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Windows 7 tips and tweaks

Customise the advanced search options

Every Windows Explorer window has a search box and there's one on the Start menu too. They are very useful for locating files that you know are on the disk, but you cannot remember where you put them and which folder they are in. Just type a filename into the search box in an Explorer window and it will display the matching files not only in the current folder, but all subfolders too.

Windows Search does more than just match filenames though, it also looks inside files at their contents too and if you have lost a document, you can enter a word or phrase and Search will list all documents that contain it.

It is obviously a good idea for Windows to index the contents of documents so that you can search for text inside them, but indexing the contents of an image clearly isn't much use. There just isn't anything to index. Search has a list of files it should index by filename and whether it should also try to index the contents too. You can add file types to the list and modify the type of indexing for existing ones. This can help to improve Search and produce better results.

Click Start, Control Panel and switch to Small Icons view on the right. Click Indexing Options, click the Advanced button and select the File Types tab.

You'll see a long list of file types. Find bmp and select it. You'll see that only the properties are indexed, which means the filename, date, size and so on. Select doc, docx or txt and you'll see that these file types have their properties and contents indexed. This allows you to search for words and phrases inside the file.

It is possible to add a file type to the list if there is one that you know exists, but isn't being found in searches. Enter the file extension, such as xyz in the box at the bottom and click the Add button.

You may find that a file is set to index the properties only and not the contents. Select log for example. Log files are actually plain text files, so if you wanted to search for things inside log files you would select Index Properties and File Contents.

Adding file types and choosing what to index can improve the results. However, it has to be said that Windows Search works quite well with the default settings and you probably won't need to modify it. It's useful to know how just in case though.


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