After a lot of trial and error, here’s the combination of Windows programs that I use to search very quickly through mountains of documents. Overall, I pick the tool most suited for the type of file I’m looking for, and I can find most files within seconds while barely using the mouse. See how it’s done:
1. All-Around Windows Local Search
To find files based on their names and do so across all local drives, whatever the file type and location may be, I use Everything in combination with Launchy [how to] and Directory Opus [how to]. This combo is extremely fast even if you have hundreds of thousands of files. Of course you can use Everything by itself, but I highly recommend both Launchy and Dopus as well.
The main limitation is that Everything does not index the content within files, as of version 1.3 (1.4 may change that). UltraSearch is a decent alternative to Everything which added file content searching as of v2.1, but I gave it a try and found that part sluggish. So I still use other applications for full text search, as explained below.
2. PDFs and MS Office documents
For these types of documents full-text indexation is essential. It’s also likely you’re collaborating with other people, and really need to make sure you have a backup, and ideally, versioning. For all these reasons I’ve picked Google Drive to handle work files. In order to get search results even faster, I integrate Gdrive with Launchy using a Weby agent with this argument:
It may seem a bit counter-intuitive to use a cloud service to search “local” files, but it works really well. And you get cloud goodies on top. I love having the same browse/search/share capabilities for work files from my phone or tablet, as well as fine-grained access management by user to control how files are shared with team members and customers.
3. Media Files
To make the best use of metadata specific to each type of media, I use specialized applications:
- Helium Music Manager to organize music. This is heavy-duty stuff for people with large collections, it uses a relational database (choice of MySQL and MS SQL, I use the latter) and has powerful tagging capabilities.
- Plex Media Server to browse and serve movies/TV/music. Really slick user interface.
- Calibre to organize, browse and serve ebooks by title, author, tag, language, publisher etc.
- DeskRule to search within ebooks, since Calibre itself handles metadata, not full-text search. There are Calibre plugins based on Recoll and SOLR that look discontinued and/or don’t work on Windows. (DeskRule can search files by name, but it’s nowhere near as fast and convenient as Everything for that.)
I integrate Plex with Launchy with this Weby agent:
(Well in my case, rather than the loopback IP address, I have a domain name because I run a custom DNS server on my local network, but you get the gist). Unfortunately you can only search Plex by title, the metadata (e.g. genres, directors, actors) is not exposed through a REST interface.
The same can be done with the Calibre browser interface to its embedded content server, but I haven’t found a way to launch Helium or Calibre desktop searches from Launchy.
- Here’s a good discussion thread on desktop search tools if all of the above somehow doesn’t cut it for you. Many third-party tools rely on building their own index that can grow to massive sizes depending on the type and quantity of indexed files.
- GHacks: The best free Desktop Search Programs for Windows
- How I Save Time with the Right Shortcuts, Handpicked Apps, and Finetuned Hardware
- Mount, Back, Sync Cloud Options for Windows
I’m always looking for better mousetraps, so feel free to post your thoughts and experience in the comments.