xplorer² Quick Start Guide
File exploring reinvented: Feel like home miles away from home

[PRO] Search for files and folders Find keywords in documents

xplorer² unleashes the full potential of file searches since you can use any and all pieces of file information as parameters. You can thus home in to the files you are after with unparalleled precision avoiding irrelevant hits. You can search a few hand-picked folders - even within zip archives, or whole networks, and even refine search results.

You initiate a search using Tools | Find files command. The ensuing dialog (figure 16) is strikingly simple considering the amount of information it conveys. Broadly speaking it is divided in two sections, the search context that specifies where to search, and the hyper-filter that controls what to search, the parameters of the files that will be considered positive hits.

Figure 16. Find dialog: scope and filter selection

By default the search context is the folder you were browsing when you issued the <Ctrl+F> find command. You can also specify broader contexts using the Special folders drop down box. The Look in box itself accepts multiple comma-separated folders; e.g. typing C:\ , d:\temp will instruct xplorer² to search both these folders. You can also exclude folders using a leading minus sign, e.g. C:\, -*temp* will search all C:\ except any folders with "temp" in their name.

Usually you will want to search all the subfolders below those specified in the Look in field, as long as Search subfolders is checked. You can also control the traversal method: Depth first will favor files in deep subfolders whereas Breadth first will scan the folder tree in layers.

If Archived content is checked, xplorer² will step into zipfolders, FTP sites (if supported) and pretty much any other unusual folder that comes in its way. You can use all stock columns and even search for contained text just like in regular folders. The down side is that searches become much slower, so only check this box if you know your target file is within an archive.

By checking Local search, you instruct xplorer² to search within the files already contained in the scrap window, possibly inserted by an earlier find command. This essentially refines the search. A similar result can be achieved using Mark | Matching a rule command.

When it comes to defining the search parameters, you are really spoilt for choice. The search hyper-filters defined in the dialog comprise:

You can define hyper-filters with as few or many criteria as you want. You can go from a nearly empty filter (e.g. all fields clear except for Folders box that will find all folders) all the way to any arbitrarily complex filter with tens of rules combined in boolean contexts. Only items that match all aspects of the filter are considered hits.

NOTE: The more rules in a filter, the longer it will take to process it for each file. Some columns (e.g. checksum) or text searches are the most time consuming. Still xplorer² checks easier rules first and leaves slow ones for last, optimizing searches as much as possible. Users needn't worry ordering the rules, this is done automatically.

Additional rules in hyper-filters find recently modified

Whereas in windows explorer (and all other file managers) you can only search for sizes and dates - in addition to usual names and contained text - xplorer² takes advantage of all available columns and does so in a boolean fashion. This allows you to search for text within comments, MP3 tags and pretty much everything else you know about your files and folders.

You can add, edit, reorder and delete rules using the toolbar on the right of the Additional rules list box (figure 16). All the usual keyboard and mouse commands are also recognized within the list. Each rule has a descriptive text and an icon reflecting its boolean context (see below).

Searchable file properties (aka columns) belong to three broad categories: dates, numbers and text. This determines how the properties are interpreted & searched, whether ranges are possible, etc. The rule definition dialog for a date (Modified) property is shown in figure 17. As you browse the Properties drop-down box, the middle part of the rule definition dialog changes to reflect the property type.

Figure 17. Sample rule definition: date property

As you can see, date properties can be defined as periods from the present (During the previous) or as ranges (Between). Leaving any end of the range empty (unchecked) removes the respective date boundary. For example if the low end of the Between range is empty, the rule will match any files that are up to the date specified in the upper limit box.

Number properties like Size are also defined in ranges between a Minimum and a Maximum value. Leaving any end of the range empty (note: not zero but no text at all) again means a number up to or at least, for the low and up bounds, respectively. If you are after an exact number, make both minimum and maximum identical.

NOTE: The units of number properties depend on the property type; Size properties count bytes, Page property counts pages and so on. If you need to work with larger numbers you can pick one of the listed units (kilo, mega etc). For example, if you select kilo, and enter number 3 it will correspond to 3K - equivalent to typing 3072 flat. A special unit called minutes is useful for matching media duration, e.g. MP3 music track length.

The third and final property category is plain text. Columns like Comments or Owner are text, failing to fit in any other category. You search text properties like you search for text in files: just type part of what you are after in the Find box - you don't need to know the exact phrase of the column. All searches are case insensitive. Wildcards (* and ?) are supported unless you tick the verbatim option. Advanced string matching is possible ticking the Regular expression option.

ADVANCED: Each text rule can contain many comma-separated substrings combined in boolean expressions as in find text in files command. For example, since the Attribute column is a string that contains letters A, H, S, R etc, searching for +A, -H within file attributes will match files that have the Archive but not the Hidden attribute (note the use of + & - to assign the boolean context for AND and NOT respectively). You can also use the $xx notation to search for non-printable characters using the hexadecimal ascii code xx.

The Boolean context options in figure 17 determine how each rule is combined with the existing rules in the hyper-filter. All And rules must be satisfied, at least one of the Or rules and finally none of the Not rules. If you are not familiar with boolean algebra, just leave the default And button checked. If on the other hand you are familiar, you can have field day playing with hyper-filters!

Let's have an example. Say you want to find a file whose size is either smaller than 1K or above 2K but not inbetween. The simple solution would be to use two Or rules, one searching for files up to 1K and another one above 2K. Or you can use your boolean skills and define a single rule that says: Not "size between 1024 and 2048". Isn't this time-saving?

WARNING: As always, increased power must be accompanied with extra care to avoid subtle error conditions. xplorer² will try its best to validate rules but it is not fool-proof. For instance it will allow you to set two contradicting rules (e.g. size less than 1K and size greater than 2K) resulting in a filter that will never be satisfied.

You can save hyperfilters for use in future search operations.

Search results

Searches can take a lot of time to complete. As soon as you initiate a search, a scrap window opens and shows matching files and folders as they are discovered. An active message pump allows you to start working with the first matches immediately, while the search is ongoing. You can abort a search by pressing the <Esc> key.

NOTE: A running search command slows down both the scrap and the main window. Sometimes it will be better to Window | Clone a new main window before you start a search. This clone will run in its own thread and will be relatively unaffected and more responsive to user input. Still you should beware the windows OS limitations described under file transfers. Sometimes patience is the best policy!

You can check the progress of a search either by noticing the folder being scanned on the statusbar, or use Tools | Search status for a more detailed report, including all the folders that have already been examined, information about errors or exclusions, etc. This information is available even after the conclusion of the search.

ADVANCED: There are two ways to exclude folders from being searched. One is to use the leading minus (-) notation mentioned in the Look in field. A more permanent solution is to make a folder blacklisted, and the find command will never get into it. You achieve this by entering the folder's full path under the registry key HKCU\Software\ZabaraKatranemia Plc\xplorer2.global\Find Blacklist. This list has some common troublemakers in by default. You can add and remove folders from this list at will, but first you must quit xplorer². If you are unfamiliar with registry editing you should not attempt this, since you risk rendering your PC unusable!

Saved searches

If you repeat a certain search often it makes sense to keep it for later. Once you search using <Ctrl+F> use Tools | Save search menu command in the scrap window to save the last search scope. This includes all the properties of the search dialog (figure 16): the starting folder, the search context (e.g. search subfolders and other flags) and the search filter. To repeat a search saved earlier, open a scrap window and use Tools | Recent search menu.

xplorer² installer registers the .X2FND extension for saved search files. So another way to start a saved search is to double click on a saved search file.

[ULT] Windows Desktop Search

If you have windows XP with desktop search 4 installed, or windows vista and later, xplorer² ultimate edition can tap in the fast searches available in windows explorer, querying the indexing server directly. You will notice a substantial speed increase especially if you search for text in the file contents.

You don't need to do anything special to take advantage of this integration; when you press <Ctrl+F> to start a search in many situations xplorer² will automatically retrieve results quickly from the system index in phase 1 of the search. It will then pause and allow you to review the results. If you think the file you wanted wasn't found just click on ROBUST SEARCH button to continue with xplorer² robust (albeit slower) search.

There are a few limitations to keep in mind. Searching for text in files will only find whole words and not partial keywords. You can't search for special characters like brackets or quotation marks (they are ignored). xplorer² will not use the indexing server in the following occasions:

Figure 17b. Fast search for files dialog

A simpler way to access the system index is Tools | Fast search menu command. Instead of defining detailed search rules, you just type a keyword. xplorer² then starts a search under the current folder for any file or folder that contains this keyword in its name, text contents or any other searchable property (e.g. tags or author). Again note the limitation that only alphanumeric keywords can be searched (no symbols); text in the middle of the word cannot be found either (e.g. right will match a file containing right or righteous but not copyright - as in all internet searches). If you type more than one keyword then all the words will be matched - in any order.

The ultimate edition has yet another way to find files fast by Name. If you search only by name, and if you are looking for files in a local hard disk, xplorer² will use the NTFS Master File Table (MFT) to find the results very quickly. To use this mode you must be running with full administrator privileges.

Quick search

Despite their expressive power, fumbling with hyperfilters and text rules can be too time consuming. Quick search (Mark menu) is a convenient shortcut that selects files that contain a phrase, either in their content or in some text column, including filename. It is a local search mode (scans items already in the pane) equivalent to a hyperfilter with one rule per text column, each matching your phrase in a boolean OR fashion (i.e. any one match will be enough); if no column matches the phrase the command searches the text within the file. This latter stage can be skipped if not required, hitting <Esc>.

Quick search will only scan columns that are visible in the active pane. To make the most of this command you may have to activate a few interesting columns, e.g. Comments, Version information etc, depending on your context.

TIP: A quicker way to use quick search is to type your phrase in the addressbar, beginning with a colon, e.g. : your_phrase and press <Return>. If instead of marking you want to filter the matching items (hide everything that doesn't match), type your text and press <Shift+Return>. Stored hyperfilter names are also understood if enclosed with curly braces, e.g. :{saved_filter_name} is a valid input

Multi-function addressbar tool Filter, select and search easily

In a sense, most of the work you do in xplorer² involves finding, filtering and selecting items, before doing something with them. The edit box next to the addressbar is a convenient way to do all these things from a single tool, extending the quick search feature mentioned above.

Figure 17a. Multi-function tool drop-down menu

Using the above context menu you switch among the different modes of operation (filter, select and search). Type part of the word you are looking for and click on the toolbar button (or press <RETURN> key) to activate the tool. You don't need to use wildcards, just plain text will do. The text is normally matched against the filename (plain mode), but you can also tell xplorer² to search in All properties (columns) or even in the file Text contents to find the match.

When set in filtering mode (plain filename), you can immediately see the results as you type. xplorer² will gradually show less and less items in the active folder pane, so you can quickly find the item you are after. If you do a mistake, delete a few letters to show more files in the pane. xplorer² will automatically jump to the quick-filter box if you start typing anywhere within the folder pane for more convenience!

Finally when set to search mode, a new window opens to find matching items in the current folder and its subfolders. If you have the ultimate version you can tick on Windows search option to pass the query to windows desktop search for faster results. If you do a simple search for filenames only, then the first few search results appear in a popup mini-search window, for immediate use. You can open documents, open their containing folder using the context menu, or click the footer for robust search, which will do a regular full scale file search.

The color tag filter button to the right of the mode selection drop-down button, is another way to quickly filter files based on their color tag. Please see the following section for more details.

Manage color tags mark files using color tags

Sometimes you need to mark a file for later processing. One way is to place the item in the mini scrap pane. Another possibility is to color tag it, so whenever you browse its container folder it will stand out with a color border drawn around its name. Likewise you can color tag a folder in the tree pane, making it easier to locate. Color tags are set through the context menu:

There are three predefined tag colors to choose from, so you can color code your marked files and folders (you can add more colors with registry editing). These colors won't change the actual files in any way; you just use them to mark files for whatever reason you like. The color borders drawn around the names can be combined with rule-based color coding — but color tagging is much simpler and quicker.

TIP: When a folder is tagged, its tab is also painted with the same color. Tagging folders is also possible by right clicking on a view tab. Using this trick you can make a tab stand out.

You can quickly filter a pane (except the folder tree) to show only items tagged with particular color, using the color filter button in the addressbar, next to the quickfilter box. This color button opens a submenu with all the filtering options. This menu includes a Find tagged command that can show you color tagged files in other folders. In the tag search dialog first specify which colors you are after using the checkboxes, then state your search scope: do you want to search only below the current folder or everywhere?

Figure 17b. Find color tagged files dialog

The tag search dialog is very fast but will only search for colors. If you want to combine colors with regular file attributes like names etc, use the find files dialog and add a rule on the color tag stock property. In this context tags are plain numbers in the order they appear in the color list (1=red, 2=green etc).

You can color tag any type of file or folder, even virtual items residing in zipfolders and other shell namespace folders.

NOTE: color tags are rather fragile. If you rename a tagged file or move it to a different folder, the color information is lost. Likewise they are not very portable as paths in one computer usually cannot be found in another PC. If you need more persistent color tagging, consider the old "manual" method using file comments and color coding rules

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