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Land of the lost files

Ed VanHoose
Ed VanHoose is the Digital Communications Administrator/IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

It’s Monday and you just got a new computer. Luckily, your files were all transferred over without incident. However, as you begin to organize your new workspace you quickly realize that over the last few years you’ve amassed a large amount of data, and you don’t really remember where everything is stored. And, at this moment, you need a file from last year so that you can save yourself a ton of work in completing a report your boss wants by Wednesday. When you look, you just can’t seem to locate the file.

I find myself presented with cases like this one all the time. For various reasons, people just have trouble organizing and finding files on their computers. Believe me, I’m no different! However, I have learned some tricks to finding things. I’m going to share a few of those tips with you in this column. Keep in mind that the tips you’re going to see here will most definitely work in Windows 7. And, they should work in other operating systems, but you may find that they won’t work in all. All of the tips below involve typing information in a search box. The search box that you will most generally use is located in the start menu, just above the start button you use to open the menu.

Adding operators

One simple way to refine a search is to use the operators AND, OR and NOT. When you use these operators, you need to type them in all capital letters. That way you won’t be searching for the actual words “and, or and not” themselves. For example, if you type squirrel AND tree your search will only return files that contain both words. If you type in squirrel NOT tree, then you will only see files that contain the word squirrel without the presence of the word tree. Finally, if you type in squirrel OR tree, you will get files that contain either one. The last example can also return files that have both words in them.

Search For Lost Files


What happens when you need to look for a phrase? The easiest way to accomplish this is by nesting items in your search. Nesting is accomplished by using quotation marks around the phrase. For instance, you want to find some photos you’ve stored of the St. Louis Cardinals playing the Chicago Cubs. But, you’re an avid photographer and hold season tickets, so you have thousands of photos to search. To narrow it down a bit you might perform the following nested search “St. Louis Cardinals” AND “Chicago Cubs.” If you’ve tagged your photos with those names, you’ll only get back photos that have both tags.


Search filters are a new feature in Windows 7 that make searching for files by their properties (such as by author or by file size) much easier. Some search filters are automatically associated with the location in which files are stored. For example, if you open the Documents folder, and click the search box before typing anything in it, you’ll see a drop-down menu of filters you can apply. Because you’re in the Documents folder, Windows assumes you want a document and limits the available search filters to those most commonly associated with documents, in this case: Author, Type, Date Modified, and Size. You can, however, simply type in a filter, followed by your search terms and have the filter applied. Personally, I use this feature in the general search box located in the Start menu. (See graphic for some examples of filters you can apply.)

There you have it! I hope these tips help you with finding files you’ve misplaced on your computer. I know these searches have certainly helped me.

Ed VanHoose is the Digital Communications Administrator/IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives in Springfield. He is a specialist in the IT field with over 12 years of experience working in leadership roles for technology based projects in Illinois and Missouri.





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