Have you ever searched for a program, file or folder on your computer only to discover that the default search application takes longer to display your search than it does for you to go find it manually yourself? I have. And I’d imagine that most Windows users face this same dilemma.
Although there are some things you can do to improve searching using the Windows Search - and the search application seems to be much more improved in Windows 7 – there are some excellent alternatives to the default Windows Search that you should consider.
These applications are all free and allow you to get your results quicker and more efficiently. And some even display more accurate results.
UltraSearch is a creation of JAM Software. They are also the creators of the popular hard drive space program, TreeSize. UltraSearch offers the essential features and a few extras while still keeping it simple and remaining fast – giving you search results in seconds.
It works by directly searching the Master File Table (MFT). Within the search window, all of the important file information is displayed. It also displays all of your computer’s partitions and their total size and free space. Additional options include showing folders and/or files in a search, exclude filters and printing the search results.
Snowbird has been mentioned previously on MakeUseOf as a Windows Explorer alternative, which it excels at. But it also does a great job at searching for files and quickly displaying them. If you’re using an operating system older than Windows 7, this is a great solution for both Windows Explorer and Windows Search. However, the Windows 7 Search is quite comparable to Snowbird and there isn’t much of a reason to have both. The developer makes a similar statement on the website:
These are relatively recent software, however they have largely been made obsolete by the shift to Windows 7, which provides most of the functionality of the applications below.
With that said, I still noticed a much better performance in the speed and quality in the search results that Snowbird presented, compared to the Windows 7 search.
Pictured above is the Advanced Search option. As you can see, there is no browse feature at all in the “Look in:” field. In my opinion, this renders the Advanced Search option completely counter productive. You’d be better off performing a regular search and narrowing down the folder by opening the C:/ drive (or whichever drive you’re searching), like you would in a Windows Search and then using the search box at the top right corner. This is where I got the most success in the speed of receiving results. Don’t get me wrong, Snowbird is a good program. But in my experience, it has some flaws.
If you love Windows 7, but prefer the style of the Windows XP search, this is the program for you. It has portable capability and a familiar search interface. It also uses minimal system resources. However, there is one drawback. The free version is a trial. Not in the sense that the program itself will expire, but the search window will timeout. If you choose to use this program, just be aware of that. Open the window, complete your search and close it. If you do this in a timely manner you should be fine. Overall the performance was ok. It wasn’t nearly as fast as the other programs that I tested, but I still noticed it was quicker than the default Windows Search and is a good alternative.
Super Finder XT has a very nice interface and performs at a good speed in displaying your search results. It’s interface mimics the Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 versions. It’s not overly complicated, but offers a decent amount of features. Below is an example of what an advanced search looks like.
The non-supporter has quite a few features on it’s own. However, the site states that you can use the supporters version, also free, if you become a supporter – obviously. Any amount paid through PayPal will qualify you to be a supporter – which is quite nice. The perks of having this version means you can use it portably, easily exclude folders from the search, use hotkeys, enable Most Recent Used management, and select multiple files.
Locate32 has been previously covered on MakeUseOf. Despite the age of the article that was linked to, the program itself has changed very little since then. It is a free, simple, yet a full featured search program. And it’s good at it. I don’t feel I need to say much more about it. The article featuring it does a good job of explaining all it’s features, but it’s a great alternative to the Windows Search and this article wouldn’t be the same without it.
With a name like that, your expectations are automatically high, but this program doesn’t disappoint. Search Everything, by Voidtools, is probably the most renowned search application. It’s portable, free and just an all around great program. Upon starting it for the first time with your computer, it will build a database of all your files, but it does this fairly quickly and updates all of the displayed files and folders as you type, narrowing down your search in a “live” sort of way. There isn’t really an “advanced search” option, but it doesn’t really need it because it is it’s own advanced search.
If you haven’t heard of Launchy already, you’re in for a real treat. Keep in mind that this has been given a honorable mention because it is an excellent program for searching programs. It doesn’t perform searches for files and folders – only executable files (programs), but it does an exceptional job. It’s very customization friendly. If you have a certain theme on your computer or just like the look of a certain skin, you can apply it to Launchy. It’s most useful by prompting it with a keyboard shortcut. This means that you probably want it running on your computer all the time so that it is quickly accessible whenever you want to find a program. It removes the need for excessive amounts of desktop icons that clutter your workspace and it is faster than the default Windows Search on the start menu used to find the program you are looking for.
Now that you have been bombarded with more search options than you know what to do with, it’s up to you to make the right decision. My best advice would be to try one out that you feel suits you and if you find yourself using it a lot than it’s probably a good fit. If not, either you need to change a habit or there’s something about the program that just turns you off. This isn’t a bad thing, just come back to this article and find another option that sounds good. Bottom line though, you really can’t go wrong with any of these options. They are all great and all fast at displaying your search results – although some are faster than others. Others may offer a few more features or an interface that you find more appealing. It’s up to you!
What current methods are you using to find your programs and files? Do you use an alternative to Windows Search that wasn’t mentioned here? How do you think Windows 7 Search compares to the search application in previous versions of Windows?
UPDATE: It’s been noted by one of our readers that Launchy can also search for documents (and any file extensions for that matter). You can do this by right clicking on it or the icon in your toolbar and then click “Options.” Make sure you’re on the “Catalog” tab. Then on the right side you’ll see “File Types.” Click the “+” to add additional file types. You can also add additional directories and include them in the search.
Image Credit: Magnifying Glass Over Folders via Shutterstock