search4_nl2Windows Search 4 is an important upgrade for Windows Vista and Windows XP, enabling lightning-fast searches through your files and email for any word or phrase, anywhere. Here’s more information about Windows Search.

It’s possible to do natural language searches in Vista with Windows Search! Natural language search lets you search using expressions like email from maddie yesterday or music by bowie or stones or email sent directly to me.  You can search for files by typing modified yesterday, modified last week or files created last month.

Natural language search is turned off by default. To turn it on, click Start / Control Panel / Appearance And Personalization / Folder Options. Then click the Search tab and check Use Natural Language Search. (This only works in Vista – not available in Windows XP.)

Windows Search already has a rich syntax for advanced searches – here’s the complete search syntax. Those searches will still work after turning on natural language search.

Boolean searches are possible with Windows Search but normally Boolean terms have to be capitalized –

hoover AND dam

hoover NOT herbert

After turning on natural language search, the Boolean terms no longer have to be capitalized.

Natural language search lets you use any column header as a search term. To see what’s available, right-click a column heading in any folder and choose More. You’ll find a complete list of column headings, any of which may be used in natural language search.


I haven’t seen any downside – it’s not clear why this isn’t enabled by default. If you’re using Vista and starting to explore Windows Search, turn on natural language search!

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