Microsoft details Windows 8's new Start Screen search

Microsoft is doing good on their "no compromises" approach to developing Windows 8, as the new searching capabilities of the operating system demonstrates. Existing searching techniques via keyboards and mice are retained and improved upon, while touch users are accommodated just as well.

In last week's post on the Building Windows 8 blog, Microsoft revealed a search view for applications that effectively replaces the "All Programs" button on Start Menus of Windows 8's predecessors. Today's update focuses on the rest of Windows 8's search experience.

Microsoft program manager Brian Uphoff begins by assuring Windows users their search habits developed over the course of Windows Vista and Windows 7 will remain intact. Advanced search queries such as "date:yesterday" will continue to work. Keyboard shortcuts for invoking a search in Windows 8 remain the same as that of Windows 7, with one new addition:

  • Searching for applications: WIN-key, then type the name of the application
  • ​Searching for files: WIN-key + F
  • [New] Searching for settings: WIN-key + W

Users can continue to launch applications or commands as they would in Windows 7, or use WIN-key + R​ to bring up the old Run dialog dating back to Windows 95. The search screen also auto-completes paths to directories and network shares:

In Windows 7, one can expand a category of search results in the Start Menu by clicking on the category header (i.e. "Control Panel"). However, as Microsoft points out, the ordering of results, the number of categories shown, and their positions in the search pane depend on the search terms used. In addition, one is forced to click the "See more results" link to display more answers than the Start Menu currently offers:

With Windows 8's search, search results are grouped into three distinct categories: Apps, Settings, and Files. These three categories were chosen based on telemetry data from Microsoft, which showed that 67% of searches are for applications, 22% for files, and 9% for Control Panel items. The remaining categories are app-specific "search contracts," which allow applications to tailor search results in a user-friendly format. Only 0.05% of searches are for emails and contacts, and so Windows 8 will not offer those results by default, leaving it up to a third-party email client to provide email searching as a search contract.

There are also new features related to searching in Windows 8:

  • Autocorrect terms for files: Windows will autocomplete search terms based on the files in the search index, and the user's searching habits.
  • Detailed tooltips for search results: Mousing over an item will reveal a tooltip that offers more information about a file.

According to Uphoff, these changes have led to drastic reductions in execution time for search tasks. The changes are more pronounced on a netbook, given the limited screen estate available:

For a quick overview of the new Start Screen in action, check out the following video (high quality link):

Image Credit: Building Windows 8

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Apple misses expectations, still delivers 166 percent increase in sales in Q3 2011

Next Story

Intel reports solid financial results for Q3 2011

35 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

I just watched the video, it certainly shows all the many complicated ways to search for something. Whatever happened to simply enter the file/program name you want (or a partial name with *** wildcards) and let Windows find the matches and display them in a simple vertical listing? All that flash may be fine for power users who enjoy sophisticated interactions; but what about the millions of plain "grunts" who just want a simple, solid, easy to use Operating System?

That d____ Metro interface again.
Can the search results just be listed vertically, instead of being splattered all over the screen? If the search returns a lot of results, the screen(s) are going to be really messy--at least a long vertical list is neat, tidy, and easy to read.

Oh. Almost forgot... Too much "focus" on the new start screen which you are forgetting to put where the hell I am going to simply shut down the computer. It took me around 35 mins to decipher how I was going to turn off the computer.

I still see this very bad. They must include a general search instead of dividing them. In Win Vista/7 if I wanted to look for some settings (which I do regularly) I just need to press start, type anything I want, then enter.

Voila!

They should make it like that. If no results appear, then focus on the one which has it.

I've rarely ever need to needed to click "See more results". I really hate the fact you have to select which category you want to search in. For a desktop/laptop computer, they still haven't provided any incentive as to why the Start Screen is better than what Windows 7 offers. All I keep seeing is more work to do something that was previously much simpler.

Ah ****. Are you serious MS that I have to have a complete switch from desktop/application to Metro Start screen every time I want to type things in to the search box?
What happens when I have a document open and I want to type in a few words in the search box from said document? I lose focus of the document to do that? I don't want that to happen.
It's well and good having specific search-keys like Winkey+W but why not just incorporate that in to the NORMAL start menu?
I think the constant transitions from metro UI to desktop and back again are going to get VERY frustrating.
Have you considered how awkward it will be if I want to perform repeated searches for different things to pull up content?
Please, I beg you, give us a normal start menu for normal desktop use.

cleverclogs said,
I think the constant transitions from metro UI to desktop and back again are going to get VERY frustrating.

No longer reading in IM/a document while searching… (seems like 99% of Windows users are too lazy to do simple MT…)

Only thing I am looking forward to in Windows 8 is the updated code.

Faster Windows 7 will do fine, no interest in the new UI, not even for touch devices

Detection said,
Only thing I am looking forward to in Windows 8 is the updated code.

Faster Windows 7 will do fine, no interest in the new UI, not even for touch devices

Why do you hate progress?

dtboos said,

Why do you hate progress?

Progress =/= always positive.

I do want faster windows, but i too think that metro menu should be only for touch devices, Win7 start menu for desktop.

warwagon said,

That's assuming Metro is progress.


Which it definitely isn't for desktop machines! It may be a progress compared to the static icons of iOS, but that's really not that big a challenge…

Athernar said,

Why do you hate babies and America?


Babies are way to cute - lol, most babies (quite a few) have been lovely (baby schema definitely works!). American's on the other hand… (from an European pov…)

really nice post. i didnt use search box in Windows 7. but in Windows 8 i find it nice, so i use it sometimes.
i just like using mouse more though for most tasks, but if its faster to do it with keyboard (if i dont have my hand on mouse) i would use keyboard.

of course with mouse, Windows 8 needs to have in Apps list, grouped by "folder name" to make it faster lauching programs with mouse there in App list, that means if i dont need to have that program pinned to start screen.

butI like the new UI and launching programs with mouse or using search with keyboard feels cool. so its a nice improvement, since i tried using search in Windows 7 last week and oh god, i dont like it lol

excalpius said,

Agreed. I'm not devoting a 30" monitor to that monstrosity.

Why does it matter? Not trying to say it doesnt but I havent come across why taking up the whole versus a portion matters in my use. You are either using it or not. Opening it and closing it doesnt effect anything either way.

BoyBoppins said,

Why does it matter? Not trying to say it doesnt but I havent come across why taking up the whole versus a portion matters in my use. You are either using it or not. Opening it and closing it doesnt effect anything either way.

Isn't it obvious?

A fullscreen transition is jarring. Why disrupt flow and take up the entire screen when a search in theory will only ever return a few results.

A good search should return as few results as possible, otherwise you're doing it wrong.

Athernar said,

Isn't it obvious?

A fullscreen transition is jarring. Why disrupt flow and take up the entire screen when a search in theory will only ever return a few results.

A good search should return as few results as possible, otherwise you're doing it wrong.


This!

Personally i find the new "search" a step backwards, now i have to select a category before entering the app/setting/whatever which is pretty stupid

FISKER_Q said,
Personally i find the new "search" a step backwards, now i have to select a category before entering the app/setting/whatever which is pretty stupid

It defaults to Apps, which is what I usually used it for anyways

I like Windows 7's way, but Im glad they added this Win+W because it was my biggest gripe with the start menu when trying tog et to device manager for example.

Look like my worst nightmare have came true. Metro and Windows should NOT be dependent of each other. But Microsoft doesn't understand that and will p!ss off desktop/laptop user with metro upon them. Ugh! It will confuse everyone. I wish there is an option to separate Windows and Metro, but it will still p!sspeople off.

Sraf said,

It defaults to Apps, which is what I usually used it for anyways

Yeah my issue just is that in the Windows menu it doesn't care at all, you just press the windows key and start typing.

It's fine that they have categories (If i want to further refine my search) but it's still a step backwards that they're defaulting to one category and making me work to access a simple setting or something like that.

But other than that i'm totally sold on Metro, even from a power user perspective, the desktop has been useless for me since i moved to Windows 7, The Metro Start Menu kinda gives that back, just wish it wouldn't come at the expense of that said "problem".

Oh well i'm sure they'll be refining it, so there's plenty of time to go on.

If Microsoft is smart they will provide a mechanism, i.e., a Control Panel element, whereby users can choose which interface to use--Metro or Traditional. Tablets and PCs are two entirely separate entities and trying to force one UI for both platforms is very foolish. Screwing this up will be a great inducement to switch to Apple. At least they have kept the two OSs separate.

it's called the desktop app. and No..putting a unified OS over multiple form factors is a very smart thing to do. Tablets don't have to be giant phones that can't do dozens if not hundreds of things a desktop can do. Windows 8 will be amazing on tablets and desktops alike, and I can't wait.