Demo: Super-fast searching in Windows Vista

Snapshot from this demo

Watch this demo to learn how to find files quickly using the search tools in the Windows Vista Start menu, Control panel, and folders.




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I don’t like spending a lot of time trying to find stuff on my computer. After all, I have thousands of files—pictures, videos, spreadsheets, music, you name it. So if I'm trying to find a particular file—say a photo of a waterfall that I took back in 1999—finding that can be pretty daunting. And I don't like clicking around in the Start menu trying to find a program or, say, the screen saver settings in the Control Panel. Looking for all that stuff takes precious time away from stuff I’d rather be doing. Hi. I’m Dave Johnson, a writer on the Windows team at Microsoft, and today, I’m going to show you how to find stuff faster than you ever imagined possible.

Back when I used Windows XP, I’d usually find files by browsing. And by that, I mean I’d open a folder and look at the filenames, hoping to recognize what I was looking for. Nope, that’s not it. Eventually, I’d click the back button and try a different folder. Then it would be lather, rinse, and repeat, until I found what I needed.

If I was really desperate, I might try Search, but Windows XP searched pretty slowly, so it was usually my last resort.

I rarely browse for files anymore, because searching in Windows Vista is just so fast. Let’s say I want to find a file that I wrote about kayaking.

I store all my files in the Documents folder, so I open Documents and then type kayak in the search box. Even as I type, Windows starts searching the current folder and subfolders, looking for kayak in the file name and even within the contents of my files. Here are all my kayak documents. Too many to sort through? well, I can add another search term, like boat, and now the folder only shows files that contain both of those words.

How do you know if you found the right file? Well, you could open the file, sure. But you might want to preview files as you go, instead. Click Organize, and then turn on the Preview Pane. Now when you click a file, you can see its contents without leaving the folder.

All that search power isn’t handy just for finding files, either. No matter what you're looking for in Vista, there’s a search box ready to help you find it fast.

Take the Start menu, for example. Do you remember how, in Windows XP, you had to poke around looking for a program? If you were ambitious, you could actually make a hobby out of organizing the menu every time you installed a new program. In Windows Vista, just type some part of the name of the program. If you want Windows Live Photo Gallery, just type Photo. Or type Gallery. See, there’s the program—click it and away you go.

Or what about the Control Panel? This is where you control all sorts of things, from your screen saver to your mouse settings to uninstalling old programs. It can be tricky to remember where to find everything, though, or even what they’re all called.

Try searching instead. You don’t even need to know exactly what a Control Panel item is called. To change your monitor’s resolution, type screen, resolution, or even display.

There are a lot of ways to more easily find stuff in Windows Vista. For additional advice, be sure to read my series of search columns on the Windows Help and How to website.