Friday, 28 November 2008

Searching for files in Windows 7

Searching in Windows 7

I’ve recently been playing with the pre-release build of Windows 7 that Microsoft announced at the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in LA last month, and I was very impressed with the new searching features. The Windows 7 team have extended the searching features available in Vista, enabling users to gain more refined results, and quicker.

Vista provides great functionality that enables users to search for documents, however the majority of users don’t know this functionality exists, or how to use it. In Vista, when searching for a document, you can filter your search results by querying the files metadata. To do this in Vista you would specify the property you want to query and the value you are looking for. For example, if you wanted to search for documents that were modified on the 12/05/2008 you would query the Data Modified property, so in the search box you would type Date Modified; 12/05/2008. The search results would then display documents modified on this particular day.

The Windows 7 team have enhanced the existing searching functionality found in Vista by improving the user interface. Users no longer need to remember the property names that they wish to query, but can now use the predefined search filters that Windows 7 provides. You can now simply click on the desired search filter, and then type your search requirement.

As you click on the filters and start to type your search item, the search box displays a list of suggestions that are associated with your search. For example, if you wanted to search for the document Travel, in the search box, you would click on the Name search filter, and then start to type Travel. As you begin to type the letter t in the search box, you will be presented with all documents that contain the letter t, you will also notice that the letter t is highlighted in all documents for clarification. As you continue to type your search term, more relevant search results become apparent.

If you want to refine your search further, you can use multiple search filters. You can also preview the document on the right half of the window by clicking on the Preview Pane button on the top right of the window.

With these new user interface changes, you can now easily search, and locate documents you are looking for.

In order for the searching features to be more accurate, you do need to make sure you have added any appropriate tags to the document, and ensure that the document properties are correct. This could be a bit of pain, but if you want to be more organised, this is the way forward!
The Windows 7 team have also introduced a new feature called federated search, now this is really useful! Federated search is a way of searching multiple web resources and online databases and is a feature of web-based library and information retrieval systems.

I downloaded the WSS Demo Site search connector created by Ian Morrish, that was used at PDC. I had a little play around with it and I thought it was really good.

Let’s look at an example of using federated search in a possible scenario. Imagine your organisation uses SharePoint to manage company documents; with federated search you can navigate to these documents via a search connector in the navigation pane in Windows Explorer. Windows Explorer sends your search query to the SharePoint site, which then returns the search results back to Windows Explorer for you to view.

You can view these documents and do all the same things you can do with your local documents, for example, you can still preview a document by clicking on the Preview Pane button, right-click and edit a document, or even drag the document to your desktop. It really is as simple as that.

You can even use this SharePoint search connector to search for particular images on the SharePoint site. You could take advantage of this feature using an application such as PowerPoint for example. If you wanted to insert a picture in PowerPoint 2007, you can click on the Insert tab, and then click Picture. In the Insert Picture dialog box, in the navigation pane, you can click on the search connector, and in the search box, type the name of the picture you are looking for. A list of images that match your search requirement are displayed in the window, you can now preview these images and add them into your PowerPoint slide if you wish. With this great functionality, think how much time you can save (and the amount of fun you can have)!

I will be looking at other new features in Windows 7 and keep you updated.

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