Everything You Need to Know About Windows Vista

Finding Files

Windows explorer has a new thumbnail preview pane, as well as a details pane that shows a file's name, size, user-defined tags, and other info.

Like Internet Explorer 7, Windows Explorer has a toolbar instead of a menu (though you can get the menu back by pressing the Alt button). That toolbar can be disconcerting, however, because its contents vary depending on the folder. Image editing tools appear in a folder full of photos, and document-sharing tools appear in a folder with Word documents. If a folder contains multiple file types, Vista takes its best guess, and it's not always on target. To change the folder type and toolbar, right-click the folder, choose Properties, click the Customize tab, and then choose a type.

Search is built into every level of Vista. It's on the Start menu and the upper right-hand side of Windows Explorer. Vista uses indexing: It begins searching the index as you type keywords, so results appear instantly and narrow as you type.

Vista's Search finds documents, e-mail, applications, and even Web sites you've visited. An advanced search tool lets you filter results by date, file size, author, tags, and location. Vista accepts Boolean searching. You can even search other PCs on your network, if you have read permission. And you can save your searches so that you can perform them again with a single mouse click.

But Search works differently in different places: You get different results with the Start search box than with the Windows Explorer search box. Worse yet, by default Search will index and search only a small portion of your hard disk--mainly your \Users\username folder. If you want Search to look for files elsewhere, you must click the 'Include non-indexed, hidden and system files (might be slow)' box in the advanced search options. As advertised, this can be painfully slow.

What to do? Go to Control Panel, System and Maintenance, Indexing Options and hand-pick folders to put into the index.

Other problems include a Search pane in Windows Explorer that seems to vanish and appear again for no apparent reason. There is, in fact, some logic involved, but it's as convoluted as the DaVinci Code. Suffice it to say that you won't be using this Search pane anytime soon.

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