Advanced tips for searching in Windows

Searching in Windows 7 can be as simple as typing a few letters in the search box, but there are also advanced searching techniques that you can use. You don't have to know these techniques to search for your files, but they can be helpful depending on where you're searching and what you're searching for.

Tip

  • If you know which file type it is, you can just enter the file extension ("JPG" for example) in the search box. To learn more about basic searches in Windows, see Find a file or folder.

Adding operators

One way to refine a search is to use the operators AND, OR, and NOT. When you use these operators, you need to type them in all capital letters.

Operator Example Use this to
Operator

AND

Example

tropical AND island

Use this to

Find files that contain both of the words "tropical" and "island" (even if those words are in different places in the file). In the case of a simple text search, this gives the same results as typing "tropical island."

Operator

NOT

Example

tropical NOT island

Use this to

Find files that contain the word "tropical," but not "island."

Operator

OR

Example

tropical OR island

Use this to

Find files that contain either of the words "tropical" or "island."

Adding search filters

Search filters are a new feature in Windows 7 that make searching for files by their properties (such as by author or by file size) much easier.

To add a search filter to your search

  1. Open the folder, library, or drive that you want to search.

  2. Click in the search box, and then click a search filter (for example, Date taken: in the Pictures library).

  3. Click one of the available options. (For example, if you clicked Date taken:, choose a date or a date range.)

    Picture of the "Date taken" search filter in the search box
    The "Date taken" search filter

You can add multiple search filters to a search, or even mix search filters with regular search terms to further refine your search.

Picture of the "Tags" search filter menu in the search box
You can use two search filters to search for a picture tagged with "family" that was taken a long time ago.

Depending on where you're searching, only certain search filters are available. For example, if you're searching the Documents library, you'll see different search filters than you would in the Pictures library. You can't specify which search filters you'll see, but you can change the type of file that a library is optimized for. This will, in turn, change which search filters are available when searching that library. To learn how to do this, see Customize a library.

Using keywords to refine a search

If you want to filter on a property that doesn't appear when you click in the search box, you can use special keywords. This typically involves typing a property name followed by a colon, sometimes an operator, and then a value. The keywords aren't case sensitive.

Example search term Use this to find
Example search term

System.FileName:~<"notes"

Use this to find

Files whose names begin with "notes." The ~< means "begins with."

Example search term

System.FileName:="quarterly report"

Use this to find

Files named "quarterly report." The = means "matches exactly."

Example search term

System.FileName:~="pro"

Use this to find

Files whose names contain the word "pro" or the characters pro as part of another word (such as "process" or "procedure"). The ~= means "contains."

Example search term

System.Kind:<>picture

Use this to find

Files that aren't pictures. The <> means "is not."

Example search term

System.DateModified:05/25/2010

Use this to find

Files that were modified on that date. You can also type "System.DateModified:2010" to find files changed at any time during that year.

Example search term

System.Author:~!"herb"

Use this to find

Files whose authors don't have "herb" in their name. The ~! means "doesn't contain."

Example search term

System.Keywords:"sunset"

Use this to find

Files that are tagged with the word sunset.

Example search term

System.Size:<1mb

Use this to find

Files that are less than 1 MB in size.

Example search term

System.Size:>1mb

Use this to find

Files that are more than 1 MB in size.

Note

  • You can use a question mark (?) as a wildcard for a single character and an asterisk (*) as a wildcard for any number of characters.

You can also use the operators AND, OR, and NOT to combine search keywords. (Note how the use of parentheses can change the effect of a search term.)

Example search term Use this to find
Example search term

System.Author:Charlie AND Herb

Use this to find

Files that are authored by Charlie as well as any files that include Herb in the file name or in any file property.

Example search term

System.Author:Charlie AND System.DateModified:>2009

Use this to find

Find only files that are authored by Charlie after 2009.

Example search term

System.Author:(Charl* AND Herb)

Use this to find

Files that have either Charles and Herb or Charlie and Herb listed as authors.

Example search term

System.Author:"Charlie Herb"

Use this to find

Files that are authored by someone with exactly this name.

Using natural language search

You can turn on Natural language search to perform searches in a simpler way, without using colons and without the need to enter AND and OR in capital letters. For example, compare these two searches:

Without natural language With natural language
Without natural language

System.Music.Artist:(Beethoven OR Mozart)

With natural language

music Beethoven or Mozart

Without natural language

System.Kind:document System.Author:(Charlie AND Herb)

With natural language

documents Charlie and Herb

To turn on natural language search

  1. Open Folder Options by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Appearance and Personalization, and then clicking Folder Options.

  2. Click the Search tab.

  3. Select the Use natural language search check box.

Even with natural language search turned on, you can continue to use the search box in exactly the same way. If you want to use operators or search keywords, you can. The difference is that you can also enter searches using a less formal method. Here are some examples:

  • e‑mail today

  • documents 2011

  • author Susan

  • pictures vacation

Note

  • When you turn on natural language search, some searches might give more results than you expect. For example, if you search for "e‑mail today" you will see all messages sent today as well as any messages with the word "today" in the contents.