Monday, 17 June 2013

Searching for Search

Now, I have always named my files sensibly. I put dates, years, subjects and customers in file names. I store things in sensible project folders. If I end up with a faulty association with a file, I create shortcuts to where the actual file is stored from the wrong association. In other words, I am not a data numpty.

I think through where, how, when and why I store things. I think about the file names. And I do that so that I can find those things again. The trouble is that after twenty years my computer files - 300Gb - have stacked up, and it can get hard to find the very thing I am looking for. If I have created something once in the past, it is easier to springboard off that than to completely recreate it.

Those of you who are using Windows 7 and Windows 8 may have found that the search function has changed. This may or may not worry you. If it does worry you, because you can no longer do tiered searches (ie, search for a file type, and some words in the file, and by date, and by size, all at once), you may be feeling a little frustrated.

Once you could think about that "wee job I did for Anna someone in about 1999. Was that a Word document? Or was that an htm file? Oh, at least I know I created a pdf", and go to advanced search and look for "*.pdf" in the file name, "Anna *" inside the document and in the date range put 01/01/1998 to 01/01/2002 and search just your customer folders to return just a few items. Now you can only look for "anna" - which will return everything from part of a file name to part of a word in the contents. Then you can try searching within the results if the "search within results" link ungreys (and it often doesn't). What a "marvellous" improvement, Microsoft... NOT!

I had tested Windows 7 when it was first released, and had found to my horror this lack of tiered searchability.

Search was so intrinsic in my work, and would become so intensely frustrating that it reminded me of what the Russian verb 'to buy' came to mean under communism: "to procure with great difficulty" (hah! Or "not at all", in some instances). While the workplaces I dealt with upgraded, I resisted moving to Windows 7 that until (a) my old PC died and (b) XP was no longer going to be supported. In other words, Microsoft forced me into it.

So I asked around for alternative search options. There are a couple of freeware download solutions being touted on the web. These two are "Everything" and "Copernic". Everything is quick & okay to use to search for file names only. However, that is the end of Everything's helpfulness: you can't really do anything else with it, and you can't do tiered searches. Copernic was freeware, but didn't perform the way the promos said it would (in fact, it spent ages indexing everything, and you had to go away and make a latte while you waited for it to search the folder you were in. A bit like going back to booting up in Windows 2.0).

Some techie people on the web feel that the Windows 7+ search is OK. You can write a bit of code in the little search field, like "type:word modified:11/05/04...11/05/05" and find what you are looking for (perhaps). There is a list of the codes at I didn't find that very user friendly - actually, it was clunky and it didn't always work. As well, I had to constantly look up - or guess - the code, as the wording wasn't that intuitive and my Kiwi brain didn't create the memory associations. It might work for you, though.

I felt that there MUST be a better way. So if you too are feeling frustrated, read on, because I have an easy, and relatively cheap, fix for you.

My hunt was rewarded by the wonderful creators of FileSearchEX. Ah - my prayers were answered: it is a fantastic bit of software. It really is a really simple, elegant and economical answer to search. It is not freeware, but costs USD$30 per user location (I think this is up to five licences). I have set it up to show on my right-mouse pop-up menu, and it is pinned to my taskbar. It does everything the old Windows searches used to do. I can run my search just once by defining a few parameters - such as for words in the title, eg "*.pdf"; AND some words within the file, eg "Anna"; AND by date (between 1998 and 2002). It knocks Microsoft's native Windows 7+ search into a cocked hat. I may have paid a little for FileSearchEX, but man - for the hours of total, hair-tearing out frustration it saved me to find the stuff I know I have, it was worth an awful lot more than USD$30.

It is not full of whizzy-do prettiness, but it does do what it says on the tin: searches files. Without fuss. Without failure. Check it out at

Pay & download FileSearchEX at


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