About finding documents, worksheets, or other files

Some of the content in this topic may not be applicable to some languages. 

You can use the File Search command in Microsoft Office 2003 to find files wherever you work: on your computer hard drive, your local network, your Microsoft Outlook mailbox, and your network places. You can also find e-mail messages, meetings, and other information in your Outlook mailbox. Search provides two methods of finding files: basic search and advanced search.

Basic file search

Basic search is the most comprehensive way to search for files, Outlook items, and Web pages. You can find files that contain specified text in the title, contents, or properties. You can also specify where to look for files and the types of files to search for.

Advanced file search

Advanced search is more specific. You use it to find files based on their properties. You do this by creating queries, which are sets of one or more rules that must be true for a file to be found. An example of a query is "Author is (exactly) Dan." This specifies that the files you are searching for should contain only the text "Dan" as the Author property.

Natural language searching

Natural language searching uses familiar, conversational expressions, such as "Get all mail from Jane" or "Find all meetings next week," to search for Microsoft Outlook items from the Basic File Search task pane. Using natural language searching you can search for e-mail messages, calendar items, contacts, tasks, and notes. Natural language searching is only supported in English versions of Microsoft Office 2003.

Although you can get better results by including more information in your natural language queries, you do not need to use full sentences or be concerned with grammatical correctness. For instance, the following natural language query is fine: "High priority tasks."

Natural language searching searches the contents of Outlook items, such as the bodies of e-mail messages, along with items' properties, such as the subjects of meetings and the priorities of tasks.

Note: Although natural language searching is not supported for documents on network places or your computer, Office's File Search will use the information in a natural language search query to find files in those locations.

Tips for using natural language

Searching e-mail

  • Search the contents of e-mail messages, using words like "about" or "subject".


    "Messages about searching"

    "Messages on the subject: sales quotas"

  • Search the properties and other fields of e-mail messages.


    "High priority messages"

    "Who did I Cc about natural language searching?"

    "E-mail I need to follow-up on"

  • Search for documents containing attachments.


    "Find all mail messages with attachments"

  • Specify time ranges to narrow your search.


    "E-mail from Bob in the last week about natural language searching"

    "Find the most recent e-mail from Prasanna"

Searching your calendar

  • Search the contents of meetings using words like "about" or "subject".


    "Meeting about sales goals"

    "Show the meeting to introduce new team members"

  • Search for meetings based on attendees.


    "All meetings with Jim"

    "Find the meeting organized by Tanya"

    "Did Bei-Jing accept the meeting about searching?"

  • Limit the range of your search by specifying a range of time.


    "Find all meetings I attended last Monday"

    "Find all meetings the day before yesterday"

Searching contacts

  • Search for contacts based on details, such as nickname or birthday.


    "Find everyone whose manager is Miles"

  • Find a group of contacts that have common information.


    "Contact information for clients who live in Baltimore"

Searching notes

  • Search for notes based on contents, color, or other properties of notes.


    "All notes I created yesterday"

    "All blue notes about searching"

Other tips

  • Narrow your search by specifying the folder to search in.


    "E-mail in my Inbox that I haven't read yet"

  • Use quotation marks to keep a phrase together.


    "Show me meetings about "natural language searching" in the next 5 days"

  • Specify the order in which you want results returned.


    "E-mail from Helmut, sorted oldest message first"

File search options

The File Search task pane

When you use File Search on the File menu, the File Search task pane is displayed on the right side of the page. Each Office application can have its own instance of the File Search task pane. However, the search results are available from any application. For example, if you search for files of all types from Microsoft Word, and you open a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet from the search results list, the search results are also displayed in the Excel Search Results task pane so that you can continue using them.

Viewing search results

As soon as you start a search, the File Search task pane begins listing the names of files it finds. Files are displayed separately by location: your computer, your mailbox, and your network places.

From the results list, you can take many actions on the files you find, such as:

  • Viewing a file's properties

  • Opening a file

  • Viewing a file in a Web browser

  • Creating a new document based on a file

  • Copying a hyperlink to a file to the Office Clipboard

Speeding up search with fast searching

Fast searching extracts information from files and organizes it in a way that makes the files quicker and easier to find. The fast searching index is updated when your computer is idle.

Fast searching uses the built-in Windows Indexing Service. You enable fast searching support from the Windows Search task pane or the Basic File Search task pane in Office.

Note: The Basic File Search task pane displays a note if fast searching is not installed. If fast searching is installed, its status — enabled or disabled — is displayed.

Building more complex searches using conditions and values

Using advanced search, you can use conditions and values to search for files based on file properties.

Conditions are limitations you set on the value of a file property in an advanced search to make it more specific. Each type of property has a set of relevant conditions that advanced search displays automatically. For example, if the property is a date, advanced search displays, among others, the following condition choices: "today," "tomorrow," "yesterday."

Some conditions do not require a value following them. In the example "Last Modified yesterday," no additional value is needed because the condition "yesterday" gives advanced search all the necessary information.

Some conditions do require a value following them. For example, the condition "equals" always requires a value following it, which you provide when you configure the search.

Searching from the Open dialog box

You can search for a file using a basic search or an advanced search by using the Tools menu in the Open dialog box. As in the File Search task pane, results are displayed separately by location. Along with opening a file, you can view its properties.

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