Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Search Information Like Professionals Do - Use File Masks And Search Syntax

Do you know what file mask is? If you are a computer specialist, I'm sure you do and you know a lot of ways how you can benefit from this. But if you are not a computer guru, I'll tell you few secrets, that will really help you to make any search much more effective.

First, let's think about what the mask looks like and why we need it. Assume, you are looking for file "file2356.doc", I guess, you have not remembered the name, but you might remember some part of the file name, for instance that it starts with "file...", so if you search for this file over the local disk, then you can specify the file mask: "file*", telling that the file name started with "file" word.

There are some other characters which will help you to describe file name or text you are searching for. But please, make sure that this kind of mask is really supported by the system you are using.

For instance, it Windows to search for file you can use the following characters to explain your search request. "*" character is for some string of chars, it's not limited in lengths. So, if you are using a*.* mask, you will find a.txt, ab.txt, and abc.txt, but you will not find the file babc.txt. What if you need to find the file with name that looks like "...a..."? Use the "*" characters instead of "...", so the resulted must will be *a*.*

Let's discuss some other tricks. If you don't remember only one character in the file name (it's rare, but it's possible), you can replace this character with ? symbol. For instance, a?b.txt will find "abb.txt", "acb.txt".

Another important character is ";", use it to combine two masks, for instance, if you need to files that start with "Sam" or "Mary", then you should use this mask: "sam*;mary*". It's a great time saver.

What we have talked about above are masks that you can use in Windows when searching files. Most file search programs suggest the same masks syntax, but there still may be some specific. Also, there are a lot of non-Windows related search tasks.

In google, you will be using "+" and "-" symbols, to include and exclude word from the search, but you will not be able to specify the word mask.

For popular forum engines also have a built-in search capability, which allows to search forums archive for a certain keywords. For instance, mask may looks like +test*, and mask syntax depends on the engine rules.

It's a good idea to check syntax rules for certain search engine, understanding the search syntax is great way to make your search really time-efficient, so invest few minutes in learning search engine rules and applying them to your search practice.

Where to find the description of rules that this particular search engine use? Most forum engines will provide you with a link to search syntax, as for Windows then it's good idea to check Windows help and search for file masks and file searching information.

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