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Using Search [F3] or [Windows Key+F]  

Search for files and folders

Basic Search Criteria

Additional Search Criteria

More Advanced Search options

Search for documents, pictures, people, etc.

More To Know

Indexing Service

Setting Search Preferences

Searching Ideas

The Big Search Tip

The Small Search Tip

Another Tip: File Names With Spaces

Search Files or Folders in Windows Me, Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP use common interface

Search for files and folders

Pressing the Search Botton on the Tools Bar
[above] The Search windows opened from Windows Explorer.
Pointer Over Blank Space On Desktop and Pressing F3
[above] The Search Companion opened using F3 keyboard shortcut. Search companion is opened to Basic Search Criteria.
Search Initial view
[above] Selecting Search from Windows Explorer will bring up the Search Companion
Search using file date criteria
[above] When was it modified? Expand this search option to narrow your search by the creation date or whenever it was last edited or modified.
Search using Advanced Options
[above] More Advanced Options are commonly used Search subfolders.
[below] Also under the More Advanced options will be a drop-down list of known file types. 
Search Drop-down list of file types
Specify file size criteria
[above] What size is it? Expand this option for a variety of date search options.
Search for pictures, music, or video
[above] Search Pictures, Music, Video
Search for Document
[above] Search for document.
Search a computer
[above] You can also search in a specific computer if part of a network of computers.
Search for People
[above] Search for people.
List of Available Address Books
[above] Drop-down list of available Address Books
Search Internet for ...
[above] Search the Internet.
Search Preferences
[above] Preferences

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 Search Results. Now lets go find those files.

Basic Search Criteria (view)

1. Give as much information about the file name as you can.

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 wildcard is the asterisk [*] character. For example ‘noc*.doc’ will find all files whose name starts with ‘noc’ and with a file extension of ‘doc’. note: See tip on file names with spaces.

What Is A File Extension?

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.

Multiple Criteria

You could use Search to collect Files and Folders and then perform a backup. In the Named: field you can input multiple criteria by separating each with a ';'. After the search is complete you can Select All [Control-A] files and folders that have been found and copy them to your backup media such as tape or CD. The example shown will search for all htm and doc files as well as any file whose file name starts with fun.

2. If you know what was in the file, text wise, then input this information into the ‘Word or phrase in the file:’ field. 

3. The ‘Look in:’ drop-down list will tell Search where to start the search. (view)

All pertinent storage locations are listed in the drop-down list box: Desktop, special document folders such as My Documents, All Storage Devices (floppies, CD-ROM, Hard Disks, etc. The last item in the list is Browse. Select Browse to go to a specific folder that you wish to start the search in.

Additional Search Criteria

What Date Is It? (view)

You can 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.

Does Size Count? (view)

You can narrow your search by specifing small (less than 100KBytes), medium (less than 1MByte) and large (larger than 1MByte) or you can narrow down the search by size estimation. Who ever knows the file size?

More advanced options (view)

  • Search system folders
  • Search hidden files and folders
  • Search subfolders
  • Case sensitive
  • Search tape backup

Search for documents, pictures, people, etc.

If at any time you wish to make a new type of search you can click Other Search options and be sent to the main panel and choose the search of your preference. (view)

Search for Pictures, Music, Video (view)

You can search for Pictures and Photos, Music, and Video. You can select one, two or all three. Add all or part of the file name. You can also add a word or phrase in the file. You can? Words or phrases in a picture? I don't think so.

Search for Documents (view)

Word processing, spreadsheets, etc. that's what is saids. We can find no way to select file types other than to include the file extension when entering a file name. We perform a search with the file name blank and the search companion return all files except executables, such as, *.EXE and *.DLL files.

Searching for People (view)

Search companion will use your Windows Address book (default) to locate someone. If you are part of a local network you can use Active Directory if available. You can also get on the Internet and use one of the people finder sites.

Searching For Another Computer (view)

Use this option to find another computer on the network and more importantly you can also locate files on the network. Put in all or part of the computer name. Then again you can select a computer from your My Network Places and then search for that special file. Except there are times when all the computers on the network are not listed under My Network Places.

Search the Internet (view)

Search Companion allows you do perform your search using a classic search site, such as, and by allowing Search Companion to walk you through a search.

There is a third option, Search Assistant, that lists serveral options for your search. It allows you to define the type of search - web page, person, business, etc., and the search engine you want to use for that search.

The only problem is that we at Windows Assistance don't know how do get Search Assistant. We know that once you start an Internet search you may get a Customize button at the top of the Search Companion. If you do then click the Customize button. Now you can select Search Companion method, Search Assistant method or just a plain old Search Engine. Funny thing, they don't list Google in the list of plain old search engines. Our problem is that we didn't get the Customize button every time.

If you need to search the Internet then use the browser and select the Search Companion as the Explorer Bar of choice.

More about searching the Internet in a future page.

More To Know

Indexing Service

Indexing Service extracts the information from a set of documents and organizes it in a way that makes it quick and easy to access that information through the Windows XP Search function.

Indexing Service indexes the following types of documents:

  • HTML
  • Text
  • Microsoft Office 95 and later
  • Internet mail and news (with Internet Information Services installed)
  • Any other document for which a document filter is available

More on the Indexing Service.

Setting Search Preferences (view)

With or without an animated screen character

  • Choose a different animated character
  • Turn on/off the animated character
  • Do a trick

With or without Indexing Service

  • Indexing Service is a service that extracts the information from a set of documents and organizes it in a way that makes it quick and easy to access that information through the Windows XP Search function, the Indexing Service query form, or a Web browser. To enable/disable Indexing Service you must have administrator rights. More on the Indexing Service.

Change files and folders search behavior

  • Go from step-by-step options to manually enter search info.

Change Internet search behavior

  • Either let Search Companion automatically send your search info to other search engines or assign a specific search engine, such as Google, to do the search.

Show or don't show ballon tips

  • Why this is here and not within Desktop properties is a wonder. Ballon tips are those annoying suggestion that popup and get in your way whenever you are trying to get work done.

Turn on or turn off AutoComplete

  • Search companion keeps track of any data you have previously used. Could speed up your search, maybe.

Searching Ideas

The Big Search Tip

Up till recently I, like millions of Windows users, rarely used the Search utility. Then I found out about the Save capabilities of Search. 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 Internet Explorer's Save As command. 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 Search to locate the HTM files and only the HTM files. I can then save the search for future use. You’re now saying ‘He can do what?’ Here’s the way it’s done.

First use Search 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.’ Search will put a shortcut for the search onto your documents folder. Now every time you want to find those files you just click on the shortcut and then press the ‘Search’ 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.

The Small Search Tip

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

Another Tip: File Names 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.

Search Files or Folders in Windows Me, Windows 2000 Professional and Windows XP use common interface

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 2000 Pro: 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 Save Search.)