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- This Week's Free Computer Tip -

132 -Searching for Files and Folders

No matter how organized you are, there will be times when you simply cannot find a file you absolutely know is stored on the disk. It's not hard to understand why either. After all, even a lightly loaded PC these days has tens of thousands of files and folders stored on it. Add to that that the name we thought was soooooo clever last Wednesday, means nothing to us just a week later. That's okay, we all do it.

So, here are a couple of quick tips to help you learn to use the "Search" function of Windows. These tips should work with all versions of Windows.

Calling the Search Program -
There are three ways to call the Search program:

Any of those will open a Search window. The windows look different in different versions of Windows, but they all have the two fields we care about. Not to worry. You only need to look for these two things to do your search. There will be a box asking for the file (or folder) name and a box asking which disk drives you are looking to search. (More in this in a second.)

Entering the name of the file you are searching for -
If you know the exact name, you can type it into the box. Unfortunately, we don't always remember the actual name, especially six months later. So, what now?

Tip #1 - The "wild card" characters from the old DOS days, still work here. You only need to remember one, the asterisk. Let's say you saved a file and can't remember the name. All you remember is that it had the name "Jeff" in the file name somewhere. If in the filename box, you enter "*jeff*.*" (omit the quotes), the search will find all files which have the letters "jeff" anywhere within the front part of the file name. To be specific, all of these files will be found when using that search:

The asterisk says, there are any number of characters here (or possibly none). In our example, we are saying that the letters "jeff" appear somewhere within the file name. I followed the file name with ".*" because I don't know what file extension was used, if any. ".*" will find any folder or file with no extension, or any extension. You get the idea. You usually remember something about the file name, so just go for it.

Tip #2 - Set up a couple of test files and spend 5 minutes trying to "find" or "search" for them using different combinations of the partial names. It will show you how the asterisk works.

Telling Windows where to search -
The default setting for this is to search everything. You often don't want that. For example, everything will include the CD in your CD-ROM drive at the time. Most people have a "C:" drive and will want to confine the search to only that drive. Just be sure there are no other places where that file might be. Delete the text you find in the "where" box, and type in what you want.

Performing the search -
Now, just click on the "Search" button. The computer will begin to search, listing any and all files and folders that meet the criteria, in the right hand portion of the window.

Tip #3 -The files just found can be accessed directly from the search window. Double click on one and it will open with its default program.

Tip #4 - How to find a file or folder which has NO file extension. If you are sure the file or folder you need has no extension, end the search string with the period and nothing else. That will find the files which end in (filename).  <<-- Filename with no extension.

Tip #5 - Initiating "Search" by RIGHT-clicking on a folder. If you are like me and you have have separate folders for documents created in Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Photoshop, etc., then way take all the time to search your whole hard disk when you are looking for a Word document? Instead, use Windows Explorer, point to the Word folder, and RIGHT-click. Select "Search" from there. Your search will be confined to just that folder, and any folders below that, and it will run extremely fast.

One last Tip - particularly for XP users, but others too. Windows has a bad habit of "protecting" us. In the case of searching for files by name, just be aware that the search functions within Windows often decide that we don't need to see certain files, namely system and/or hidden files. It's a bad decision, but Microsoft made it and we're stuck with it. The older versions of Windows didn't do that, but XP certainly gauges what you will see. Call the cops. Write your congressman. When Windows does this, it's a bad idea. It destroys our ability to depend on Windows to find what we asked to find.

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