Instant, Boolean, and Natural Language Searches in Windows 7

30 Mar

In my class on Windows 7 today we learned about the instant search feature in the Start menu. Searching for the name of any program, file, folder, or control panel feature on your computer will make it appear in a results list.

Did you previously have trouble finding things like “defragment your hard drive” in the control panel (multiple mouse clicks deep in the control panel organizational structure)? Instead of that headache, simply search for the three letters d-e-f in the search box and watch it find what I need. No more frustrated digging, just search and in two steps you are where you want to be.

What about those items you don’t recall the exact name of? Maybe I just finished writing a dissertation on Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, but don’t remember that I named the file mothergoose.doc. I do remember that a phrase in the dissertation said “the cow jumped over the moon”. I can search for that phrase in quotes and Windows 7 will know to look for any file that has that exact phrase in the title or contents if the file. Pretty smart huh! There are other boolean search operators you can also use like or and not and it will refine results down to things that have either word or one word but not the other.

For example: mother or goose will show results for any file containing either word. But mother not goose will eliminate any result that has the word goose.

Boolean search involves math language. I’m allergic to anything that even looks like math, so if you are like me maybe you would prefer a different way of searching for files, folders, programs and features in Windows 7.

Doing a web search for boolean search help and tutorials I came across an article from Microsoft regarding another option for searching called “natural language searching” in Windows 7. This style of search is highly sophisticated for the computer but easy for the person searching as you can type a natural sounding sentence and watch as it does the filtering. Check out the article at the link below.

If you have struggled to locate things before, it is my hope that using either boolean search or natural language in your searches helps you finally find what you’re looking for on your hard drive. 🙂

-Trisha the Techspert on the ms Nieuw Amsterdam



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