As I showed you in a recent article, “Quickly find what you need with the Search app in Windows 8.1,” Windows 8.1’s new Search feature is a spectacular tool that will help you to find just about anything that you’re
looking for on the web and your hard disk. However, as you may have noticed,
the Search app is a little too good at its job when it comes to finding files
on your hard disk. For instance, my example search turned up 1834 documents.
While I did use a pretty generic search term, you can see how such
a wide open search could make finding what you want fairly difficult in some situations.

Fortunately, for those times when you need a more discerned search
of the files on your hard disk, you can turn to File Explorer and its multitude
of Search filters. In this article, I’ll show you how to use and take advantage
of the Search filters built into File Explorer’s Search box in Windows 8.1.

The Search tab

Let’s begin with an overview of the Search feature. When you
select the Search box, which you’ll find in the upper right corner of File
Explorer, you’ll immediately see the Search tab appear (Figure A). As you can
see, the Search tab is populated with a host of filters and additional search
features arranged in several categories: Location, Refine, and Options.

Figure A

 

 

The
Search tab is populated with a host of filters and additional search features.

However, you don’t have to use any of those filters or
additional features to begin your search. As soon as you begin typing
letters in the box, File Explorer immediately begins sifting through the search
index for that text in folder names, file names, the contents of files, and file properties. It then displays the results in File Explorer.

For example, I typed Can
in the Search box in the Documents Library and instantly turned up 51 items (Figure
B
).

Figure B

 

 

The
Search process is fast and efficient.

While that’s not a lot, manually weeding through 51 files to
the find the ones that I want would be a very time-consuming task. Fortunately,
I can use Search filters to do the work for me. Let’s take a closer look.

Location filters

Using the filters in the Location category, I can better
target my search. As you can see, the default Location is All subfolders, which
will conduct the search in the selected folder and in all subfolders
underneath it. If you’re not sure where the file is on your hard disk, you can
expand the search by selecting This PC, which will search everywhere on the
computer. If you know that the file is in the current folder, you can narrow
the search by selecting Current folder, which will search only in the selected
folder and not in any of the subfolders.

If the file or text you are looking for was not found in
these three most common locations, you can select Search again in and select
from any of the available options (Figure C). The options that you find will
vary, depending on your situation. Now, as you can see in my example, the
choices on the menu include such things as my Homegroup, Microsoft OneNote, and
the Internet, which will of course direct the search to Bing.

Figure C

 

 

The
Search again in menu will display options relevant to your system.

Refine filters

Using the filters in the refine category will allow you to
narrow your search even further. Before we move on to specifics, I want
introduce you to the idea that the filters in the refine category actually
invoke a base version of the Windows Search Advanced Query Syntax. With that in mind, let’s move on.

When you select the Date modified filter (Figure D) you’ll
see a menu that allows you to select one of the available timeframes, such as
Yesterday or Last year.

Figure D

 

 

The
Date modified filter provides you with a menu where you can select one of the
available timeframes.

When you select one of the options on the Date modified
menu, you’ll see the Advanced Query Syntax for the filter appear in the search
box in light blue text. For example, if you select Last week, you’ll see datemodified:last week appear the
search box (Figure E) along with the original search term.

Figure E

 

 

The
Date modified filter invokes the Advanced Query Syntax.

In the case of the Date modified filter, the basic
timeframes can also be refined. To do so, just place your cursor in the Search box, right after the last character, and click. When you do, you’ll see a panel appear
that contains a calendar, and you can select a date (or date range) simply by
clicking the dates on the calendar (Figure F). You can also select one of the
other basic timeframes.

Figure F

 

 

Using
the calendar, you can refine your date modified search to actual dates.

When you select the Kind
filter, you’ll see an extensive menu that shows the different kinds of files
that you can search for. In my example, I’ve selected Document from the list
and the Advanced Query Syntax base term kind:=document
appears in the Search box (Figure G). This would then allow you to narrow your
search to only files classified as documents by the Kind filter. My search turned up .txt, . docx, and .rtf files that contained the
word Can in the title, properties, or contents.

Figure G

 

 

Using
the Kind filter will allow you to essentially narrow your search to a specific
file type.

Looking at the available Kind filters reveals some very
interesting ways that you can refine your search. For instance, you can specify
content from Contacts, Instant Messages, Recorded TV, and Web History, just to
mention a few. If you click the query text in the Search box, a panel will
appear that allows you to select one of the other Kind filters.

If you know roughly the size of the file that you’re searching
for, you can use the Size filter (Figure H) to help you to narrow your search.
If you click the query text in the Search box, a panel will appear that allows you to select one of the other Size filters.

Figure H

 

 

Using
the Size filter allows you narrow your search to a specific file size.

If you select the Other properties filter, you can select
some of the most common file properties. However, these filters work a bit differently
that the others in that they require you to add information to the filter. For
instance, I selected Tags from the menu (Figure I), and as you can see in the
Search box, the name of the tags that I want to search for have to be manually entered right after the colon ( : ).

Figure I

 

 

The
Other properties filter require user input.

Options

The items in the Options section aren’t filters, but they’ll help you to conduct your search operation more efficiently. Recent
searches essentially displays a history list of all your recent search
operations (Figure J). There’s also a Clear search history command so that you
can easily clean up the list when you no longer need it.

Figure J

 

 

Recent
searches displays a history of all your recent search operations.

From the Advanced options menu (Figure K), you can change
which folders are indexed for fast searching or add non-indexed locations to a
search operation. For example, you can configure the tool to include the
contents of System files and Zipped folders.

Figure K

 

 

The
Advanced options allows you to change indexed and non-indexed locations.

If you find yourself performing the same search over and
over again, you can save your search so that
you can easily access it anytime you need it, right from File Explorer’s
Navigation pane. All you have to do is click Save search, and save the search in
the Search Connector folder (Figure L).

Figure L

 

 

You
can save yourself time and effort by saving the search.

As you can see, saved searches appear in the Favorites
section of the Navigation pane (Figure M), so that you can easily run a search
whenever you need to.

Figure M

 

   

If
you have a search operation that you run on a regular basis, you can save the
search.

Looking back at Figure M, you’ll see the Open file location
command. Selecting this command will open the folder containing the file that
is currently selected. Selecting the Close search command will do exactly what
it says — it will close the Search tab and remove the results from the file
pane.

What’s your take?

Have you used any of these Search filters or Search Tools?
If so, what’s your favorite feature? As always, if you have comments or
information to share about this topic, please take a moment to participate in the discussion thread below.