Windows

Narrow Vista's Search results with the grouping, filtering, and stacking features

Vista contains three special features that can help you to quickly narrow down the Search results and find just what you want. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, Greg Shultz shows you how to use Vista's grouping, filtering, and stacking features when searching for files.
Many Windows Vista users rely on the Search folder to find specific data files on their system. To access the Search folder, you click the Start button and select the Search command (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

When you select the Search command on the Start menu, the Search folder stands ready to accept your search criteria.

You can type a complete word or a partial word in the Search box. When you start typing, Vista's Search goes to work and begins displaying results in the Folder window. Vista's indexing mechanism is an extremely efficient system, so the results displayed in the Search folder can consist of a huge list of files.

Vista's Search index includes locations in your personal folders (Documents, Pictures, Music, and Videos), as well as e-mail and offline files. The Search index also stores a lot of information about your files, including the file name, date modified, and properties such as authors, tags, and ratings. It can even store information about the contents of your text-based documents.

The results of a search operation can be overwhelming. For example, searching for the words Control Panel on my example system turned up 446 documents (Figure B), including Word documents, text files, PDFs, HTML files, shortcuts, scripts, and more.

Figure B

Figure B

Vista's Search feature is very efficient, so you may end up with more results than you know what to do with.

Vista contains three special features that can help you to quickly narrow down the Search results and find just what you want. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I will show you how to use Vista's grouping, filtering, and stacking features when searching for files.

Check out the column headers

As you can see in Figure B, the Search Results folder in this example contains six column headers: Name, Date Modified, Type, Folder, Authors, and Tags. You can click on any of the column headers to sort the results list by the contents of that column alphabetically either from A to Z or Z to A. In each of the column headers are the hidden grouping, filtering, and stacking features. When you hover your mouse pointer over any of the column headers, a drop-down arrow will appear on the right side of the header (Figure C). When you click an arrow, a menu appears that provides you with access to the grouping, filtering, and stacking options appropriate to that heading type.

Figure C

Figure C

When you hover your pointer over a column header, a drop-down arrow appears.
The menu on the Name header displays a menu containing the grouping, filtering, and stacking options (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

The menu on the Name header contains grouping, filtering, and stacking options that are appropriate to the specific heading type.
Figure E is a composite image that shows the menus of some of the other column headers. While each one contains the same grouping, filtering, and stacking options, some have unique features such as the calendar in the Date Modified menu.

Figure E

Figure E

The grouping, filtering, and stacking menus from a few of the other column headers are visible. Notice that the Date Modified menu even contains a calendar.

Grouping

The Sort and Group commands appear at the top of each of these menus. The default Sort command is in the upper left corner of the menu. If you click the Group command, you will see the contents of the Search Results folder displayed alphabetically according to the column header's category. For example, if you select the Group command in the Type column header, the files in the Search Results folder will appear alphabetically by file type (Figure F). Besides being a useful organizational technique in a Search Results folder containing a wide variety of files, the grouping feature also tallies the number of files in each group.

Figure F

Figure F

Clicking the Group option on the Type menu will instantly group the contents of the Search Results window alphabetically by file type.

Filtering

In the middle of each menu is a series of check boxes comprising the Filter feature. To use this feature, select the check box next to the file type that interests you. When you do, all the other file types filter out of the Search Results folder. For example, Figure G shows the Search Results folder when you filter the results by Microsoft Office Word 97-2003 Documents and Microsoft Office Word 97-2003 Documents.As you can see, by using the filtering feature I've narrowed the number of results down from 446 to 294 , which makes it easier to find what I'm looking for. The check mark in the column header indicates that this Search Results folder display is in the process of filtering.

Figure G

Figure G

The Filter feature allows you to filter out all but the document types you're searching for.

Stacking

You can find the Stack command at the bottom of each of the menus. This command allows you to arrange all of the files in the Search Results folder in piles or stacks. After disabling the Filter feature, I selected the Stack command, and now my Search Results folder looks like Figure H.

Figure H

Figure H

The Stack command allows you to arrange all the items in the folder in piles or stacks.
You can further narrow your search by double-clicking on a stack. Figure I shows only the contents of the Microsoft Office PowerPoint 97-2003 Presentation stack.

Figure I

Figure I

When you double-click on a stack, you see only the files in that particular stack.

Combine the features

While each of the grouping, filtering, and stacking features is a great tool in its own right, you can combine the three to better sift through the contents of the Search Results folder. For example, in Figure J, I combined filtering of the file type (Microsoft Office Word 97-2003 Documents) and a specific date range (1/1/2000-12/31/2000) in order to find all the articles I wrote in the year 2000 containing the phrase Control Panel.

Figure J

Figure J

You can combine various grouping, filtering, and stacking features to narrow your results in the Search Results folder.

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About

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.

2 comments
ted
ted

These capabilities are definitely useful, but undoing some of them is not entirely intuitive. It looks like your Back button may be the primary tool for that. But what if you have enabled different things and want to play with just some of them. Is there a convenient way to do and undo the various combinations?

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

Using the Back button will indeed return you to the previous view, but that may not be the best approach if you've been consecutively working with the various stacking, grouping and filtering options. The best way to get things back to the default view is to undo the operation: To undo aroup, just select the Sort command. To undo a filter, just clear the check box. To undo a stack, just select the Sort command.

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