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Searching Windows 10

If you use your PC regularly, there’s an excellent chance that its hard drive is crammed with thousands, perhaps even tens of thousands, of files that take up hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of gigabytes. That’s a lot of data, but it leads to a huge and growing problem: finding things. We all want to have the proverbial information at our fingertips, but these days our fingertips tend to fumble around more often than not, trying to locate not only documents and other data we’ve created ourselves, but also apps, Windows settings, and that wealth of information that exists “out there” on the Web, in databases, and so on.

Searching via the Taskbar

Windows 10 attempts to solve this problem by combining all search operations into a single interface element called the Search box. Using this deceptively simple taskbar-based text box, Windows 10 lets you search for apps by name, for Windows 10 settings and features, for documents, for app data, for web content, and more.

As you type, Search displays the results that match your search text. As shown in Figure 4.9, Search displays the most likely result at the top (which you can select by pressing Enter), and then the rest of the top results divided into categories such as Settings, Store, Documents, and Web.

Figure 4.9

Figure 4.9 The Search box displays as-you-type results.

To see more results, click My Stuff. Windows 10 opens the full results window, which is similar to the window shown in Figure 4.10. For even more detailed results, use the Show list to select the subset you want to see: Documents, Folders, Apps, Settings, Photos, Videos, or Music. Whether you’re using the Search pane or the Results screen, when you see the item you want, click it.

Figure 4.10

Figure 4.10 When you click My Stuff, Windows 10 displays the full search results, which you can then filter by type.

Searching with Cortana

Software engineers, having grown up watching Star Trek characters interact with computers using voice commands, have been trying to get the rest of us to use voice to control our PCs for many years. The problem is that most people feel awkward “speaking” to a PC and although voice would in some cases be a more efficient way to interact with the machine, the inaccuracies, glitches, and slow performance of voice-recognition systems almost always make such systems less efficient in the long run.

Still, the engineers keep trying, and Microsoft is no different with its Cortana voice-activated personal assistant, debuted originally on the Windows Phone and now available on all Windows 10 computers and tablets. Cortana first appears when you click inside the taskbar’s Search box and you see a message like the one shown in Figure 4.11. Either select Not Interested (our choice) to not be pestered by this message in the future or, if you want to see what Cortana can do, select Next.

Figure 4.11

Figure 4.11 Select Next to give Cortana a test drive.

If you chose Next, Cortana runs through a quick setup procedure that includes asking you what Cortana should call you and giving Cortana permission to use your location.

With Cortana set up, the Search box prompt now says “Ask me anything” and you see a microphone icon on the right side of the text box (see Figure 4.12). Select that icon to interact with Cortana using voice commands. Note, too, that the Search pane is now festooned with icons down the left side: Home (the main Search pane), Notebook (a quick look at your calendar, traffic, weather, news, and more), Reminders (upcoming reminders), Places (add your favorite map locations), Music (have Cortana recognize the song that’s playing), Help (see what Cortana can do), and Settings (configure Cortana and search options).

Figure 4.12

Figure 4.12 With Cortana active, the left side of the Search pane displays a more extensive menu of icons.

To toggle Cortana on or off, follow these steps:

  1. Click inside the taskbar’s Search box.
  2. Select Notebook (refer to Figure 4.12).
  3. Select Settings to display the Settings pane.
  4. Select the Cortana switch to On or Off, as preferred.
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