Inspired by Insiders — Search for Windows

Student using HP Spectre 15X360 Laptop

I’m Alex, a Program Manager on the Windows Search team. With the release of so many improvements to Search over the past few months, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about a few of the highlights — especially those where Windows Insiders have made a big impact.

In our article on the Windows Search Indexer, we discussed some of the mechanics that drive how Search works. This time we’re focusing on improvements to what can be searched on your PC and how results are displayed.

Get web, image and video results — without a browser

We introduced this feature in Windows 10 Insider Preview build 16251 and it was so popular with Insiders, we decided to expand it. Now, along with web results, you can browse web images and videos relevant to your search. These new options are accessible from the Bing header at the top of your web search results.

And just like before, if the search pane doesn’t automatically expand with a quick answer, you can click the arrow next to the web suggestion (or press the right arrow key on your keyboard). The result is a richer search experience, all without having to open your browser.

Search email and contacts right from Start

Many Insiders asked us to re-introduce the ability to find email and contacts using Windows Search. We listened, and it’s back. All you need to do is sign in to Windows with your Microsoft Account (can be Outlook, Hotmail, or other) and start searching. If you’re looking for a person, they’ll appear right there. Note that contacts must have an associated email address to appear in Search, as selecting the result will create a new blank email to them.

Searching your email can be done by applying the filter from the ‘Filters’ menu in the top right. Alternatively, adding the term ‘email:’ to your query activates the filter. We are making email search even better in the future and would love your feedback on what else you’d like to see.

Screenshot of people search and email search

Local executables and shortcuts are now searchable

Another popular request from the Feedback Hub was to use Search for fast program-file locating. This work for any file listed as a ‘Program’ in the ‘Kind’ column of File Explorer. File types include msi, bat, and cmd — as long as it is within an indexed location, including your Desktop.

We also expanded Windows Search to include shortcuts to files (.lnk files). This request was largely voiced by our Enterprise customers, who often include links to line of business applications inside Start.

Search is no longer limited to your User Profile directory

Many Insiders have pointed out that Search was limited to certain folders on their PC (see Searching all files and folders with Cortana in the Feedback Hub). And they were right. Previously, Search would only cover the personal User Profile directory (e.g., C:\Users\MyName) by default. To expand the search, you’d need to filter your results to a specific type, such as Documents.

Maintaining the balance between real-time search results and relevance can be tricky. However, we’re now able to search all indexed locations by default, as soon as you start typing. Want to expand which folders are indexed? Open the ‘Indexing Options’ tool and select ‘Modify’ to add additional locations. Note that adding additional locations may have performance implications on your PC and will impact battery life, depending on the size of the folder and frequency of changes.

Hey, where’d my Recycle Bin go?

For users that appreciate hiding their Desktop icons, finding the Recycle Bin can be a challenge. This was communicated well by Windows Insiders in posts like this and this. You’ll be happy to hear that Recycle Bin can now be found in Search — no more scanning your Desktop for the icon. We hope this helps with keeping your Desktop clutter free.

These updates apply to all Cortana markets. To ensure you receive each of them, install the Fall Creators Update.

Keep the feedback coming! And check back for more Windows Search features — inspired by Windows Insiders.

Alex and the Windows Search team