3 Easy Ways to Improve Search in Windows 7

One of my favorite features of Windows 7 is the improved search.  Windows Search is quickly available in the Start menu or in any open Explorer window.

To improve search performance, Windows 7 uses a background indexing feature.  Indexing pre-searches specified locations on your computer and compiles the results into the search index.  When you search, you’re computer is not having to search the entire hard drive, but just the indexing file.

Below are a couple of tips I’ve found to be useful for tweaking the Windows 7 search.

Adding and Removing Indexed Locations

As mentioned above, indexing in Windows 7 allows you to quickly search common locations of your hard drive.  By default, Windows 7 indexes only a couple of key locations on your computer.  Adding your custom file locations can greatly improve your search capabilities in Windows 7.

I have recently added a couple of external hard drives to my computer and would like Windows 7 to always index them.  Here’s how to do this:

Step 1: Navigate to Control Panel > All Control Panel Items > Indexing Options.

Step 2: Click on Modify.

Step 3: Select the new locations to index.  You can either select an entire drive or individual sub-folders of the drive.  Click OK when finished.

The Windows 7 Search will now include my recently added indexed drives.

Searching File Contents of Non-Indexed Locations

Scenario: You need to find a document located on a shared network drive.  You don’t know the name of the file is but you know some of the content of the file.  Since the shared network drive is a non-indexed location, searching in the network drive only produces results as file names without any contents.

Adding the network drive to your indexed locations would allow you to search through file contents, but considering the size of the shared drive and the large number of files located in it, having Windows constantly indexed the network drive would not be a good idea.

Windows 7 allows you to enable searching through file contents of non-indexed locations.

Step 1: In an open Explorer window, select Organize > Folder and search options.

Step 2: Click the Search tab of the new window.

Step 3: Under What to search, click the Always search file names and contents radio button and click OK.

Searching the shared network drive will now present results from file names and file contents.

Specify File Types To Index

Specifying the file types to index can be useful if the locations you are indexing contain many different file types.  Adding or removing specific file types from the search index can improve the search performance.

Follow these steps to add or remove file types from the search index.

Step 1: Navigate to Control Panel > All Control Panel Items > Indexing Options.

Step 2: Click on the Advanced tab of the new window.

Step 3: Select the File Types tab at the top of the next window.

Step 4: Check and un-check the boxes for the file types you wish to index or not to index, respectively.  Click OK when finished.

Step 5: You’ll receive a pop-up stating that Windows needs to rebuild the index and it may take some time.  Click OK to acknowledge the warning and close any remaining open windows.

The changes to the indexed file types won’t be noticed until the index rebuilds.

Make sure to check out our other great guides about Windows 7.

Get Search Results From Google on the Go via Text Message

Have you ever been somewhere with a question you need answered, but didn’t have access to a computer? No problem, just whip out your smart-phone and quickly Google it. Oh, you’re like me and don’t have a smart phone yet?

Until recently I thought we were just out of luck, but not anymore because Google Mobile allows you to look up information via normal text messages!

In traditional Google style, Google Mobile is extremely simple. Text whatever you would normally type into Google to GOOGLE (466453) or GOOGL (46645). Google will respond with a summary of the first result it finds, spread out over about 2 text messages. Although this is usually sufficient, you can reply with “Next” and Google will send more information.

More than just search…

Even though you can look up anything through a normal search, it often results in a lot of information you didn’t need. Thankfully, Google implemented the ability to do common searches and have it filter the information a bit for you.

For instance, if you want to know what the weather is in Mountain View, CA, simply text “weather mountain view ca” or “weather 94043” and it will reply with a nicely formatted message with the weather.

Google also includes searches for sports scores, stocks, flight information, movies and more (see here for a complete list.)

Conclusion

While the the Google Mobile service is free, be sure to note that normal text messaging rates from your phone provider will still apply. Each reply generally contains two or three messages, and possibly more if you need to see the next result, so it can eat up messages quickly.

Aside from the number of messages being a concern, Google Mobile is a great, quick, and convenient way for those of us who have yet to join the smart-phone revolution to look up information on the go!

Have you texted Google? Did you like or dislike the service? Let us know in the comments below.

(Images courtesy of Google)

Hide Your Google Searches from Prying Eyes with SSL Encrypted Search

Web searches are usually pretty harmless, but I don’t like the idea that somebody could see the Google search I did for “Goose Juggling” earlier today.  Until recently, though, anybody could see what you were searching for on Google because those search results were unencrypted.

Last Friday, Google began rolling out encrypted web search using SSL, which means your searches are encrypted between your computer and Google.  When somebody tries “watching” your encrypted search results, they’ll only get data which is essentially useless.

How to use encrypted Google Search

Performing an encrypted search is easy.  Simply visit https://www.google.com whenever you want to do a secure search (note the https instead of the standard http).

This feature is still in beta and may not be available internationally yet, but Google has been busy rolling it out to additional countries over the last few days.  Please note that encrypted search is not currently available for Google Image search or Google Maps, although those services may be supported in the future.

What encryption means

In order for encryption to be used properly, it’s important to understand what it does.  Using encrypted search will not hide your searches from other people on your computer or hide them from your history.  Instead, encryption protects your search from being viewed by a third party on the network while it is transmitted between your computer and Google.

Think of it this way: when searching with encrypted search, your search is converted to a code with a unique key that only your computer and Google knows.  If somebody without the key tries viewing this data while it is being transferred, it will just come out as jibberish.

Conclusion

Encryption does come with a small price: you may notice that your searches are not quite as fast as the unencrypted version.  This is just the nature of encrypting your data, and if you want to keep your searches confidential, it’s a worthwhile price to pay.

Amidst dozens of privacy woes on the internet, it’s good news when a company releases a more secure way of using their service.  Think you’ll use Google’s encrypted search over the standard search?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

For more details, check out Google’s SSL search information.

Google Tip: How to Search Within a Specific Website, Domain, or News Source

google search I was recently asked if it was possible to do a search on Google but only look at results from a specific site.  This is indeed possible, and is a great way to track down specific information when you know the general area it should be located.  I frequently use this to search for information in the labyrinthine depths of my university’s website.

To search a specific website or domain, simply use the following command in your search:

site:[domain]

Where [domain] is the root URL of the site you want to search (don’t include a space between site: and the domain).

Searching Wikipedia

For example, let’s say you wanted to see information on French sabots but only from Wikipedia.  Just use the following search:

site:en.wikipedia.org French Sabot

sabot-search

I specified en.wikipedia.org so I would receive results only from the English version of the site.

Searching for a Specific News Source

Have you ever wanted to share an article with a friend, but can’t find it in the regular search results?  If you remember the source it came from, Google News can restrict your search to a specific author.

To do this type of search, just head to Google News and use the following syntax in your search:

source:

Where is the author you are looking for.

Let’s say you saw an article about Facebook in the New York Times earlier, but just couldn’t remember what it was called.  To look at all articles about Facebook from the New York Times, simply type:

Facebook source:New York Times

nyt-fbsearch

(Note that the source: search will only work in Google News).

Have any tips for searching better on Google?  Share them with us in the comments!

Google or Bing? Qrobe.it Combines Both in a Single Search Engine

One question I frequently hear is, “Which is better: Google or Bing?”.  I wrote an article awhile back about using blind search tests to compare results from Google and Bing, but most of the time I find that both sets of results are pretty useful.  If both search engines get you the information you were looking for, why stick to one exclusively?

Qrobe.it is a new search engine from Minnesota-based startup Striquent that combines both Google and Bing (and optionally Ask.com, but that’s not as exciting).  When you visit the site, you’ll see a design very similar to the minimalist look of Google.

Performing a search is quick and didn’t appear to take any longer than an individual search on either Google or Bing.  If you look at the bottom of a search listing you’ll see which search engine it was pulled from, and clicking the name takes you straight to the original search.  Clicking Peek will bring up the link in an overlay which is great for quickly verifying a result.

Clicking More on a search result brings up a great menu with tools like sharing/saving on social networks, verifying the link, URL shorteners, and translators.

Google and Bing results are enabled by default, and if you want to enable Ask.com results just click the corresponding box in the top right.

If you’re concerned about duplicate entries stemming from the use of multiple search engines, Qrobe.it seems to have it covered.  My search for “LOST season 6” yielded 75,000,000 results on Google, 35,200,000 results on Bing, and 40,360,000 results on Qrobe.it – which is a good indicator that the service is intelligently combining the results.

All of the usual search perks seem to be present in Qrobe.it such as “weather”, “define:”, and “movies”.

Qrobe.it also features combined image search and includes the great Peek feature which lets you quickly view the full-sized version of an image.

If you’re looking to take advantage on two of the most advanced search engines on the planet, Qrobe.it is definitely a search engine you should be using.  It might not support all of the features from both individual search engines, but it’s great for what you’re doing 90% of the time – searching for answers.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Google Adds Real-Time Search Results

GoogleGoogle has recently released a new real-time search option that contains a scrolling list of results that update as new results become available.  Don’t worry, this won’t be replacing Google’s standard search results, but it will be eventually be an option you can enable in the sidebar.

Real-time results combines posts from news sources, blogs, and even Twitter to give you an organic, constantly updating stream of information.  Google also announced that soon you will see updates from Facebook and Myspace appearing in the real-time search (your information will only show up if your privacy settings permit it).

Here’s an example that shows how the real-time search works.  You’ll notice that most of the results are from Twitter, but news and blog posts show up periodically.

At the time of this writing, real-time search wasn’t available under the Show Options tab in my Google results.  But hey, this wouldn’t be any fun if you couldn’t try it out for yourself, so click this link to get access to real-time search results.

Think you’ll use real-time results over the standard results?  Let us know in the comments.

[Official Google Blog]

Think You’re Using the Best Search Engine? Try a Blind Search Test

google-bingWith Google and Bing both competing to be the most popular search engine on earth, perception can be more of a deciding factor than search results.  Bing (being the new kid in town) has made a particularly strong marketing attempt over the past month, but many people still prefer the simplicity and proven track record of Google.  So what if perception was taken out of the equation?

Blind Search allows you to perform a web search with Google, Bing, and Yahoo simultaneously and then lists the results together on one page.  One catch – the results have no branding or any way to identify where they originated.  A ‘Vote’ button appears at the top of each search column, allowing you to vote for the engine that you feel provided the best results.  Once you’ve voted, you’ll immediately find to your surprise (or horror) which search engine you selected.

This site might indeed make you question your search engine loyalty.  After performing a blind search for Techerator, I felt two search engines definitely provided better results than the third.  I was even surprised to find that after several searches, the engine that I thought was Google turned out to be Bing.

blindsearch-results

Over 500,000 votes have been cast to decide which search engine reigns supreme.  As of this writing, Google leads with 41%, Bing follows with 31%, and Yahoo trailing with 28%.  While these results provide a general idea of which search engine provides the best results, it should be noted that only the more tech-savvy web users probably participated in the survey.

Does this end the Google vs. Bing debate?  Not exactly. Even though search results play a huge role in which search engine is the best, things like design, user experience, and speed are still significant.

Were you surprised by the search engine you picked?  Has brand perception warped our opinion on how search engines perform?  Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Google Labs Announces Google Squared

Released today from the Google Labs is a new product that may help change the way that you search.  Google Squared is a Google Labs feature that combines search results into a table, allowing for data to be organized so that it is quickly viewable to the reader.  Clicking on a section of the Square will bring you more information with related sources.

Google Squared
Google Squared

If the topic you searched does not have a Square started, you can easily start a Square and input the information.  If you search for a Square and find incomplete results, you can rows and columns and Google will try to complete the information.  You are also given the abilities to remove rows and columns if the data in the Square is not viable to the search.

Build Your Own Square
Build Your Own Square

Checkout this video from Google Labs on some of the other features of Google Squared.

What do you think of Google Squared?  Let us know by commenting below.