Microsoft/Mac Monday

As we mentioned last week, our featured CyberNotes articles on Mondays will now focus on both Microsoft and Mac instead of just Microsoft. You could say we’re broadening our horizons a little… Today’s article will be the first in a series of several, focusing on comparing a feature in Vista with one in Mac OS X 10.5. It’s actually amazing how similar yet very different the two operating systems are. We’ll start by comparing the search in the Vista Start Menu with Spotlight, and then we’ll take a look at how searching in Windows Explorer compares to searching in the Finder (Mac).

Vista Start Menu Search vs. Spotlight

Vista’s built-in search feature is most easily accessible right from the Start Menu. One of the first things I noticed once I switched to a Mac is how often I actually used the shortcut to open the Start Menu and then performed a search. Leopard has a similar feature called Spotlight which is used when you want to find something fast and easy without opening the Finder to search. It’s Apple’s search technology which comes built-in to Leopard.

The searching feature in Vista is nice because all you have to do is press the Windows key and then start typing for whatever it is that you’re searching for and the results will start to appear. It seems as though accessing Spotlight is just a bit more difficult because you have to press two keys, the command key and the spacebar, and then you can start typing.

So how do the results of the two searches compare? As you’ll see from the screenshot below, performing a search in the Vista Start Menu shows programs, favorites and history, and files pertaining to your search. Performing a search using Spotlight will yield results from more groups than you could ever imagine from music and PDF Documents to movies and contacts. All together I’d say Vista’s searching feature isn’t quite as extensive as Spotlight but both provide users with a quick way to find what they’re looking for which is important.

Microsoft Windows Vista search.png Spotlight.png
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There are a few other features that Spotlight offers which Vista’s searching capabilities don’t offer right out of the box like performing calculations or defining words.

Spotlight calculations.png spotlight definition.png
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Customization Options

While searching in Vista and Leopard is great, I do have to say that the customization options for Spotlight are much better than the customization options available in Vista. Part of this is because there’s more to it. So First, how do you access the configuration options for each?
In Windows: right click on the Start Menu > click Properties > click “Customize” on the Start Menu tab. Then scroll to the bottom and look for the search options.

Microsoft Windows Vista configuration.png
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In Leopard: Click on System Preferences>Spotlight. The customization options for Spotlight include a list of categories that you can either check or leave unchecked. Only the categories that you select will appear in Spotlight search results. You can also re-order the results which is super nice so that the categories you want to appear first, will.

Spotlight customization.png
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The only downside with the customization options in Spotlight is that you can’t pick which locations to index, but you can pick which locations you don’t want indexed. Make sense? This is done under the “Privacy” tab in the Spotlight Preferences. In Vista, you can pick which locations you want indexed and you can choose to ignore certain file types (for example, PDF documents) from being indexed.

Windows Explorer Searching vs. Finder Searching

Now we’re going to look at the searching feature built-in to Windows Explorer as well as the one you’ll find built-in to the Finder on a Mac. Because Windows Explorer and the Finder serve nearly the same purpose, we thought this would be a good comparison to make.

Overall, the searching feature in Windows Explorer is more simple (and a little easier to use) than the one you’d find in the Finder. The layout is more intuitive in Windows Explorer and it looks like what you’d expect from an advanced search (like what you’d see with a search engine). This makes it easy to use. There’s also an “Advanced Search” feature which you can access by pressing the Windows Key + 5. As shown below, the Advanced Searching feature allows you to modify your search which will hopefully more accurately yield the results you’re looking for.

Vista Explorer Search.png
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The search feature in the Finder isn’t quite as intuitive but it does provide one heck of a filter system where you can set-up multiple filters when you’re performing a search. All you have to do is click the “plus” sign and you’ll continue to get more options for filtering. Both Leopard and Vista offer the option to save searches so that they can be easily used again in the future.

finder searching.png
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Here’s a quick example of how you can use the “plus sign” to add rules to your advantage: you could specify that you’re looking for an application, that it was last opened or modified on Thursday, and the name matches “Fire” and then your results would be filtered to meet those rules.

If you’re a power user, you’d probably enjoy the search in the Finder on a Mac and if you’re just an every-day user, you’d probably enjoy the Windows Explorer Search best.

Wrapping it up

At the end of the day, both Leopard and Vista users are lucky to be able toe use the searching capabilities that are available. It wasn’t that long ago when searching like this wasn’t an option in an operating system. If you’ve used both Vista or Leopard, let us know what you think of the search features that are offered…