One of the features in Windows 8.1 that deserves some attention is the new comprehensive Search app. Not only will help you to find files and applications on your PC or SkyDrive, but it can also seek out information on the web by linking directly to Bing. And, if that wasn't enough, the Search app has two ways to display the results: 1) a very Windows-like results display that appears on the Search bar, and 2) a Windows 8 app-like full-screen presentation that provides all the results. There's also a detailed settings page that allows you configure how the Search app functions. Let's take a closer look.
Accessing the new Search app
There are actually several ways that you can access the Search app in Windows 8.1. If you're on the Start Screen, you can simply begin typing your search term and the Search bar will appear. From anywhere in Windows, you can also instantly access the Search bar by pressing [Windows] + [S]. Lastly, you can move your mouse pointer to the upper right corner of the screen to display the Charms bar, and then click the Search charm.
Regardless of how you access it, the Search bar provides you with a simple user interface that appears on the right side of the screen (Figure A).
The Search bar appears on the right side of the screen.
Choosing what to search
By default, Windows 8.1's Search app is configured to search Everywhere. However, you can narrow the scope of your search by clicking the arrow and choosing Settings, Files, Web images or Web videos (Figure B).
By default, Search is set to Everywhere, but you can narrow the scope.
As soon as you start typing, results will begin appearing in the Search bar (Figure C). As you can see, I'm using the Everywhere setting. This initial set of results represents the most likely candidates for what you're looking for. If you see what you need here, just click it, and your search is complete.
The initial results appear in the Search bar.
However, if you'd like to see more, just click the magnifying glass icon in the Search text box, and you'll see the full screen presentation (Figure D). As you can see, when using the Everywhere setting, the first page of full-screen results shows items found on your PC -- it displays the first few items in each category and provides a link that you can use to see the rest of the results. For example, this search turned up 2 apps, 6 settings, 1834 documents, and 35 photos and videos.
From the full screen page you can access all of the search results.
If you click the See all 1834 documents link, you'll see a full page, scrolling display of all the matching file results. Hover your mouse pointer over a file to see a pop-up that shows file derails, including the full path to the file (Figure E). To return to the full search results page, just click the back arrow at the top left.
Hover over a file, and you'll see more details.
Again, when using the Everywhere setting, you can scroll through all of the results. In this case, the next page of results shows the most highly-ranked web sites for the search term and results from the Windows Store (Figure F).
You'll also find results from the Windows Store.
As you continue to scroll through the results, you'll find links to other web sites related to your search term. You'll also find a set of links that allow you to conduct Related searches and the ability to search for images and videos that are associated with your search term (Figure G).
You'll find that you can conduct additional searches for image and videos related to your search term.
Configuring the Search app
The Search app provides you with a number of configuration settings that you can use to make search work that way that you want it to. To begin, press [Windows] + [I] to access the Settings bar, and then click Change PC settings. Next, select Search and apps from the menu. You'll then see the Search configuration page (Figure H.)
The Search app provides you with a number of configuration settings.
From the top, you can clear your search history by clicking the Clear button and working through a quick confirmation dialog. You can manage your Microsoft Advertising options by clicking the link that takes you to the Your privacy and Microsoft personalized ads page, where you can sign into your Microsoft Account and adjust your personalized ad settings. You can disable the Bing search results feature, or you can adjust how Bing delivers its results. You adjust your SafeSearch level from the default of Moderate to either Strict of Off. If you occasionally use a metered connection, an Internet connection where you get billed for the amount of data you use, you can adjust how Bing results are delivered. Finally, you can investigate the Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 privacy statement.
What's your take?
Have you used or configured Windows 8.1's new Search app? If so, what you do you think about the features that it brings to Windows 8.1? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to leave a comment in the discussion thread below.
Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.