“Let me show you this file. I think I put it in My Documents. Wait a minute, maybe I put it on the desktop. Surely, I haven’t deleted it. Let me look in another folder. Nope, not there. Let me run a search. First, I’ll check the My Documents folder. Wait — I looked in there didn’t I? What did I name that file, anyway? Okay, I’ll search the whole damned C: drive. How long will that take? ARRGGHH!!”
Looking for that single file that one just has to have can be very frustrating. We forget where we put it, forget what we named it, and get frustrated because a lousy Windows search tool either takes too much time or will look in only one drive at a time. Although one standard metric that is recommended is that one should be able to locate any file that is needed within two minutes, it can take much longer than that if one has a lot of files on the drives. In this day and age, even two minutes is considered too long if one is searching a computer drive. This make us unproductive from the start and puts us in such a bad emotional state that even if we were to find the file, we would not be in a mood to work on it anyway. Two quick changes, however can make finding that file fast and easy
The answer is to start naming files by computer-friendly key words rather than a human-friendly title. For example, instead of a title such as, “Johnson Collection Letter”, we might name it, “collections, Johnson, debt, late, May, Nissan, Maxima, letter, letters, deadbeat, cheapskate.” This gives us flexibility in what we search for and provides an increased chance of locating a file quickly. Add as many key words that come to mind. Think in terms of what key words one would use to search for this item later. It takes a few seconds to add a few more key words, some of which might seem obscure, but I consider this an one-time investment that will pay me dividends later. The time savings does not occur here. It occurs when one searches for the file. To get the right mindset, think of these as tags.
The second part is to switch to a better search engine rather than using the Windows search tool. The two easiest to obtain and use are the Google Desktop Beta and Yahoo Desktop Search Beta. Easily downloaded and installed, they index every drive on one’s computer instantly, returning the search results in less than a second. Google’s version looks and behaves much like their web search site. The results look like Google web search results. Although good, I require more information and flexibility in my searches.
The Yahoo Desktop Search Beta, however, looks and feels more like a Windows application with a folder-type structure. With tabs at the top of the folder/file pane, it allows one to search just documents, emails, email attachments, IM chat logs, music, contacts or pictures. Even better, when one searches for a key word or words (remember, that’s what we use for document names), those terms are highlighted. Yahoo’s Desktop Search Beta begins searching with each keystroke and narrows the search as more letters are typed into the search box. When finished, I can scroll down a list of one hundred documents and just look for the highlighted terms. Even better, the right view pane shows me the actual document so I don’t waste time opening a document to see if it’s the right one.
Each morning, I prepare a “Morning Briefing” for my employees. Part of this briefing consists of schedules that have to be adjusted on a daily basis and are based on who is absent and what meetings are scheduled to take place. My base reference document is an Excel spreadsheet that contains the model schedules. I can find and view this document in less than two seconds in my Yahoo Desktop Search Beta, much faster than starting Excel and then opening the original document.
I know there will be those who will say that they would prefer Yahoo and Google not to have access to their hard drives, so using this technology will be an individual judgment call. After a month of using this set up of using keyword names and lightning fast search engines, I can’t see working without this system.