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Vista Search: A 'Star Feature' Of The New OS

By letting you find files while you type, Vista Search may make folder hierarchies obsolete.

By David Pogue
January 23, 2007 12:00 PM ET

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This article is excerpted from Windows Vista: The Missing Manual, by David Pogue, with permission of O'Reilly Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

Every computer offers a way to find files. And every system offers several different ways to open them. But Search, a star feature of Vista, combines these two functions in a way that's so fast, so efficient, and so spectacular, it reduces much of what you've read in the previous chapters to irrelevance. It works like Google Desktop (or Spotlight on the Macintosh), in that it finds files as you type what you're looking for — not like Windows XP, which doesn't start searching until you're finished typing, and takes a very long time to find things at that.

It's important to note, though, that you can search for files on your PC using the superfast Search box in two different places:

The Start menu. The Start Search box at the bottom of the Start menu searches everywhere on your computer.

Explorer windows. The Search box at the top of every desktop window searches only that window (including folders within it). You can expand it, too, into something called the Search pane — a way to limit the scope of your search to certain file types or date ranges, for example.

Search boxes also appear in the Control Panel window, Internet Explorer, Windows Mail, Windows Media Player, and other spots where it's useful to perform small-time, limited searches. The following pages, however, cover the two main Search boxes, the ones that hunt down files and folders.

Search from the Start Menu

All Versions

Start by opening the Start menu, either by using the mouse or by pressing the Window .

The Start Search text box appears at the bottom of the Start menu; you can immediately begin typing to identify what you want to find and open. For example, if you're trying to find a file called "Pokémon Fantasy League.doc," typing just pok or leag will probably work.

As you type, the familiar Start menu items disappear, and are soon replaced by search results. This is a live, interactive search; that is, Vista modifies the menu of search results as you type — you do not have to press Enter after entering your search phrase.

The results menu lists every file, folder, program, email message, address book entry, calendar appointment, picture, movie, PDF document, music file, Web bookmark, and Microsoft Office document (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel) that contains what you typed, regardless of its name or folder location.

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