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May 27, 2008

Vista's Natural Language Search is *EVIL*

Filed under Computers, Reviews, Software

image Vista has a *much* improved search engine over XP. As soon as you create a new file, it is instantly indexed and ready for fast searching.

I found an interesting setting for search called "use natural language search", which is off by default.

You can find it via Start->Control Panel->Appearance and Personalization->Folder Options->Search->Use natural language search.

Sadly, there is no documentation on this page for what exactly natural language search (NLS) is.

This page explains it (about mid-way down).

Basically, NLS applies all your search terms to any possible property without explicitly indicating the property. NLS also does not require capitalization of boolean filters like "AND", "NOT", and "OR."

Here are a couple of example searches without and with natural language search:

Without natural language With natural language
kind: music artist: (Beethoven OR Mozart) music Beethoven or Mozart
kind: document author: (Charlie AND Herb) document Charlie and Herb

The documentation says this about NLS...

Even with natural language search turned on, you can continue to use the Search box in exactly the same way. If you want to use Boolean filters or introduce filters with colons and parentheses, you can. In addition, you can use all the same properties to fine-tune your searches. The difference is that you can enter searches in a more casual way. Here are some examples:
  • email today
  • documents 2006
  • author Susan
  • pictures vacation

Note Some searches might give more results than you expect. For example, if you search for "email today" you will see all messages sent today as well as any messages with the word "today" in the contents.

Let me give some background before I tell you why the above lines are highlighted red.

I've spent the last couple of weeks trying to figure out why Vista's search could not find a file I have in my documents folder called "music to get.txt." Other files in the same directory could be found, but this one was problematic. I tried rebuilding the search database several times and narrowing the searchable directories down to just one folder with "music to get.txt".

It didn't matter...Vista's search could not find the file.

Then, I happened to turn *off* NLS today and guess what? Vista easily can find "music to get.txt"!

The issue appears related to the spaces in the filename. If NLS is turned on, then I have to search for:

"music to get"

...instead of...

music to get

NLS would not even match...


...I had to start with a quote to get a matching file...


Those lines in red above are *LIES*!!!

you can continue to use the Search box in exactly the same way.

With NLS on, you must remember to put a filename in quotes if it contains a space. I didn't have to do that with NLS off.

The difference is that you can enter searches in a more casual way

I don't considering having to add quotes to my search more casual than not using them at all.

Some searches might give more results than you expect

And in the case of filenames with spaces, some searches won't give you *any* results when they should.

My advice:


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