Windows Desktop Search is deeply built into Windows Vista and can be added for free to Windows XP to index files and Outlook folders for instant searches. By default, it indexes everything on your individual computer and presents results from everywhere – mail, files, whatever matches the words you type in. Frequently that’s exactly the right thing to do.

As you use it more, though, you may want more control over the searches. Here’s two tips that might help.

First, a quick reminder that an additional bit of software is required to be able to search files located on a network share – a company server or another computer. Once the “Add-in for files on Microsoft networks” is installed, you can click on Options in a search window and add network drives to the index.

The desktop search program has its own optional syntax – terms that allow searches to be focused on particular folders, specific types of files, or specific dates. So, for example, you can find an e-mail from Patrick in 2005 by searching for kind:email author:patrick after:12/31/2004. Although that looks clumsy, it produces search results that are more focused than typing in patrick and hoping for the best.

Here’s the complete description of the advanced query syntax. Keep a shortcut to it handy until you’ve learned the ones that will be most useful to you!

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