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Windows 7 Promises Faster Desktop Search

Microsoft's new operating system could fix a longstanding source of frustration.

Microsoft says its new Windows 7 operating system will include features that improve desktop search -- long a source of frustration for computer users who complain about being able to find obscure documents on the Web faster than, say, the resumé they saved to their hard drive the previous night.

Windows 7 screen shot
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"Many users, me included, store their files, music, and pictures all over the PC in various folders," noted Yochay Kiriaty, a Windows 7 developer at Microsoft, in a blog post Monday. "This affects the indexing and therefore the entire search experience."

The problem is that, for search purposes, Windows XP and Vista only automatically indexed content stored in user specific folders such as "My Documents" or "My Pictures," so files saved outside those folders took longer to find when searched for.

Windows 7 addresses the issue by allowing users to control which folders are included in the Documents Libraries automatically indexed by the OS. For instance, a user could specify that a folder called "Rotisserie Results" or "Home Recipes" be included among the indexed folders.

"By including folders in Libraries, the user is telling Windows where his important data is located," said Kiriaty.

Microsoft is in the process of unveiling tweaks to Windows 7 as it readies the operating system for release later this year or early next.

Other features recently disclosed include a close button that's been added to icons that appear on the Task Bar's list view, allowing users to view and close windows in fewer steps.

Another fix is designed to eliminate a problem in which Task Bar settings are not saved if Windows isn't shut down properly. The glitch could result in a number of errors, including the Task Bar shifting locations on the desktop when a session is restarted.

For touch screen users, Windows 7's support for multitouch zooming in applications has been added to the Windows Explorer graphical file manager. Several other changes to Explorer are designed to ease navigation around the Windows desktop and free up more on-screen real estate.

Under-the-hood changes to Windows 7 include Device Stage enhancements that will allow third-party hardware makers, such as Lenovo, to more easily customize the information presented to users when their devices connect to the operating system.

Microsoft needs Windows 7 to be a hit. Vista, the company's current OS, has failed to catch on with mainstream computer users, while businesses have shunned it outright. Many users have complained about Vista's hardware requirements, intrusive security measures, and lack of compatibility with older applications.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on Windows 7. Download the report here (registration required).

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