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Linux tips and tweaks

Configure Search in Gnome

Sometimes you know a file is on the hard disk drive somewhere, but you just can't remember where it is. It may be a file you downloaded last week, a document you created last month or a photo you took last year. Tracking down the file isn't that difficult though, thanks to the Gnome Search tool. This enables you to find files easily and it not only finds full and partial filenames, it can also search the contents of files such as documents to give better results. There are some configuration options that are worth knowing about and they can help you to modify how Search works.

Search in Ubuntu is on the Places menu and it initially presents a simple view. You enter the search term, such as the name of the file to find and click the Find button. If you can't give up the command line, then enter gnome-search-tool. Wildcards can be used in the search box and * represents any number of characters. So you could enter *.txt to find all .txt files for example. Click the plus button to expand the search dialog and you'll see at least one additional optiom, such as a box to enter text that the file contains. This is great when you are searching for documents that contain text, but it won't work for photos, for example. Click the Add button and you can add extra conditions, such as the date, size and other attributes.

All these features are fairly obvious, so let's skip to the interesting settings. Open a Terminal window and enter gconf-editor. In the left-hand pane, find and select gnome-search-tool. Search uses the locate command to speed up searches, but it is not very thorough. To disable quick searches using locate and to always perform a thorough advanced search using find, double click the disable_quick_search item on the right and set the value to true.

After performing a quick search using locate, a second more thorough search is performed using find. Double click disable_quick_search_second_scan and set it to true if you want to disable this action. Would you want to disable it? Maybe, if your disk drive contains thousands of files and search is churning the disk for ages looking for files.

The quick_search_excluded_paths setting is interesting and you might want to add locations to this list to prevent search from including locations you know you don't need to search.

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