OCS banner and logo
Keeping clients' computers safe and profitable for over 30 years

Home Forms About Current Newsletter subscribe 
Search All Articles

Browse by Category

powered by pmc2m


Windows Search

Preview:Detective searching

Some Windows tricks to quickly find any document on your computer. With these simple techniques, you'll save time finding missing files.

When I want to find a program or setting, the Windows taskbar search button is great. Usually I can find any program on my computer by just typing a few letters. However, I need some other way to find a file.

Finding files:

File Explorer is pretty good at finding files. File explorer is the little file folder icon on the taskbar. If you move to home on the left pane, you can find any file in any of the home folders. It is even quicker to reduce the search by limiting the folder, to just the desktop, documents or downloads if you can.

File Explorer searches both file names and words inside of common file types, like PDF files (searchable) and common word processing files or spreadsheets like Word or LibreOffice files.

I wanted to find a file this month (July) where I wrote about USB Drives

First I'll explain how I do it, then how to use menus so you don't have to remember anything. However, it is useful to understand what possibilities File Explorer offers.

From Documents, I entered this in the search field date: July AND Drive AND USB

Date: July limited my search to documents created in July 2023 (this year's July). AND Drive (all caps required for AND to work), means both "July" and the word "Drive". Adding another AND USB requires that all three conditions are met. The result was 7 files and I found what I wanted quickly. If you keep the Preview pane open (From the View >Show menu then Preview Pane or ALT-P), you can usually see what's inside each document to help select the correct one.

Words like AND are called Boolean operators. Other Boolean operators I find useful are
  • NOT: For example, Shank NOT Steve - Will yield files with "Shank" in them only if the file does not have "Steve" in it. This also excludes any expansion of "Steve" like "Steven" and includes any expansion of "Shank" like "Shankara".
  • AND: Both Steve AND Shank require Steve and the word Shank. This could mean a file that mentions both Steve Jones and Dennis Shank would still appear.
  • If I wanted the phrase Steve Shank exactly that way, then "Steve Shank" would do it. To fix the problem that I'm sometimes called Steve and sometimes Steven, I could use: "Steve Shank" OR "Steven Shank". Quotation marks require the exact phrase.
  • OR: either this or that.
  • >Greater than usually with a size or date parameter. For example Date: >July 1, 2023
  • < Less than works like greater than, but the other way.
  • .. For example date: 2020/1/1 .. 2020/3/31 Would find items between January 1 and March 31, 2020. I write these dates as: YYYY/MM/DD.

Date parameters I use:
  • Today or yesterday. For example date:today or date:yesterday
  • Date: this week or date:last week
  • Month: Next, this, or last, for example date: this month
  • Year: date: 2023 or date: last year or Date: this year or Date: 2023/09/05 a particular date.

Dates are creation dates. For modified dates, use Date Modified: instead of just date:

If you can't remember all that stuff, no problem, there's a menu for you!

As soon as you begin your search, a new menu appears, as if by magic. All you need to do is enter something in the search field.

search Options menu

Clicking the open icon (down button on the right) drops down a list of search options.

For example, although I wrote out my search I could have used the search options to help me with the parameter Date Modified, but I'd still need to enter my words and know the boolean operator which is capital AND. Note, they use date modified, while I was using date created.

search example

You'll notice that besides date options, the menu lets you narrow the search by file type and size.

Don't forget, you still have the option of sorting the output of search results and changing your view parameters.

Let's see it in action

Now that we've covered the theory, here's an actual search and how I did it! I wanted to find my homeowner's insurance policy. I knew it was in the home folder under documents. That's the folder I stick documents related to my home. I even use a home icon to spot it quickly. I selected that folder from File Explorer and typed insurance in the search field. Twenty-one items were listed. So I added, AND Foremost since they are the insurer. The four insurance files appeared. However, I decided to be clever, and added the parameter AND date:last year . Since I bought the policy toward the end of last year and it removed the two documents referring to the previous policy.

Here's what I ended up with
insurance AND Foremostdate: last year

Note that when I typed date: it turned blue showing me I had a correct parameter. I forgot the AND I should have put before Date: but it worked anyway! Microsoft sometimes doesn't enforce its own rules but guesses instead.

The point is, if you do a search and too many items appear, add more parameters to filter it down. The search is interactive.

Date: August 2023

Creative Commons License
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

  Please direct questions/suggestions about website to the webmaster