Working with Data with Windows Vista

Working with Data with Windows Vista

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One of the interesting things about the release of a major version upgrade like Windows Vista is that there are so many new features, that it might take you a while to discover all of the deep capabilities built into the product.  Some features you will discover are nice changes that improve specific uses.  Others can dramatically alter the way you use computers and make you much more productive.  In Windows Vista, one of the best examples of this is finding and organizing things.  It really starts with the Start Menu where, instead of hunting for the program you want to run, you can type in a few letters of the program's name and see it appear right on the top of the Start Menu.  But search on the Start Menu is about much more than finding programs -- it can also be used to find a document that you are looking for as well.  For example, if I am looking for a document about my friend "John", all I need to do is type in the word "John" and I can see all of the documents with the word "John" in the document, title, or tag placed on the document.  If you do this, you will also notice that the search is not limited to the file system -- in fact, contacts from Microsoft Outlook that might help me get a hold of John are also displayed.  I can also click on the "show all results" button that appears right on the Start Menu to see a list of all of the content (such as documents, web pages, emails, and even music) that relates to the word "John."

Search 1

One of the things you will notice when you first sit down at a Windows Vista machine is that the Instant Search Box is available pervasively throughout the Windows Vista shell.  Using the Instant Search Box, you can search any and all content on your Windows PC, including email, Office documents, music, photos, etc.  But unlike other systems, we didn’t stop with "search".  (Remember, indexing has been available in Windows for years and years -- it just works better now!)

Search 2

Searching can only take you so far.  Before we created Windows Vista, when I searched for things on Windows XP, I was often overwhelmed by the results of the searches I did.  On Windows Vista, however, if there are too many things in the search results, you can instantly filter the results using the new built-in filter controls.

We also changed how you can view the information so you can spot things more easily.  When you are looking in a folder using Windows Vista, you can easily change the view -- from a list, to details, to icons of various styles.  In fact, the view can contain an image of the actual content (e.g., the first page of a spreadsheet) so we can finally start to get away from generic icon images where every Word document looks the same!

Search 3 

You may recall that when you used the "details" view in Windows XP, if you clicked on any of the fields (File Name, File Size, Date Modified), the shell would sort the folder based on the field that you chose -- then you could search the list yourself to find what you are looking for.  Well as it turns out, sorting helps, but only goes so far (it's so Y2K), so for Windows Vista we created a new capability so that when you click to the right of any one of those headers, you can select specific values for the field to narrow the files that you want further.  For example, suppose you have a folder full of Office documents and you want to find a business plan you wrote in 2002.  You can’t remember if you wrote it as a Word document or as a PowerPoint deck, but you know it was written sometime that year.  This takes seconds to find in Windows Vista by just selecting "2002" in the Date Modified header.

What is even cooler is that the logic behind the filter is shown in the address bar just like a path name so you can modify, add or delete the filters to refine your search and find what you need.  Also, once you have filtered the files that you want, you can arrange the files in "stacks" based on any field that you are viewing.  For example, if you go back to my 2002 business plan example, once I have created the filter that only shows me the Word and PowerPoint documents created in 2002, I can click on the "Type" field in Windows Explorer and select a stack view that creates four virtual folders -- one that includes the Word documents, one that contains the Excel files, one that includes the PowerPoint files and one for the Visio files.  I can select any of these virtual folders and drag them to "Favorite Links" and the query will be available to me later.

Search 4

While this is a cool capability for stacks, these virtual folders (called "Search Folders" in Windows Vista) work on any query/view that you create across any data you have.  Some Search Folders are built-in, including "Recent documents," "Recent email" and "Recently changed."  No matter what search query I create, I can always decide to save that query as a "saved search" right from the Windows Explorer using the "Save Search" button that appears in the "command bar" whenever the results of a query are shown.  When a search is saved, it is always available in the "Searches" folder under Favorite Links.  So, not only is my virtual folder (query) saved, but so is exactly how I configured the view of the folder.  I use Search Folders for collecting together everything dealing with projects (e.g., a house remodel), regardless of where the information is stored (e.g., in email, in folder x or folder y).

Search 5

The Windows Explorer allows you to view your Favorite Links, a folder hierarchy, or both on the left pane.  Unlike in Windows XP, as I mentioned above, you have the ability to add to your Favorites by simply dragging and dropping folders that are most important over to your favorites.  On the top of the Explorer view, you will also notice the new "address bar" that not only shows you the full path to the folder that you are viewing, but also allows you to modify the path at any level of the hierarchy.  You should try selecting the caret and watch the system figure out everything that is available for you to choose from automatically.  For me, this is a much easier way to navigate the file system hierarchy, especially when I am working with network shares.

Search 6

Windows Vista also makes it possible to add a file details view or a file preview of any file that you select.  Unlike previous operating systems, the preview in Windows Vista allows you to really view the file -- if it's a PowerPoint presentation, you can flip through the slides; if it's a video, you can watch the video right from the Explorer -- and unlike previous versions of Windows, if you want to look at both the Preview pane and the Details pane at the same time, you can do that too!

We have also modified the Common File Dialog (CFD) that can be used by Microsoft and third-party applications.  Essentially, this is a mini-Explorer that can be used by applications.  While in the default "mini-mode," you see a pretty simple dialog for tasks like "File Open" and "File Save,"” but there a few new things to notice.  The first is that search is integrated into the CFD.  So if I want to find and open a document about budgets from within an application, but I can’t remember where it is, all I need to do is type the word "budget" into the Search menu of the File Open dialog and I will see a list of documents (and have access to all of the filtering tools).   Also, when I save a document for the first time or subsequently using the "Save As" dialog, I have the ability to add meta-data in the form of "tags" right from the Save dialog box.

While the new data management capabilities help me a lot at work, what's amazing is how much they have changed the way that my wife and I use Windows at home.  We are very much into digital photography and in the past it was very hard to organize the thousands of photos we take in a given year.  While we tend to store our photos in a new folder for each month, it was often hard to find specific photos by topic like "kids" or "Summer Vacation."  Now with the enhancements to the Windows shell, you can add tags to the photos (like "kids" or "Summer Vacation") and add ratings as well.  What I find particularly cool here is that when I stack my photos by tags, the same photo can appear in two stacks (e.g., a photo of my kids from our summer vacation would be both in the "kids" stack and the "summer vacation" stack), so I essentially have two virtual copies of the same photo.  Of course, Windows Photo Gallery uses these same tags, and has even more flexibility!

Search 7 

Oh yeah ... one more thing.  The Search Box supports a nice query filter syntax that you can read about if you go to the Windows Help system and search (of course) for "tips for finding files".  Scroll to the bottom of the Help and try out the powerful query syntax on your system.  There are Boolean operators, field variables, and even a way to type in natural language queries.  For example, you could type in "kind:music artist:(Beethoven AND Mozart)" and get back all the music by Beethoven and Mozart on your system.

With Windows Vista, we are enabling the end-user experiences that we first previewed at the Professional Developers Conference in 2003.  While we originally envisioned the need for a new storage system (WinFS) in order to deliver on our search goals, we were able to deliver on our vision by simply enhancing our existing storage system.

Like I said, Windows Vista goes beyond other systems in finding and organizing information -- making you much more productive once you step into the new world.


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  • Mobile
    28 Posts

    well jim all you have shared a very vital info with us! i appreciate it.

  • dombrov
    2 Posts

    With XP there is an option to display Common Tasks in folders on the left portion of the pane. Then if you click on a file (or files) you are offered functions such as Move or Copy as your Common Tasks. I can't seem to find that with Vista. Is this still available?

  • *going to be reminded=going to NEED TO be reminded. :)  Sorry.

  • Is there a way to see a list of tags that have been created by a user?  I'm sure in two years (or maybe even two months!) my clients are going to be reminded about what tags they used "way back when" for their data which they've since forgotten.  With other tagging environments you can see a list of the tags you already created so that you know which ones you should use or should create because you haven't created one yet.  I can't find any documentation, web resources, or tech manuals which discuss anything more than "you can add tags!".  Thanks.

  • Condor
    18 Posts

    I have been very eager to use Vista and noted that, from end December when I started, many glitches have somehow disappeared. However, I am now seriously beginning to think I should go back to XP. I like my Myst games. The best one is Uru. It has many beautifully rendered landscapes with a lot of 3D freedom. I still have not explored everything. In the beginning I could easily play Uru, but for some reason it is now impossible. I get a cryptic message "main branch not working" and that is it. I tried reinstalling with/without UAC on etc. etc. bot nothing works. I do not know where I can drop this information so that something can be done, but I really would like some help about this.

  • Nick White
    1204 Posts

    Hey comyn:  take a look at this Help article, it has everything you need to know about performing instant and power searches with Windows Vista's built-in search capability.

  • comyn
    1 Posts


    Windows 98 let me search by type of file, i.e. Html, or Word, or text

    I can find no means for Vista to limit searcvhes by file name.

  • ជាការពិតណាស់ ខ្ញុំបានព្យាយាមសរសេរជាកម្មវិធីសម្រាប់ភាសារ ខ្មែរ ប៉ុន្តែឧបករណ៍គ្រប់គ្រងមួយចំនួនរបស់ម៉ៃក្រូសហ្វមិនទាន់ជួយ គាំទ្រដល់ភាសារខ្មែរេយីងទេ ព្រោះតែដូច្នេះហើយ ទើបខ្ញុំស្នើសុំឲ្យ វីនដូសិ៍ វិស្តា ជួយដាក់បញ្ចូលភាសារខ្មែរយូនីកូដទៅក្នុងកម្មវិធីនោះ ផង។

  • Nick White
    1204 Posts

    Hey Bob:  the Mobile Team's public forum for getting help with issues is  They'll then file bugs on your behalf if appropriate.

  • thx a lot

  • Well, I developped my web page or Application with Khmer Unicode Title Bar displaying with Khmer Font, then the Khmer Unicode do not display well, just display with the squre symbols not the Khmer Alphabet with IE7, ASP.NET 2.0 and Visual Basic 8.0

  • I thought that Windows Vista were not enough tools to have the Visual Studio 2005 Professional. The VS 2005 Pro worked well with Windows XP Professional to support the Khmer Unicode, see the link for Khmer Unicode Downlaod . The controls almost 80% supporting with Khmer Unicode and .Net Framework 2.0 & Windows XP Pro. When I use with Windows Vista Beta and .Net Framework 3.0 all controls in VS 2005 Pro not support with the Khmer Unicode. Can someon in MS tell me about this problem.

  • Well, not being enough problem not having my admin tools, SMS tools, SQL tools now I can not use my Visual Studio 2005 because it is not compatible with Vista...<sigh> It runs but I hate the pop up that keeps telling me that is not compatible...

  • someone
    156 Posts

    Don't forget to update the common color chooser dialog and the common font choosing dialog. They're pretty much the same since Windows 95 and need serious overhauls to match "pro color" and "pro typography" levels.

  • UbiquitousGeek  i've forgot to add this.. The Apple iphone is screwed before it even got started... check this out " ", i'm pretty sure that this company well sue apple..

  • UbiquitousGeek not in my area there isn't.. An i don't order stuff online

  • Yeah, as far as the the iPhone is concerned, the Zune is so dead.  Looks like you have your work cut out for you for the next decade.  Yeah, obviously Randy doesn't pay much attention or he'd realize that there are sub-$1,000 Macs.  

  • @Randy

    I read that KB and I check Daniel' site almost everyday but I also have SMS, SQL, Exchange tools and I really do not like to rdp into my servers to do daily task that can be done from a workstation. My shop is fully MS so you can see my frustration. Do not take me wrong I love Vista but I had to roll back to XP because of those tools not working on Vista. Anyway I will keep checking for a real solution.

  • Hash
    6 Posts

    Cockroaches far outnumber humans.  Doesn't denote a higher life form.

    Windows fanboyz can eat their heart out!  And yes, it runs OSX.

  • Hey Apple fanboyz! Apples market share is amazing!!! Keep up the good work!

  • Hash
    6 Posts

    "An btw i haven't used MAC OSX since they were never sold in my area until a few months ago.."

    And yet you feel qualified to make a comment about OSX search and the length of time it takes to find files ?

    And you follow it up by statements like the above "... they are trying to get a version of aero glass"

    Once again, OSX has had transparency in the desktop for a while.  Apple doesn't need to copy a lousy half baked implementation like VISTA.

  • Hash that motion desktop that's coming out for vista has been in linux for well over 6 years or more now.. If you seen the screenshots for the new and up coming release of MAC OSX, then you would notice that they are trying to get a version of aero glass.

    An btw i haven't used MAC OSX since they were never sold in my area until a few months ago..

    But if the price of the MAC systems every get down below $1000 then i might get a MAC system.. but until then, i don't see myself using a mac anytime soon.

    Gabriel, then why do you go on saying alot of crazy things that you do?

    I've also been a microsoft customer for around 20 years also.

  • Gabriel
    19 Posts

    Randy, I've been a Microsoft customer for 20+ years. Spare me your lectures.

  • Hash
    6 Posts

    "At least i don't have to take out 10mins to find what i'm looking by browsing folders etc..

    Like what people gotta do on linux or even mac systems.."

    Apparently Randy and other VISTA fanboys have never seen OSX Spotlight.  As UbiquitousGeek posted earlier OSX 10.4 had all this and more  2 years ago!.  Glad to see MS finally catching up to Apple.  Oh wait, MacWorld starts tomorrow.  


  • flyboy30030 here's a workaround to get the admin tools installed on windows vista rtm.

  • What I am really disapointed is the lack of love for Network Administrators. I am so used to have my admin tools for w2k3 r2, exchange tools, SQL 05 tools and I have not been able to upgrade because without those tools I cann't upgrade. Why you did not work on this tools or had an alternative to manage the network? How do you expect me to upgrade my clients if I can not even upgrade my own system? Give us some love please and release the tools soon.....

  • Xepol
    45 Posts

    Randy -> try indexing a full 200 gb drive with video.  Low file count, high file sizes-> The system just up and died.  Indexing got 100% of the cpu and the system just flat out died.

    ANy guesses what it was trying to index there?  Key frames maybe.  Or maybe it decided I might want to text search the video perhaps?

    Either way, the system was as responsive as a tree stump at that point - nothing would budge it short of a reboot.

  • Xepol i have my whole system indexed at work.. :)

    At least i don't have to take out 10mins to find what i'm looking by browsing folders etc..

    Like what people gotta do on linux or even mac systems..

  • Xepol
    45 Posts

    My experience with Tags lead me one inevitable conclusion : THEY SUCK.

    From not being able to apply tags to files (apparently only SOME files can get tags, and not the files I care about either.), tags are pretty much completely undocumented and you have no idea why it doesn't work, only that it doesn't.

    Vista is a mish mash of good ideas done bad, and tags are just the tip of the iceberg.  Lousy, slow "search folders" are ANOTHER perfect example.  The OS should and could manage this efficently, except that it was screwed up so many times what we are left with is the old search with auto-fill in the blanks (when you can figure out how to save your query - good luck!) that slowly crawls through your drive, unless the content is indexed.

    And god help you if you decide to index your whole system.  You might as well take an AXE to your computer, because it will be just as useful.

    I can't believe you want to act like this is something to be proud of.

  • newscientist2000 that's not going to happen.. Hell you can't even buy the original xbox anymore, so really need to release it..

  • Oh since I cant afford a Xbox360 quite yet, I thought that I would suggest that you make one of these recievers for the original Xbox... so that I can use the wireless Xbox 360 pad with it too.

  • A Bill Gates Signature Laptop would be nice!  Imagine the name on the back of a limited edition laptop.

    Actually you could do it at

    But you would have to upload Bill Gates signature to the site, and I'm sure that there would be copyright issues with that.

  • Albert
    94 Posts

    What just makes me sad is that the really pretty Vista packaging does not come with new computer purchases, thus eliminating our option of purchasing the limited edition Signature Edition...if I had enough money I would purchase both a new computer and the limited edition...but that's not the case. But anyways, enough of my pitifu anybody else anxious about CES' Bill Gates' keynote in about 2 hours...I can't wait...?

  • Would it be possible to include high quality "life size" screenshots? As is the linked screenshots are no better than the images included in this fine article.

    Thank you.

  • Bob
    2 Posts

    I thnk that Vista is GREAT!! However, the Windows Mobile Device Center (beta 3) is MUCH worse than ActiveSync. I can't find any place to submit bugs.

  • "Step into the new world?"  Wait, I must be living in a totally different world...  Because these are all features that I've been using for nearly two years!  Spotlight, Smart Folders and iPhoto...  These features may be new to Windows users, but this is all old news for Mac users.  Next you're going to tell us that Microsoft discovered America and put the first man on the moon, right?  You'd better leave those photocopiers warmed up for Leopard.  

  • About the only thing I really dislike about Windows Vista is that its giving all the laptop manufacturers cause to raise their prices, I swear the average laptop price has gone up at least $100 in the last month.

    Of course I cannot let Vista take all the blame, the weak dollar has probably played a large part in this too.  I have to get a laptop for my sister by this Wednesday and its suprisingly hard to get one at the right price as all the cheap models were sold out over Christmas to make room for new Vista based laptops.

    Hopefully when the Vista machines come out they wont be too expensive.

  • "In Windows Vista, one of the best examples of this is finding and organizing things."

    That's pretty easy to do now if you keep the windows vista indexing up to date..

    Since if you keep the vista index up to date you don't really need to browser through "computer" and the folders etc.. to find what you looking for. Just type it in the pearl what you want an it'll get displayed there pretty fast..

    it's been like a week now since i even opened up "computer" to find something, when just typing in what i need is alot faster..

  • Gabriel i'm kinda glad to see that your finally posting some good... Other then saying alot of bad things about windows...

    You just gotta remember that alot of people have there own opinons on things, which you have been showing, and there's nothing to say againest it..

  • Gabriel
    19 Posts

    Jim, I have written some rather nasty anti-Microsoft posts lately, and I'm still hoping Apple starts building and selling the sort of machine that would make me switch back to Mac, but the fact is I wouldn't even be here if I didn't think Vista was the Best Windows Ever. It is a pleasure to work with, something I never thought I would say about any version of Windows. Thanks for allowing the dissidents like me to post just about anything we want in this blog.

  • I just found out that you guys are going to offer a signature edition of Windows Vista:

    Pretty cool, wish it was really Bills handwritten signature, and that their were less than 20,000 copies being produced... but a nice touch.

  • Photo Management in Windows Vista is simply awesome - especially with Windows Photo Gallery. And thanks to tagging inside the Windows Shell, I tag very special photos and easily find those photos extremely quickly by using Windows Vista's search.

  • The new search abilities are nice, luckily Im pretty organised with my files on my computer, but these new features should help a lot.  Photo organisation was one place where XP just didnt cut it, thankfully vista seems to be better at least from the RC2 beta I tested.

    What Im really excited about is the fact that you are all finally releasing the Vista Wireless 360 Receiver, so I can use the 360 controller on my PC.

    Nice :-)