Windows Vista's Natural Language Search...
Jan 5, 2007
Most of you who have been following Vista's development and/or have used it know that indexed search is a prominent feature throughout the system. The inclusion of a search box right in the Start menu makes it extremely convenient to instantly find files, emails, contacts, and even launch applications. I'm a big fan of Windows Desktop Search on Windows XP (see my old review), but the tight system-integration and performance enhancements like prioritized I/O make the search experience so much better on Vista. It's definitely up there in my list of favorite features.
Both Windows Desktop Search for XP and the search system in Vista (which is based on WDS 3, by the way) include support for advanced query syntax to build more complex search queries. As a simple example, you can type in "from:john monkeys" to find all emails from John that have something to do with monkeys.
In addition to this, however, there's this gem of a feature in Vista that's disabled by default, and like Mike, I have no idea why! (Perhaps Brandon can shed some light?) Once you enable natural language search, you can perform the same query as the one above using syntax that's...well, much more natural - you can, for example, type "emails from john about monkeys." Power-users might find it more efficient to use boolean operators and properties (less typing!), but if you ever forget exactly what that property name was, you can easily fall back to this simple, natural syntax. And it works really well too!
To enable natural language searches in Vista, go to the Control Panel and type in "folder" into the search box at the top (yup, more search goodness!). Then click the "Change search options for files and folders" item. Check the "Use natural language search" box in the dialog box that appears, and hit OK. You're all set, and you can start playing with natural language search queries right away. :)