Searching, part III: Do you know what a SearchMelt is?

Searching, part III: Do you know what a SearchMelt is?

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Last week we showed you how to make some interesting Search Folders on Windows Vista.  If you're like me, you probably can't get enough of them.  Today, I want to introduce you to new feature that's a little geeky, but very useful for anyone that has to do a lot of team-based work.

The thing about Search Folders is that while they're pretty handy for an individual, they're not readily shareable.  If you actually open a Search Folder in notepad and look at the XML innards, you'll see that Windows Vista automatically scopes the Search Folder to the user profile on the local PC.  This prevents me from, say, creating one and sending it to my team.

Introducing Windows Vista SearchMelts

A SearchMelt is a Windows Vista Search Folder that has been changed slightly to be generic and able to be shared.  It's like Search + XML + Sharing -- it's a whole bunch of melty goodness!

SearchMelts are easy to share because they are so small, usually on the order of a couple of kilobytes, but they are super-useful to people like me, and to people who need to collaborate on common documents on an on-going basis.

Follow the easy instructions below to create your own SearchMelts, and feel free to share your creations with co-workers or customers.

Creating a Windows Vista Search Folder

  1. Go to the Search Explorer in Windows Vista.  TIP:  To make this easier to access, if it isn't showing on your Start Menu, you can add Search by right-clicking the Start Orb / Properties / Tick the Start Menu radio button / Customize.  On the Customize Start Menu page, scroll down to Search and click the check box to enable it.  Click OK to back out.  Search will now appear as a menu item on the right side of your Start Menu.
  2. Design a search
    • Ex.:  All PowerPoint documents:
      1. i. * = wildcard
      2. ii. Document = only documents
      3. iii. Filter control = All Office 2007, Office 97-2003 PowerPoints
  3. Save as Search Folder

Turning Your Search Folder into a SearchMelt

Windows Vista does not save Search Folders in a way that is instantly shareable.  Normally, when you create a Search Folder, that search is "hard-coded," or scoped, to your PC.  So, you need to take an additional step to make them generic so they can be shared with friends, family, customers, anyone.

  1. Copy the SearchMelt Creator to your Saved Searches folder.  Your Saved Searches folder can be found in the following way:
    • Open the Start Menu
    • Choose the user name, which is the right-hand, top-most entry.  This will open the user profile
  2. Find and open the Searches folder.  To turn a Search Folder into a SearchMelt, just pick a Search Folder and drag and drop it on top of the SearchMelt Creator.
    • The SearchMelt Creator is an .exe that will automatically change the scope from your PC to a generic set-up.

That's it!

Note: not every SearchMelt will "just work."  If you have a search looking at specific places like an external hard drive on your PC or a private share, even the SearchMelt Creator won’t be able to fix those for you.  The best kind of SearchMelt is one that is made from a Search Folder that points to one PC, or to a networked PC or network share to which everyone has access.  The SearchMelt creator will only remove user-specific information contained in a Search Folder.

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  • Hmmmm....

    "We may be able to help you troubleshoot knowing this information."

    No advice or is this feature over-hyped?

  • Hi Nick, well I am not at all interested in this aspect of search.  What I need to know is how to search JUST the local computer like you could do in XP and ALL previous versions of everybody's OS that I have ever used.  I do not want to search the whole domain for a file that I know should be on the local computer.

    Thanks, Ted

    PS why did they break so many thing that worked so well?

  • Gallus
    2 Posts

    These Searchmelts are so good, they ought to be trademarked. In fact, SP1 should allow for their creation to be automatic if a user so chooses.

    I found these past few posts on the capabilities of Vista's search functions quite useful, I doubt I would have stumbled into these features for another year or so.

  • Xepol
    45 Posts

    Bladehawk -> I suspect you'd be able to talk her through filling in the search boxes faster than her learning to use email enough to receive attachements and save them into the right folder.

    Mind you, she would still have to track down the search folder every bloody time, so I would write the whole affair off as pointless.

  • indexing really makes no difference to spying, theres so much software that designed to do exactly that, and that would be far more useful then indexing that I'm really not too concerned about the very remote and inconvenient spying via indexing than I would be about real keylogging software.

    Search melt lets you share a search, cute, but I think some of this relates better to complex searches and the fact that I could use it to email my mom a few search folders because she cries using word and it's easier than trying to walk her though it (she's a technophobe).

  • I guess it's just me, but Vista indexing and search gives me the "Big brother" creeps. Take for example "Previous versions" which needs file-sharing enabled to work. Or IPV6 installed automatically, which can effectively bypass most inexpensive hardware firewalls.

    Do you use a computer at a library, internet cafe or on a wireless network? Regardless of your librarian's philosophy about privacy, Vista's features make it easier than ever, for those who care, to know: What you run, what you search for, and by extension what you care about/buy/etc. And the "search melts" could be categorized and warehoused for years (forever). Your text messages are archived somewhere, as are your emails, and now the names/contents of all of your files you wish to index are as well.

    Ok I know no one cares and this makes more titillating gossip fodder, but I just couldn't lay down without a peep and let the Vista experience trickle down.

  • Xepol
    45 Posts

    Unless this searchmelt thing lets me create a shared folder that only shows certain files, this whole concept seems a little... pointless...  How hard is it to say "word documents that contain the word 'fruit'" ?  I assume no one believes its so hard to create a search that we have to use external apps to custom modify a saved search file that shouldn't need custom modification in the first bloody place. (All drives, my documents, C:  all seem mighty transportable to me, not a lot to change unless someone did something REALLY stupid)

    So ya, still fuzzy of search melts.  Does it create a special share with a custom view or is it just a stupid solution to a problem no one actually has, or worse a solution to a stupid problem that could have easily been avoided?

  • Why is the assumption that a computer is a music collection device?  I have read all 3 articles and am wondering why it takes so much research to find a file with the extention txt somewhere on my machine that was created in the last month.  I am getting nothing but simple searches for *.txt on 120Gb without the date constraint.  This should be easy.  What a PAIN this VISTA is!

  • I have 207,197 items indexed with 2287MB ram and a  512 MB Readyboost thumb drive installed.

  • omgbbq
    26 Posts

    On Windows XP, I can use something like "*.sql" to only find files with the "sql" extension. How do I achieve the same effect on Windows Vista? When I use "*.sql" it returns all files and directories containing ".sql" anywhere in the filename.

  • Xepol, it's scoped to your machine.  You can't search and see results from another Windows Vista PC unless you have rights of access to the contents of that target PC.

  • Xepol
    45 Posts

    Nick -> Ok, which machine gets searched?  The host of the searchmelt or the client requesting the searchmelt?

  • cas
    10 Posts

    it would be nice to have it in Vista SP1 :)

  • Nice one. I am still waiting for my DELL XPS ( with Vista Ultimate ) to arrive ( it will come today :-) - but I am reading every post on your blog.

    I am collecting tools/gadgets on my drive already so I can pimp-up my Vista ;-) So thanks for the hint with the SearchMelt Tool - sadly I would have to register @ the hive to download it :-/ so I am not (yet) gonna do it.

  • Nick White
    1204 Posts

    Hey bladehawk:  how much RAM do you have on your system, and how many indexed items?  We may be able to help you troubleshoot knowing this information.

  • Nick White
    1204 Posts

    Hey Xepol:  fair enough -- a SearchMelt is a shared Search Folder that works on systems aside from only your own.

  • Xepol
    45 Posts

    I'm still left wondering what a "searchmelt" actually is. Howsabout a REAL, simple one line definition?

  • What I'd really like to hear is how to speed up windows explorer searching.  With  2TB local and a 2TB NAS(indexed as well) it's still pretty slow.