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date 21.Apr.2013

I am sure that this file exists so why can't I find it?

How many angels can stand upon the point of a needle? Some questions won't admit an easy answer, and "where are my files?" is one of them. xplorer² has a very capable desktop search engine, but its power and flexibility sometimes can hinder finding files. Here are a few common pitfals you should beware if you cannot find that elusive document.

1. Are you searching at the right spot?

Your hard disk has many folders and could have many partitions (drive letters). If your document is located in D:\ drive and you are searching in C:\ then you won't find anything. First browse the folder under which you believe your document exists, then start a search with <Ctrl+F>. This root folder will appear in the find files dialog Look in field. If you are not sure at all where to search, try browsing My Documents folder and start the search from there. In the worst case you can start a search from My Computer folder — that will search everything you have. However the higher up you go, the bigger the search space, so the longer xplorer² will take to find your files.

If you are trying to find documents within some special locations like the appdata folder, make sure you exclude them from the default search blacklist.

2. Check your search parameters

The search dialog has many options. You can search by filename, contained text or any other of the hundreds of available file attributes (Additional rules). The more rules you add for the search, the fewer the files that will match them. The easiest way to reset all search options is to tick the Clear button at the bottom left of the search dialog.

3. Searching for keywords (contained text)

Try to tick the most generic search options available, including the Search all files box. The easiest way to achieve this is again to click on the Clear button. Don't tick the RE (Regular Expression) box unless your keyword uses the regular expression syntax. If you are searching for special characters like $ then tick the Verbatim text option.

If you are searching for complex documents like PDF files, the adobe software most people have installed isn't going to be much help, especially on 64 bit windows. For the best all round results managing PDF documents (including search) I recommend the free Sumatra PDF.

Another issue with PDF files, especially those created by your scanner, is that there may be no text information in them! A PDF document may look like text but it may in fact be a picture of text. You can't find any text in such picture documents without passing them through some OCR first.

If you work with some less popular document format like openoffice or wordperfect, make sure you install the correct IFilter plugin so xplorer² can extract text from these document types.

There are a couple of advanced settings that affect text search. Not many people play with these but if you have ever used the advanced registry settings editor, see if you have perchance changed szGrepExcludeTypes (excludes searching documents by type/extension), nBinSearchMaxSizeMB (won't search in huge files above this limit) or msBGTextTimeout (abandons filtered reads that take too long).

Finally if you own xplorer² ultimate version and wonder why the fast desktop search doesn't deliver the goods, keep in mind that on top of the aforementioned pitfalls, the indexed search has some further limitations:

4. Searching for multiple keywords simultaneously

xplorer² will try to find whatever you put in the Containing text box verbatim. If you type in HELLO WORLD then it will find documents that include the phrase as a whole, and not documents that merely contain these 2 words separated from each other. This may catch out people that are used to google searches. If you want to search for multiple independent keywords you must use xplorer²'s comma separated syntax +HELLO,+WORLD. If you want something that handles multiple keywords in a more familiar fashion try the Deskrule search engine.

5. Searching in cloud drives (OneDrive etc)

If you cannot search in your cloud drives, make sure you tick the advanced option to follow junctions, using Tools > Advanced options menu command. Note that if your files are not locally available (cloud only, files on demand etc), then you won't be able to search for text inside such documents or fancy file properties, unless you tick another option. Plain filename search should be ok though.

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