Now we’re taking a look at all things search, which can make Windows 8.1 a lot easier if you know how to use it the right way. Search is now a big part of Windows and Bing has even been integrated so you can get real web search results in local search results.
What is it and why is it important?
Create a home screen to suit your needs
Personalizing your home screen
Using Windows Store and Windows Store apps
Working with PC settings
Working with accounts and exploring sync settings
Search, applications and search for some others
Using the WIN + X menu for basic administration
Rest of Windows 8.1
So while Windows search has become more useful, it has also become a bit more complex. Search now does more, and unlike the infamous «dog search» in Windows XP, there’s more going on now, even if it might just look like a magnifying glass with a text box next to it. Search is now everywhere and you’re never more than a keyboard shortcut.
In this tutorial, we are going to show you all the ins and outs of searching, not only from the home screen interface, but throughout the system. First we’ll talk about PC settings for Search and Apps, and then we’ll look at how to use search more efficiently, how to change the search indexer, and talk about it as Bing and what it means for our search results.
By the end, we aim to give you more tools in your arsenal, such as Advanced Query Syntax (AQS), for Windows 8.1 search, so that over time, as you get more and more data, you will be better equipped to search for it. with just a few keystrokes.
PC settings for search and applications
We will then continue our journey through PC Settings and stop to explore the Search & Apps section.
This includes not only search settings, but also sharing, notifications, app sizes, and default settings. It’s kind of a varied mix of different settings, but they all have different purposes and you’ll definitely have to dig into them from time to time.
Top settings in the «Search and applications» group — «Search». Here you can delete your «search history» and disable Bing integration, meaning all your searches will remain local. We will show what this means in the next section.
If you want your searches to be personalized, you can adjust how much personalization you get. This is purely a privacy setting, meaning you can dial in how much location and account information Bing uses to get results. You can also disable this completely if you wish.
SafeSearch allows you to filter adult content such as images and videos from web search results. If you set it to «Strict» it means you won’t see anything, whereas if you set it to «Moderate» then you won’t see images and videos but will get text results.
Finally, if you’re on a metered connection, you can choose to turn off Bing results entirely or just roaming.
The charm of Share, and by extension Sharing Options, is a new feature that arrived with Windows 8. For those using a mobile operating system like iOS or Android, it really is no different. However, how you share information will depend on the applications you have installed.
The sharing options are pretty simple. At the top, you can decide if you want Windows to show the apps you use most often at the top of the share list, as well as how you share, for example if you publish web pages via email, this the setting will be on the next time you share another web page.
You can also choose how many items to display in the list, clear the list, and decide which apps can share apps on a per-app basis.
The idea is that you will be sharing more and more information from the Windows Start environment, but for experienced Windows users, this may seem a bit odd and odd. But if you are stuck at the airport without a mouse and keyboard, this will be useful, if you have good apps to share.
Unfortunately, while it’s good that this feature now exists on Windows, it still has a lot to do. We hope Microsoft can expand and embrace desktop sharing. For example, it would be nice to be able to share stuff from the web with Mail, Facebook, and other apps from a web browser. Also, such added functionality will greatly help to make the Start/Desktop interface more mixed and cohesive.
Notifications in Windows 8.1 are not the same as in other systems. In Windows 8.1, events appear in the top right corner as toast notifications.
You can customize notification settings in PC settings. As you can see in the following screenshot, you can disable them completely, which will disable all other settings.
If you choose to leave notifications disabled, you can set them to appear only during certain hours. «Quiet Hours» means you won’t be disturbed if it’s turned on.
You can choose whether you want to receive calls during quiet times or disable this option. Finally, if you have an app that is capable of displaying notifications, you can turn it off if you get bored.
For example, if your Facebook feed has blown up and you don’t want to be notified every time something happens, you can simply turn off Facebook notifications instead of all app notifications.
You can free up disk space in several ways in Windows 8.1 and through the app’s size settings.
If you see that an app has gobbled up too much disk space or you’re just not using it, you can click on it in the App Dimensions section and delete it.
Finally, the default PC settings may remind you of the control panel with the same name (pictured below) because it does the same thing.
By selecting «Select Default Apps», you can assign several basic app features such as default web browser, email program, music player, and more.
If you scroll to the bottom of the default settings, you can also associate file types with applications.
Or you can do the same with protocols.
This is all very similar to what you’ll find in the desktop equivalent, which can be useful if you want something to open in a Windows Store app versus the desktop.
Mastering Windows 8.1 Search
Let’s now get back to the specifics of Windows Search and its applicable settings again, let’s actually dig into the mechanics and inner workings of Search. In this section, we want to talk about what Windows Search does, how to use it more efficiently, and how to customize the Search Indexer for better results.
It’s got Bing in it
As we explained earlier, Bing is now fully integrated into search results, if you want them to be. The two easiest ways to start a search are to press the WIN key and start typing from the Start screen, or you can use the WIN + Q combination to open the desktop search bar.
In the following screenshot, we are typing «st» and automatically searches for the nearest results. In this case, Steps Recorder Troubleshooter follows in the app store first, and then other relevant results follow.
If you run a search on Windows 8.1 and then press «ENTER», it will return what is known as «search hero», which is basically a Bing deep result. This means that in our search results below, you’re not only getting local results, we’re also seeing everything Bing finds, as long as you leave the Bing integration enabled (covered earlier in this tutorial).
Search Heroes are useful beyond the obvious search results. For example, if you are looking for images of New York, you can filter them directly in the operating system.
We recommend that even if you don’t like the idea of Bing in your search results, at least give it a try for a few days and remember that you can always filter the results directly from the search area. So if you don’t want to see results online, you can narrow them down right away.
What’s more, by using advanced query syntax, you can further improve your results.
Search from Explorer
As we mentioned, Windows search is multi-faceted and you can search in many places and you can still search in File Explorer like you always have. Wherever you are in the system, you can search for it. You’ll notice that the ribbon at the top of the File Explorer window will change to «Search Tools» and give you plenty of options to help you narrow down your results.
Worth noting here is the ability to search the current folder and/or its subfolders, search by date, file type, size, use recent searches, save searches, and access additional options.
You can also search elsewhere. For example, the control panel has a search box so you can find various settings and options rather than looking for something specific in the control panel.
As we said, search is everywhere in Windows and it’s very easy to use, but you can take it even further with advanced query syntax.
How to Use Advanced Query Syntax to Find Material
We want to spend some time discussing Advanced Query Syntax (AQS), because even if you don’t know what it is, learning just a little bit about AQS can help you quickly find something on your computer.
The goal of AQS is to make your life easier, but the learning curve can be a bit steep. Search can be found throughout Windows. There are literally search functions all over the interface: you can search from the start menu, control panels, explorer windows, PC settings; if you type WIN + F, the search bar will pop up so you can search for your files; if you use WIN + Q you can search for everything etc.
The thing is, search is ubiquitous, so there’s no practical reason why you can’t use it more efficiently and effectively.
What is AQS?
Think of advanced query syntax as your key to improving your search results. AQS is a group of queries that allow you to not only refine search results to make them more effective, but also display results based on the content and properties of a file. You might think that you will never be able to find the photo you took or the video you shot, but just knowing a little about that file and then understanding what syntax to use in your search can often make you lose your job. ,
We could dedicate an entire lesson to AQS (in fact, we are planning to do a series for it), which should be an indication to everyone how important he is. However, we just want to introduce you and point out a few ways you can make AQS work for you.
How does AQS work?
You already know how to search for something, AQS just makes searching easier and more accurate. You can search using one or more keywords, including logical operators, and other criteria for one or more of the following:
Files contain a lot of information other than the bits and bytes that make them up. The properties of a file consist of things like the size of the file, the date it was created/modified, the tags that have been attributed to it, and other things that tell us what the file is about.
As Windows has evolved, search has also become such that it can now look into your files even more so that you can actually look for the keywords contained in the file. Simply put, if you’re looking for an image, you can frame your search as such to only find images that match a specific description or document that contains a specific phrase or wording.
There are many different items in your system. What kinds? Well, there are sound files (mp3, ogg, wav), documents (doc, txt, rtf), videos (avi, wmv, mkv), folders, email and more. If you know what item you are looking for, you can narrow down your search results pretty quickly.
Finally, you can search the various data stores where the items have been indexed (we’ll look at the search indexer in the next section). These data stores can include databases, external hard drives, and wherever you have specified Windows 8.1 to be indexed.
Don’t forget your logical operators!
Throughout these searches, you can use logical operators to further refine your searches. You may already be familiar with Boolean if you’ve ever searched for something online. Basically, they are logical operators that allow you to combine search terms and parameters together. Here are some examples:
peanut butter NOT jelly
Search for items that contain peanut butter but no jelly.
peanut butter or jelly
Search for items that contain peanut butter or jelly.
«peanut butter and jelly»
Looks for the exact phrase «peanut butter and jelly.»
«OR» and «NOT» must be capitalized and cannot be in the same search string. Efficiently incorporating a boolean expression into your searches will allow you to combine, exclude, or even limit your searches. This is great if you have several different criteria and want to get boolean search results.
We recommend that you read the Microsoft MSDN page on Advanced Query Syntax for an extensive list of logical operators and logical properties.
A final word on wildcards
Wildcards allow you to invent a bit of detail so that you can return results if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. Think of AQS as a search scalpel and wildcards as search tools.
There are two wildcards in Windows search: «*», which matches anything, and «?», which matches any character. In other words, searching for «anything» will let you insert «*» to represent the entire line of text, and searching for «any character» will allow you to insert «?» when you want it to fill in individual characters you don’t know
There is so much in the Advanced Query syntax, we can only introduce you to the concepts, but there is a lot of information available on the web. We recommend Microsoft’s own documentation as the primary source. How-To Geek also published a recent article detailing some of the finer points of AQS.
We’ll be publishing a full Windows Search and AQS series in a few weeks, so be sure to check it out!
Search and indexing options
There are two control panels that you should be immediately familiar with in order to get the best search results. The first is Folder Options.
Let’s check the Search tab first. It’s probably fair to ask why these options aren’t in Indexing Options, but here they are in the folder options dialog box. However, there are some very important things here.
First, you can disable the search indexer from cataloging system files. This will cause the index to decrease, as well as system files not showing up in regular searches unless you specifically search for them in file folders. However, as they say, if you do this, the search may take longer.
Speaking of slower searches, if you’re searching in non-indexed locations (we’ll cover that in a second), you can include system directories and compressed files in your search. You can also search by filenames and their contents, which will definitely slow things down a lot.
We keep mentioning the indexer and you are probably wondering what we are talking about. If you notice the previous screenshot of the Control Panel, you’ll probably see that we’ve also included «Indexing Options» in that red box.
Simply put, indexing options allow you to specify where and how the indexer searches, meaning you can exclude folders, partitions, and drives that contain content you don’t want to be searched (such as archived data).
You can also easily include the areas you want to be indexed. Let’s say, for example, you have a section dedicated to images that you carefully tag with relevant information about their theme and content. You will definitely want to include this section in your image search.
Clicking on the «Edit» button will open a new dialog that allows you to do so. You will see your drives and partitions, and you can open them to access subdirectories if you don’t want the entire location to be indexed.
Below you see a summary of what is planned or to be indexed. This gives you a quick look at all your indexed locations from which you can decide if you’re good to go or if you still need to add/remove things.
If you click the «More» button on the previous screen, you will get options. The Index Settings tab allows you to decide if you want to index encrypted files and if you want words with diacritics to be treated as different words, for example «naive» will be treated separately from «naive».
If you’re having problems, say the indexer isn’t working as advertised, or you decide to change what’s indexed and want to start from scratch, you can «rebuild» it. It’s important to note that indexing your entire system can take some time, so every time you rebuild you won’t get full search results until they’re complete.
Finally, you can move the index to another location. We really don’t recommend doing this unless the index has a reason to be elsewhere, for example if you’re trying to save some disk space or you might want more performance. Usually an index is only good where it is.
The File Types tab is pretty self-explanatory. You have three ways to customize file types, you can uncheck all the ones you just don’t want to be indexed, if you are indexing a file type you can choose between indexing its properties or its properties and content.
Also, you can add new extensions to the list. You can do this, for example, if you add files to your computer with an extension that is not registered on your computer.
For example, when you install Microsoft Office, it registers its file types (docx, xlsx, pptx, etc.) so that Office always opens files of that type. The search indexer then scans your hard drive and indexes files of that type, unless otherwise noted in the above dialog box. Thus, if you have files that are not a registered file type, you will need to add them here.
Search is, and should become, a more visible part of how Windows works. In truth, using search effectively can greatly reduce the time you spend searching for files and settings, doing research, and even launching apps. Add AQS and you have some very powerful tools that can turn you into a search guru in no time!
For your homework, search! Try integrations with Bing, Search Heroes, and maybe do some AQS research. See what you can do about it and let us know if you have any questions by posting on our forums.
Tomorrow we’ll conclude our discussions on PC settings by focusing on the Privacy, Network, and Time & Language groups of settings, as well as the long overdue Update and Recovery study in Windows 8.1. » options.