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How to do a simple search in Windows 7??? RRS feed

  • Question

  • Hi all,

      I am a IT sercurity guru and ex help desk expert.  I consider myself an expert in Windows and UNIX.  I LOVE Windows 7 so far, but for one thing.  I can not figure out for the life of my how to do simple searches!

      For instance I want to search all files on the C: drive for all files with the extension .esp.  So I click the C: drive in Windows explorer and type *.esp in the search field in the upper right.  The search takes forever and gives me thousands of results that have nothing to do with .esp files.  I get files like 'nero.txt' 'MonetCHS.xls' a million .xml files and tons of other stuff that not only does not have the .esp files extension, but not have esp in the file name anywhere.  What on Earth is going on?  How do I do this search (basically the equiv of 'find / -name *.esp' in UNIX?  This worked fine in XP, and was a ton faster.

      Thanks in advance,

    - John
    Friday, June 26, 2009 4:07 PM

Answers

  • asterix2112,

    You might find this MSDN article helpful. It's called Advanced Query Syntax.
    • Marked as answer by asterix2112 Friday, June 26, 2009 7:10 PM
    Friday, June 26, 2009 5:35 PM
    Answerer

All replies

  • To search for .esp files, search for this:

    ext:esp

    It will find all files with the extension "esp".

    -Nick
    Friday, June 26, 2009 4:14 PM
  • Wow, that works.  Is there a list of the search filters anywhere?  Obviously size: and datemodified: are ones as those are up there.  Now I know ext:, but I don't a good list just Googling Windows search filters.
    Friday, June 26, 2009 4:23 PM
  • asterix2112,

    You might find this MSDN article helpful. It's called Advanced Query Syntax.
    • Marked as answer by asterix2112 Friday, June 26, 2009 7:10 PM
    Friday, June 26, 2009 5:35 PM
    Answerer
  • Perfect, thanks for the link!  - John
    Friday, June 26, 2009 7:10 PM
  • I had the same question and after 26 minutes, I finally found this thread and the reference link, so thank you so much for the assist!

    I find it difficult to understand why such a fundamental and far-reaching change to one of the most significant desktop tools in the entire OS isn't on the "Howdy Doody Windows 7" glurge pages, along with how to align windows and "shake" the "task bar" (or whatever it's called now), homies :)

    This would be an excellent opportunity for MS to put some relevant information about one of the most important tools in the system in a public place, instead of scrawling the answer on the walls of the Search 2.0 MSDN archive.

    Go to it, MS! Make us floundering IT specialists proud!

    Or not. :(
    Data is not Information; Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom.
    Tuesday, July 14, 2009 5:21 AM
  • Pete -

    Windows 7's documentation - especially including stuff generally considered to be kinda boring by the masses - isn't ready but will be soon enough.. The Aero shake/peek features, on the other hand are tools that Microsoft is hoping will attract people to buying computers with Windows 7 or buying upgrades to Windows 7.
    Tuesday, July 14, 2009 5:32 AM

  • PC Pete, as you see, it is too tedious and cryptic to document for ordinary users.  I had previously posted links to two, more comprehensive pages on this subject which explain Vista search parameters.  They were so complicated, I'll bet even Wolfie couldn't pass a quiz on their content right now.  I know I couldn't.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009 5:55 AM
  • Thanks for offering the suggestions, anyway! I can't begin to imagine what's going on behind closed doors at the moment, but I'm pretty sure it's not a detailed description of all the search filter/crawler options!

    FWIW, I've now had time to experiment with most of the AQS filter strings, and I have to say I REALLY hope someone builds a better search tool than what's in the RC. Or at least, I hope someone can come up with a better set of search options than what's documented in the AQS archive document! I'm sure there's more under the hood, but I can't find enough to make it practical to use.

    After 4 hours of faffing around trying to find files and content using the built-in search, I've given up trying to find stuff using the local system. It's far quicker for me to use Windows Search 4.0 on my gateway PC (XP x32), and I've now shared all the major drives on Phaedrus (w7 x64 system), and searching through those over my private network gives me better results more quickly than the... er... excessive? ...results returned by W7 search.

    It's a workaround that works for me (so far), but I'm not sure if anyone else would be interested (or able to do it securely).

    I was thinking of installing Search x64 V4, but I'm nervous about trying to install an MS search tool on top of the built-in OS tool. If anyone has any other suggestions for alternatives, I'd like to hear them!

    I'm also really interested to learn where and how all the metadata is stored in W7. It's something I need to understand, and now would be a good time to learn. I'm rebuilding the system from scratch, so I want to get my data management off to a good start, rather than using filenames like tags and having to manage those manually. I've done some searching in the technet archives and MSDN generally, but apart from whitepapers and marketing blurb, I must be missing the good stuff. I don't mind having to use a standard (like Dublin Core, for example, although that's a bit heavyweight for my needs), but I'd like to find one first and then stick to it.

    If anyone can recommend a good place to start looking for how best to use W7 to look after the metadata for me, I'd be much obliged.
    Data is not Information; Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom.
    Tuesday, July 14, 2009 6:36 AM

  • I've now had time to experiment with most of the AQS filter strings, and I have to say I REALLY hope someone builds a better search tool than what's in the RC. Or at least, I hope someone can come up with a better set of search options than what's documented in the AQS archive document! I'm sure there's more under the hood, but I can't find enough to make it practical to use.


    I'm also really interested to learn where and how all the metadata is stored in W7. It's something I need to understand, and now would be a good time to learn.o it.




    I would like to see a crib-note template in Search, and a built-in automated prompting to construct the compound search syntax.

    I am not sure what you mean about the metadata storage.  But if I take that literally, I believe it is kept separate from standard directory info in NTFS.  I have lost track of how all this is done these days, and the info is difficult to obtain.  In fact, some wise-cracker here has even suggested I read "Windows for dummies".  Of course I did not find helpful at all.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009 6:56 AM
  • Sorry about that. My "metadata" is someone else's "properties", and those "properties" are someone else's "tags". I mean in this instance stuff like Title, Subject, Category, Keywords, Author, Artist, Album, f/stop, and so on. That information has traditionally been managed by standalone targeted apps, like ACDsee for photo management, Audition for WAV and BWF (which is what 90% of my data is), and so on. But it looks like Windows now can access and manage that information, but I'm not sure of the best way to do it. Or even if it's practical/possible to manage on a system-wide scale (which can be pretty scary even on a standalone system like this).

    I already store a lot of information about the origin and other details within files that support internal metadata (RIFF and CART chunks for WAV and BWF files, ID tags in music and so on), but that requires specific software or specific tools to create that info in the first place. It's easy enough to create (with the right tools), but creating metadata and managing/searching that metadata are two very different kettles of fish.

    I was hoping there might be some additional "tag" type management in the W7 filesystem, and there are (at least for some predefined types, such as "music" and "video"). But so far I haven't been able to find out a) IF the search tool uses that information (because I haven't filled much of it in on this new system), and if so, b) how to more easily perform management, like doing batch or group metadata updates, and then c) where and how that's managed by the OS, so I know what to back up and what messages to ignore when copying such files to simpler filesystems (like flash drives and so on).

    Since I've just lost nearly 3TB of audio data, and I'm starting over again, I want to make sure I get the right tools to help manage the new files I'm working on.

    I know that either way, I have a LOT of learning to do! I'm just not sure where to start. I don't necessarily need answers, just pointers to places to start would be a great help. And I'm sorry this has got so far OT.
    Data is not Information; Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom.
    Tuesday, July 14, 2009 8:41 AM

  • Sorry about that....

    I know that either way, I have a LOT of learning to do! I'm just not sure where to start. I don't necessarily need answers, just pointers to places to start would be a great help. And I'm sorry this has got so far OT.


    Data is not Information; Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom.


    Your inquiry is right on the money.  You are just asking how to make practical use of the great things Windows might have to offer.


    As you can see from this thread, though, the answers you will get here are only of two categories.  One is a promise into the future of documentation that will never materialize.  The other is a link to a disconnected blurt of technical statements that can neither be deciphered nor applied.

    Your adage above pretty well qualifies what you got here as data.



    The answer to your question is to use a 3rd party solution.  That is always the answer.  No need to apologize.  Twice.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009 4:50 PM
  • 3rd party tools? Two words : 'Adobe Bridge'. Now there's metadata management conceptualised and realised in the worst way possible! Or "How to misuse and misrepresent common data in a bloated, ugly, inflexible, mind-bogglingly slow, arcane, and stupid interface" for dummies.

    I'm certain that searching tools could be tarted up and put on the blurge (cross between blurb and glurge :) pages. "How to manage and track all of your photos" springs to mind. But I admit, the marketing folks probably don't understand the concept of metadata management, let alone the practicalities, so they're concentrating on the fluff, not the practical applications of the new OS. Once again, they've aimed for the very lowest common denominator and taken the easy route and banged the "isn't it pretty?" drum, instead of taking the "look how helpful this will be!" line. Once again, the selling point is the most visible technology rather than the most helpful. It's kinda sad, when the marketers have so little understanding of the most powerful underlying technologies that they just ignore the implications. They really do need to get away from the "see how shiny it is" explorer/library metaphors and back into "imagine how easy it will be to find and manage your files".

    Searching for photos is boring? Well, yes it is boring, but it's something every user of the new OS will need to know how to do. Maybe shifting the focus to "How to FIND your photos with metadata tagging" instead of "search for communications using the iscommunication advanced query filter" would help. But I suspect I'm preaching to the converted.

    I agree, we don't really have any choice, so we must wait and see what third party tools will pop up with reasonable access to usable and friendly search interfaces. If I had the smarts I'd do it myself, but I don't, so I won't.

    And yes, I really would like more information and less data, but that's whistling into the wind.
    Data is not Information; Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom.
    Tuesday, July 14, 2009 10:45 PM
  • Well, whaddaya know?

    As I'm digging around trying to find out why W7 is abusing my sound hardware, I noticed a link and voilá * : There IS a blurge entry for windows 7 search, and get this : there's even a HOTKEY! Wow!

    The url I stumbled across is : http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/Searching-in-Windows-frequently-asked-questions

    Strange how it didn't appear in the search attempts earlier, but better late than never.

    The hotkey (Win + F) brings up a huge blank expanse of some kind of virtual explorer window with the teensy-weensy little microscopic search text field at top right. Of course, there aren't any controls for fine-tuning the search, nor are there any kinds of references or links back to the search indexer, and the only column displayed initially is the "name" and no others, but hey, it's a search window.

    Unfortunately, it turns out Windows Search 4.0 doesn't even install on W7, so that's closed that door. Although it does return a "windows 7" search hit in the web search results, I think that's just a catch of the "Don't use this, use Windows 7" advertorial in the same window.

    On a philosophical note, I find the use of the letter F in the hotkey another strange reversal of direction by MS marketing. I guess the F is "search For Files", because after 14 years of explorer context menus showing "search" instead of "find" since W98, I'm surprised at the seachange back to "finding" rather than "searching" :) Although as a pedant, I'm happy that I can now find stuff instead of just searching for it.

    * : or "viola" or "voila" or "vwalah" or however you choose to interpret it!


    Data is not Information; Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom.
    Wednesday, July 15, 2009 12:55 AM
  • asterix2112,

    You might find this MSDN article helpful. It's called Advanced Query Syntax.




    I am going to remark about the above-quoted answer (green checkmark).  I hope this is taken as constructive criticism.



    Suppose it had been worded like this:

    Here's a link  MSDN article  to a pretty technical doc that's pretty darned intimidating.  But I personally sifted through it and found these options  xxxx yyyy zzzz  that are really very useful.  Try them.  If you figure out how others work that you find useful, please post and share them here.  Thanks, and good luck!

    Then I would have said, hey, good answer.




    But as it stands, it feels to me like a shrug-off.  That document is hideous.

    Certainly not the answer I'd hope for the posted topic  How to do a simple search in Windows 7.


    Thursday, July 16, 2009 10:01 PM
  • I'd like to add a couple of additional comments on the search search (is that redundant redundancy?)

    I found another online video blog with some more specific details at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/dd758794.aspx.

    I've also had time to dig around and browse more of the blurge pages, but there's not a lot more than what's in the video at the above link.

    The primary difficulty I'm having (and I assume that others may also be experiencing) is in fine-tuning the search.

    None of the microsoft documents address anything about finding specific within any search results.

    The filters that everyone in the MS documents keep mentioning are not at all useful in identifying particular text or metadata within a filtered result set.

    So you can search for filenames with particular extensions, but you can't search for a pattern within the filename, nor in the extension filter.

    By way of example, I've been consolidating a lot of data from various sources as I rebuild my system. So there have been many duplicate filenames that I've thrown into various folders and libraries, with the intention of filtering those out manually later. So there's a lot of files (all types) with the string "(2)" in the filename.

    But there doesn't seem to be any way of finding filenames with just that string in them. Quoting, using "wildcards" (which I assume are now deprecated with the push to mainstream use of the search filters), separating out the characters, combining them differently, none of these things work.

    So when I search for "file:(2)", I get thousands of results from anything on the system that has the number 2 in it, but none of my attempts have been able to show only filenames with a parenthesis in them, for example.

    And the 5-year-old MSDN search syntax article still only presents the filters in a very basic and over-simplistic presentation as a clever way of searching within particular document types, like email messages, or communications (and I have no idea what "communications" actually means, as it doesn't seem to do anything on this system). There is some mention of metadata, but it doesn't even begin to cover the types of metadata that W7 seems to offer as a built-in tag management tool.

    So at this stage of the RC release, I'd have to say that MS is waiting for developers to put a nice GUI on the current search engine so that we can define our search terms much more clearly and precisely.

    After 4 days, I still can't find any reference to how to filter on particular patterns, the Windows 7 search tool simply provides a very basic textual match with the ability to limit the types of documents/data the search is performed in, but it does not allow any kind of pattern-based filtering that allows us old IT types to find what we want. Instead, we get only what Microsoft wants us to see.

    I do hope some other folks can find better results than what I've managed to dig up, because at the moment, the search tool isn't robust enough to bundle with the OS without an additional, more powerful and flexible search mechanism.

    Again, if I can find anything further, I'll try and post it here.
    Data is not Information; Information is not Knowledge; Knowledge is not Wisdom.
    Friday, July 17, 2009 1:14 AM
  • new search in windows 7 is nice but... why break it for those of us who have been searching since windows 1, windows 2, windows 3, windows 3.11, windows 4 etc etc.  I would think loyalty counts for something.  Instead, we search for the file called summary.txt and nothing shows up even though we know one of the files is named summary.txt and if we search for "summary" a zillion files come up all with the word summary in it.

    I hate to be a "stuck in the mud type", but seriously, I hung onto XP because the searches for a single file got to be too complicated.  Now it is a college course.  (hmmm, it is like selling people on buying their tap water in a plastic bottle to be consumed and then getting them to pay more for the privilege of tossing it in the trash dump where it turns into [pollution] - why not just drink from the tap - nothing hard about that)

    Can we have a "traditional" search - ie, hit f3, type the file name or part of it and have the OS find it?

    DOS still works at least.  Hope they aren't planning to break that too.  Guess I wrote this question eight years ago - no one listened then either.  These "inventions" ruin the excitement of getting a new OS for sure.  

    ---------------------------

    I want to add an addendum here - the efforts above were directed against a mapped folder.  For some reason they did not work whereas their conterparts over the Network (ie \\server\sharename) worked fine.  I did hit F3 and was able to type in a value and have the search locate the file or folder.  I also found there is a button that allows me to look at the details (by button, I mean a not very obvious icon [at least to me]) and once I had the details listed, I could click the columns and sort by date, or by size or by name or whatever column I choose.   Since this is the functionality I was looking for, I would say that I am satisfied (mapped drives aside) with the newer search capability.   It took waaaay to long to figure this out.  Having icons instead of menus (IMHO) is a method of disguising functionality rather than exposing it and it is a trend that I wish future versions of Microsoft OS systems would avoid.  
    • Edited by Crakdkorn Saturday, September 12, 2009 1:23 PM found solution
    Sunday, August 30, 2009 10:39 PM
  • At the risk of repeating myself, I should point out that I no longer even try to perform searches in W7. With the shining exception of the start menu (now THAT's what a search tool can do!), the search "function" is so vestigial as to be essentially a waste of code. For me, the app/utility at the top of my "install before even trying to use W7" list is Directory Opus. There are some caveats (clearly explained in the forums), but assuming it's installed, I can now do a Ctrl-F and I get a search window with the ability to filter by date, time, and/or size, with text matching in the filename and within the file contents.

    In other words, that does what the W7 search should have done from the start. Gee I wish I'd been involved in the betas, I could have annoyed the cr@p out of MS and maybe the search wouldn't have been so badly neutered. Still... If wishes were fishes, etc.

    I'd still be really interested to know if anyone familiar with the RTM codebase can comment on any search improvements added at the last minute?
    Monday, August 31, 2009 7:10 AM
  • I am going to remark about the above-quoted answer (green checkmark).  I hope this is taken as constructive criticism.

    Suppose it had been worded like this:

    Here's a link  MSDN article  to a pretty technical doc that's pretty darned intimidating.  But I personally sifted through it and found these options  xxxx yyyy zzzz  that are really very useful.  Try them.  If you figure out how others work that you find useful, please post and share them here.  Thanks, and good luck!

    Then I would have said, hey, good answer.

    But as it stands, it feels to me like a shrug-off.  That document is hideous.

    Certainly not the answer I'd hope for the posted topic  How to do a simple search in Windows 7.

    I agree.

    The Original Post was "How to do a simple search in Windows 7???".

    That document is not simple.
    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 1:49 AM
  • >Gee I wish I'd been involved in the betas,

    Wouldn't have helped.  Plenty of folks scratched their heads over Windows Search 4.0 and there was much discussion on the subject.  Its predecessor in Vista was already a step in the wrong direction.

    Computers are not fuzzy things, they don't give approximations of results (unless specifically programmed to do so).

    What they ARE is hyper fast and incredibly accurate - when properly programmed.  And so we can imagine searching through gigabytes of data in real time, and getting perfectly accurate results.  Why Microsoft has implemented a "search" facility that's so complex that it can't be reliably used to do simple searches is way beyond my imagination, and I've got a good imagination.

    I hate to say it, but there have been versions of searches in past Windows versions from which I would bank on the results.  Not now.

    Would you stake your career on the output of Windows Search 4.0?

    Let's say your boss said, "I need all the documents in the Documents folder that list our SuperWidget updated."  Would you type SuperWidget into Explorer's search box, edit all the files it found, then report that you were done?

    Seriously.

    -Noel
    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 2:02 AM
  • P.S., Check out grepWin.

    http://tools.tortoisesvn.net/

    -Noel
    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 2:16 AM
  • I agree, it's much easier to search for something than to find it (algorithmically speaking, anyway). Since the advent of file property fields in NT (I think), I've been waiting for a MS search tool that clearly and simply searches those fields, and since none did, I tend to embed my metadata in the filename and keep my fingers crossed that content-based searches will fine-tune the results from filename filters. Search 3.0 did seem to be a step in the right direction, but that's essentially unobtainable now, and Search 4.0 doesn't give me any meaningful results - even on the (few) systems it will install on properly it seems to miss some simple filename data and instead returns incorrectly "matching" data from who-knows-where.

    The GrepWin tool is powerful, no doubt about it! But although I cut my teeth on SCO Unix (and Xenix, if anyone remembers) and only moved to DOS and then Windows when my then employer (HP) did, grep was then and still is a pretty intimidating tool - and for newcomers it can be a nightmare to get their heads around.

    Sadly, there has been no improvement between the RC and the full release of W7 in the search department, so that's a dead end (not that I expected much anyway).

    So I'm sticking with Opus searches, they're hideously slow but at least I can match meaningful results to my metadata. Mostly. Fingers crossed someone (anyone) comes up with an elegant, CHEAP, search tool that works within the W7 metadata paradigm. I'm not holding my breath though.
    Wednesday, December 2, 2009 2:39 AM
  • The advanced query syntax article is very helpful.

    It is very funny though.

    The advanced query syntax provides exactly what you need to do a search to find exactly what you are looking for and exclude what you don't.

    These types of search parameters are powerful and available in unix/linux search tools. I use these concepts all the time to perform searches in unix/linux.

    What's funny is the developers of the Windows 7 search function, which they provide for the use of their users, know that the Windows 7 search function is worthless if you don't use the advanced query syntax.

    I bet the developers use the advanced query syntax all the time. I mean why would anyone want to sort through all those meaningless search results when you can actually construct a query that finds exactly what you want?

    I also wonder what the search developers think of performing a search and not finding what they are looking for because it wasn't indexed. Maye it was was a "hidden" file or an excluded file type or what ever. I personally find that beyond annoying. When I search I actually want to search everything under a given file system location. Of course I tailor the query using constructs similar to the advanced query syntax.

    Why Microsoft doesn't provide an advanced search tool which allows a user to graphically construct (and save) queries which are implemented via the advanced query syntax is a mystery to me. Maybe they could also add a "don't treat me like the idiot you think I am and really really really search everything" option.
    Thursday, December 3, 2009 7:05 AM
  • Windows 7 is an example of what you get when marketing designs something, your PC made simple, so simple only a simpleton could like it.

    The search in Windows 7 is what you can get when the developers design something without end-user feedback.  Something so complicated that only an expert could like it.

    The best result is when there is good two-way communication between developers and end-users.  And leave marketing out of it.
    Friday, December 4, 2009 2:38 AM
  • I'll tell you what's funny : the video on the MSDN/9 site
    channel9.msdn.com/posts/Dan/Windows-7-Find-and-Organize-Part-1-The-User-Experience/
    I mean, come on - "Our Search Team [is focused on] helping you find... er... your stuff." (That's a direct quote from the video!).

    When the development team lead can't explain what, precisely, the team is trying to help us users to find, nor how to actually go about finding more than "a file you know what it looks like, or if, er, you only know what folder it is in", let alone how to clearly organise the results - well I guess that says it all really.

    Generally speaking, I don't know "what a file looks like", and if I knew the folder it was in, I wouldn't need to look for it! I have more tools at my disposal than the crippled Explorer interface to get there faster than Explorer permits me.

    The search feature is without doubt the most embarrassing oversight/omission in the otherwise incredibly well-thought-out Windows release. And since I probably spend more than 10% of my development time searching for "stuff" I've put somewhere and then forgotten about, that's only 90% of an operating system in front of me (or anyone else trying to figure out the arcane and (in some cases) superceded search parameters).
    Friday, December 4, 2009 2:43 AM
  • Brian, you're right - the guys on the search tool team obviously didn't understand what it is that people are trying to find - nor how they're trying to look for it. If they did, then they didn't do the job right. Maybe they were asking the wrong people, maybe they didn't have the resources they needed, or maybe time just got away from them - but it's resulted in an essentially useless search tool.

    I admit the parameters are powerful (assuming you can find any reasonably complete discussion of their use), but even as a programmer I find the search tool parameters difficult to use, difficult to fine-tune, hard to find any documentation for, and almost impossible to get the "right" results (or at least, the results I expect).

    My earlier posts alluded to the search tool "finding" metadata associated with files that had absolutely no relevance to the search terms entered. So either it finds too much, and I have to waste time trying to filter the results or figure what I did wrong, or it finds too little, and I have to waste time trying to figure out what I did wrong.

    What's wrong with providing a separate executable (a lá Windows Search 3.x or 4.x) that allows simple filename/pattern based searching, as well as simple content/pattern based searching, with the option of the arcane and confusing metadata parameters for those of us who like inflicting pain on ourselves? I get the strong feeling that the push to "embed" all these functions within the explorer interface has backfired badly, at least so far.

    FOr me (and obviously for other users), the search tool in Windows 7 has taken an astonishing backward step in functionality and user interaction. Heck, I can find stuff on my NT and Win95 systems faster and easier than I can find them on Win7! And let's not mention XP...

    One last point : Regardless of the arcane search parameter apologists, we still can't see where or how the results matched the search string - and that's mind bogglingly unhelpful.

    If I'm misunderstanding or misusing the search facility, I apologise. But I don't think I am.
    Friday, December 4, 2009 2:58 AM