In my October 12th column “An in-depth look
at Windows Vista’s Virtual Folders technology
” I told you about one
component of a whole set of new and improved data and file management features
that Microsoft calls Windows Vista’s new information visualization,
organization, and search features. As I mentioned in that column, these new
features are designed to address the problem caused by the fact that the amount
of data we have access to these days can fill up a hard disk faster than we can
keep it organized. We can’t easily lay our hands on the one file or piece of
information that we’re looking for. It’s called information overload and not
only is it easier for us to generate tons of data with today’s super efficient
applications, but with the advent of the Internet and broadband access, we can
download bucket loads of data in a matter of minutes.

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While Virtual Folders offers one technique to help us keep track of our
data, there’s still a need for a Search tool in the new operating system and
the October CTP provides us with an early glimpse of the power that Microsoft
is building into Windows Vista’s new system-wide Search features. In this
column, I’ll take a look at Windows Vista’s new Search features and describe
how they work.

The main Search tool

As you know, to get to the Search tool in Windows XP, you first click the
Start button and then you click the Search icon. Once the Search window
appears, you can then fill in your search criteria and click the Search Now
button. That’s four steps, which currently doesn’t even seem to be a factor.
However once you begin experimenting with Windows Vista, you’ll feel like
launching Search via those four steps takes an eternity.

In Windows Vista, you click the Start button and then begin typing the name
of the file in a search box. As soon as you type the first letter, the Search
engine immediately begins compiling a list of applications, folders, and
documents that begin with that letter and displays them in a categorized list
right on top of the Start menu, which instantly converts itself into the search
results pane, as shown in Figure A. As you continue typing letters, the Search
engine refines its list to match the letters that you’re typing.

Figure A

Windows Vista puts the Search tool right on the Start menu where it’s quick
and convenient.

In addition, you’ll find what the Search engine considers the most likely
for the file or folder that you’re looking for at the very bottom
of the search results pane. If you press [Enter], Windows Vista will load that
file or open that folder.

You’ll also notice what I’ll call secondary searches titled Search Computer
and Search Internet that are both preloaded with the letters you’ve typed in
the search box. If you click Search Internet, Windows Vista will pass the
search job on to MSN Search, which will immediately conduct a search and
present the results in an Internet Explorer window.

The secondary Search tool

If you click Search Computer, the search engine will instantaneously load a
full featured Search window, as shown in Figure B, in which the search results
include a search for matching text inside of documents as well as the matching

Figure B

This secondary search window provides you with controls refining your
search with additional search criteria. 

You’ll see that this Search windows provides you
with controls to add further search criteria. For example, you can click the
Add Filter button and choose from a variety of filters, as shown in Figure C.
To add additional filters, you just click the Add Filter button again.

Figure C

To add further search criteria, you just click the Add Filter button and
choose from a dropdown list.

And if that isn’t enough, Windows Vista’s Search engine provides you with
Boolean operators. You just click the dropdown arrow adjacent to the Add Filter
button and can further narrow your search using the Boolean operators AND and OR, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Windows Vista’s Search engine provides you with Boolean operators to allow
you to more precisely narrow your search.


Just like Windows XP, Windows Vista’s Search engine has an Indexing Service
that is designed examine files in advance to speed responses to search
operations. It also runs in the background, but appears to be much more
efficient in that it doesn’t index the entire hard disk–only specific
locations. You can access it’s interface, as shown in
Figure E, in the Control Panel by double-clicking the Indexing and Search
Options icon.

Figure E

Windows Vista’s Search engine uses an Indexing Service that is designed
to examine files in advance to speed responses to search operations.


Now, as I close, it’s important that I point out that you have to take this
information with a grain of salt, considering the fact that Windows Vista’s
release date is over a year a way and the operating system, while more
solidified than it has been prior to this point in time, is still in a state of

As always, if you have comments or information to share about Windows
Vista’s new Search tool, please take a moment to drop by the Discussion area
and let us hear.