Windows Tips: Find Your Files Faster by Giving Them Keywords

I depend on numerous critical documents to run my small business. All too often, I can't recall where I stashed a particular document. For example, I need to be able to search for JPEG files based on keyword or title. VCom's $50 PowerDesk Pro file-management utility and other programs allow you to add such metadata to media files; but I'm concerned that assigning keywords to media might be a waste of time if, for some reason, I can't access the keywords five years from now.

Michael Ernstoff, Los Angeles

You may be able to annotate your files in Windows Me, 2000, and XP without requiring any additional software. For many file types, Windows permits you to add your own keywords and comments, which it stores with the file and lets you locate using its built-in search function. Just which files you can annotate depends on your version of Windows and on the other software installed on your PC. In XP, annotatable files may include JPEG and TIFF images; MP3 and WMA audio; WMV video; and Word, Excel, and other Microsoft Office files. Windows Me and 2000 users should be able to work with Office files and perhaps other types of files as well.

First, open Windows Explorer, right-click the file you want to add keywords or other information to, and choose Properties. If the Properties dialog box doesn't have a Summary tab, you're out of luck. If it does, click the Summary tab. (If you see a button labeled << Simple, click that too.) Fill in the Title, Subject, Author, Keywords, Categories, and/or Comments fields as you wish (see FIGURE 1

FIGURE 1: Add, edit, store, and view metadata for various file types in Windows' File Properties dialog box.
). If you would like to enter more metadata (except in Windows 98), click the Advanced >> button. The text boxes may not be apparent until you click to the right of a category name under the Value heading (see FIGURE 2
FIGURE 2: Text boxes may not appear in Windows Me or 2000 until you click to the right of the category name.
). Enter your keywords, click OK, and repeat these steps for each file you may search for in the future. Unfortunately, you have to do this procedure one file at a time; if you try to open a Properties dialog box for multiple files, the Summary boxes will be disabled.

In a few cases, you may be able to add and modify a file's metadata directly within the program you use to edit it. For example, in Microsoft Word and Excel, just choose File, Properties to adjust the metadata for the file. Make sure the Summary tab is in front, and then fill in the boxes with your keywords of choice.

Whenever you need to find one of your annotated files, choose Start, Find, Files or Folders, Start, Search, For Files and Folders, or Start, Search, All files and folders depending on your version of Windows. Type one or more of your keywords in the box labeled 'Containing text' or 'A word or phrase in the file', depending on your Windows version. Specify any other desired search criteria, and click Search or Find Now. Windows will detect your keywords and retrieve the file(s) you seek.

Start Menu or Folder?

Windows 2K, 98, XP, Me: If you use Windows Me, 2000, or XP, you may have converted your Start menu to display Control Panel (and also My Computer, My Documents, My Music, and My Pictures) as a menu. (To do so, right-click the Start button, choose Properties, click Customize on the Start Menu tab, select the Advanced tab, and choose Display as a menu under Control Panel.) But what if sometimes you want to see Control Panel in a standard folder window? Just right-click Control Panel (or any other Start menu submenu) and choose Open or Explore. In versions of Windows other than XP and its fancy new Start menu, you can double-click a submenu name to open its folder.

Send Windows-related questions and tips to We pay $50 for published items. Scott Dunn is a contributing editor for PC World.
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