’s done.

First use Find to locate whatever you are searching for. Now if you want to save the search criteria go to the ‘File’ menu and select ‘Save Search.’ Find will put a shortcut for the search onto your desktop. Now every time you want to find those files you just click on the shortcut and then press the ‘Find Now’ button. Done!

The window that displays the files and folders found is no different than the Windows Explorer window. You can now: copy, move, delete files and folders. You can also sort by name, type, date, etc. just as in Windows Explorer.

You can also save the search with the results. Go to the ‘Options’ menu for Find and check ‘Save Results.’ Now every time you save a search the results will be saved also.

The Small Find Tip

Using the [Windows Key + F] will always activate Find. If you are using Windows Explorer and you go to Find then Find will open with the ‘Look In:’ field showing the current directory path in Windows Explorer

Another Tip: File Name with Spaces

If you are looking for a file that contains spaces in the name be sure to use "?" as a place holder otherwise Windows will think you're looking for all instances of the individual words. For example, if you're looking for your favorite old time mp3, "Home on the Range," and you use "home on the range" as the search name you will get every instance for the words home, on, the, and range, even if the letters of the search words are buried in another word (i.e on in phone). Enter the search name  as "home?on?the?range" and Windows will find the correct file.

Last Tip: Multiple Criteria

To find multiple file or folders use the ; to seperate criteria.You could use Find to collect Files and Folders and then perform a backup. In the Named: field you can input multiple criteria by separating each with a ';'. Now you can Select All [Control-A] files that have been found and copy them to your backup media such as tape or CD. The example will find all Word and Publisher files on the E: drive.

OK It’s Called Search Files or Folders in Windows Me, Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP

With these OS’s Find becomes Search and it has been enhanced. There is an excellent explanation of Search in the books: Windows Me: The Missing Manual or Windows 2000Pro: The Missing Manual. If you go to the O’Reilly web site and search for the book you will be able to download chapter 2. It is in PDF format. You will need the Acrobat reader. Even Windows 9X users can get much from this chapter. (This is where I found out about Find Save Search.)

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Web Sites Mentioned

O’Reilly & Assoc.

Window Me: The Missing Manual

Windows 2000 Pro: The Missing Manual