How to Navigate Windows and Folders in Windows 7

  • 9/16/2009

Finding Specific Information

Recent advancements in online and computer search technology have made the instant location of information and files so simple that it’s easy to forget how tedious tracking down the same items would have been in the past. The Windows Search technology that is built in to Windows 7 is quite simply excellent. We touted the search capabilities in Windows Vista as one of its top three features, but the Windows 7 search engine is better.

Windows Search

Using Windows Search, you can find programs, files, messages, and message attachments on your computer almost instantly. You don’t need to know the name or location of the file or item you want to find; simply type a word or phrase in the Start menu Search box to display a list of matching items, organized by type. To restrict your search to the contents of a specific folder (and its subfolders), display the folder in Windows Explorer and enter your search term in the Search box in the upper-right corner of the window.


Search results are divided into categories. Click any category heading to display a list of all the search results in that category.

How does Windows Search find items so quickly? Behind the scenes, Windows Search maintains an index of all the key words in, and associated with, the files stored on your computer—program names, common tasks, and the file names and content (when possible) of documents, audio and video recordings, images, e-mail messages, Web pages, and other data files. Windows Search automatically indexes the most common file types (such as Word documents, text files, and e-mail messages) and doesn’t index file types you are less likely to search (such as operating system files). For certain types of files (such as PowerPoint presentations), Windows Search indexes the file properties and the file content, but for others (such as PowerPoint slide templates) it indexes only the file properties. (It does not include the system files; such an index would be huge and would slow down the search process.) When you enter a search term, Windows looks for the term in the index instead of searching the actual files on your hard disk.

If a simple search from the Start menu Search box or the Search box in a Windows Explorer window doesn’t locate the item you are looking for, you can perform more advanced searches in the Search Results folder. Your search criteria can include the date a file was created, its size, part of its name or title, its author, and any tags you might have listed as properties of the file.

You can save a set of search parameters so that you can display updated results at any time. Saved searches are added to the Favorites group in Windows Explorer and are also available from your personal Searches folder.

Windows Search Parameters

You can change which file types and locations are included in the Windows Search index at any time. You can change the search settings in the following places:

  • On the Search tab of the Folder Options dialog box You can open the Folder Options dialog box by clicking Organize on the toolbar of any Windows Explorer window and then clicking Folder And Search Options on the Organize menu.


    On the Search tab of the Folder Options dialog box, you can make simple changes to search settings.

    You can specify whether Windows Search returns results from file contents as well as from file names; whether results of folder-specific searches include files located in subfolders; whether a search returns results that don’t exactly match the search term (for example, returning results containing rocker as well as rocking); and other options related to the standard Windows Search scope.

  • From the Indexed Locations dialog box You can open the Indexed Locations dialog box by displaying Control Panel in Large Icons view or Small Icons view, clicking Indexing Options, and then clicking Modify in the Indexing Options dialog box.


    In the Indexed Locations dialog box, you can view simple or expanded versions of the locations included in the search index.

    In the Change Selected Locations list, you can select or clear the check boxes of specific folders to indicate which ones should be included in the search index.

  • The Search and Indexing troubleshooter If Windows Search isn’t fi nding specific files that you search for, the file type or location might be out of the current index scope, or in rare cases, there could be a problem with the index file. The Search And Indexing troubleshooter will guide you through a simple troubleshooting process to determine what changes need to be made so that the search results meet your expectations. To start the Search And Indexing troubleshooter, open the Indexing Options dialog box from the Control Panel All Items window and click Advanced. Then, on the Index Settings tab of the Advanced Options dialog box, click the Troubleshoot Search And Indexing link.


The Search and Indexing troubleshooter.

You can identify the type of problem you’re having or simply have the troubleshooter check your computer against a list of common issues. After running the troubleshooter, click the See Detailed Results link to display a list of everything the troubleshooter checked.


The Search and Indexing troubleshooter details.

From the Advanced Options dialog box, you can also do the following things that require administrator permission:

  • Include encrypted files in the index.

  • Add a type of file to the index.

  • Change the indexing level for a type of file.

  • Change the location of the index file.

  • Restore the default settings.

  • Rebuild the index file from scratch.

In this exercise, you’ll quickly locate items on your computer. You will then use advanced criteria in the Search Results folder to look for other files and will open the Preview pane to help identify the correct file.

  1. httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1412786.jpg Click the Start button.

    The Start menu opens with the cursor blinking in the Start menu Search box.

  2. In the Start menu Search box, type ice.

    As you type the search term, Windows filters the program files, folders, and e-mail messages stored on your computer.

  3. Point to each file in the search results in turn.

    A ScreenTip displays the properties of each file you point to.


    The properties shown in a ScreenTip vary based on the file type.

    If you get in the habit of entering properties for your files, this handy trick can help you quickly identify the file you want.

  4. At the bottom of the search results list, click See more results.

    The Search Results In Indexed Locations window opens, displaying the full list of results. You can change the view and sort the files the same way you would with any folder.

  5. Scroll the center pane to view all the search results.

    In the center pane, file properties and content matching the search term are high-lighted. If no highlighting is visible in the search results shown, the matching content is further into the file than the snippet shown. Your search term appears in the Search box located in the upper-right corner of the window.

  6. Click in the Search box to the right of the word ice.

    The Add A Search Filter list appears.


    From the Add A Search Filter list in the Search Results window, you can quickly filter search results by common properties.

  7. httpatomoreillycomsourcemspimages1413020.png At the right end of the Search box, click the Clear Search button.

    The Search Results In Indexed Locations window displays the cumulative results of recent searches.

  8. Close the Search Results in Indexed Locations window.

  9. On the Start menu, click Documents.

    The Documents library opens.

  10. Navigate to your Documents\Microsoft Press\Windows7SBS folder and display its contents in the Content pane.

  11. In the upper-right corner of the folder window, click in the Search box displaying Search Windows7SBS.

    A list of previous search terms appears.

  12. In the list of previous search terms, click ice.

    The Search Results In Windows7SBS window displays the files in the Windows7SBS folder that match the search term.

  13. Click in the Search box, after the word ice.

    The Add A Search Filter list appears below the search term, with options appropriate for searching in a library.


    You can enter search filters directly in the Add A Search Filter box or select properties from the list.

  14. In the Add a search filter list, click Type. Then scroll the list to see the results.

    The word type appears to the right of the term in the Search box to indicate which filter will be applied to the search results.


    When filtering a list by file type, you can choose from the file extensions or the corresponding file type descriptions represented by the search results.

  15. In the type list, click .JPG.

    The search results change to reflect the filters you’ve applied.


    The current filters are shown in the Search box, and the filter list changes to include additional options.

  16. In the Search box, after .JPG, type cream.

    The results list displays one file that matches all the search criteria.


    You can change the scope of a search by clicking any of the locations in the Search Again In list at the bottom of the search results.

  17. In the Search box, select and delete type:=.JPG cream. Then type storm.

    The search results display photographic images taken after an ice storm.

  18. On the toolbar, click Save search.

    The Save As dialog box opens.


    In its Browse Folders state, the Save As dialog box displays the content of your personal Searches folder.

  19. In the Save As dialog box, click Save to accept the default name and save the search in the Searches folder.

    The folder window now displays the contents of the new Searches\ice storm folder.

  20. At the top of the Navigation pane, expand the Favorites group.

    The Navigation pane and Content pane display the contents of the Favorites group.


The saved search is available in your Favorites group.

You can display up-to-date search results for the term storm at any time by opening the saved search from the Favorites group.