AJ Smith – One of our product managers from the Windows team steps in this week to author three parts of our four part series on helping Information Workers to utilize new features in Windows 7 to make their jobs easier while increasing end user productivity.
One of the core tasks of any information worker is the creation and consumption of information. With this group so reliant on information to add value to their organization, one of the common requests we hear from them and IT professionals that support them is that they need an easier way to find information quickly. When they look for information, they target known and familiar sources like their PC, network shares, or Microsoft Office SharePoint sites. With the trend of IT departments moving more information off the PC and on to network, information workers are spending more time looking in various locations for what they need. Research published in 2009 by IDC, estimates that information workers average 8.8 hours a week looking for information, with a cost of $14,209 a year. With all this time being spent looking for information, what information workers need is an intuitive, quick, and easy way find information.
In Windows 7, there are two features that you should know about to help information workers find what they are looking for. The first is Windows Search, which helps find information on PCs and other Windows computers. Windows Search creates an index of files and their content which can be searched just like a web based search engine. Information workers can enter their search term in the search box in the Start Menu or in Windows Explorer. When using the search box in the Start Menu the results are grouped in categories like Documents, Programs, and Control Panel, directly in the Start Menu. Clicking on the category name opens up a Windows Explorer window to show you all the results for that category.
To start a search from Windows Explorer, information workers use the search box in the upper right corner of the window. Using this search box will help them find content stored in the folder and subfolders that the Explorer window is showing. After entering their search term, Windows Explorer will, by default, show the results in the content view. The content view shows the name, location, a snippet from the body of the document, and metadata associated with the file. Windows Explorer also has a preview pane that can be helpful in a search. The preview pane gives the information worker a read only view of file to help them make sure it is the right file they are looking for.
Information workers should also be aware of the Search Builder that is built into the Explorer search box. The Search Builder helps them refine searches using properties and metadata associated with the content in the search results. Information workers can filter content by file type, date modified, metadata tags, and other properties associated with the documents.
The other feature your information workers should know about is Federated Search. Using a small piece of XML, called a search connector, information workers can use the search box in Windows Explorer to search remote repositories like Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007, your intranet, or the web. Since they are using Windows Explorer, they also get many of the Explorer features like previewing files in the preview pane, open, print, and they can even drag and drop from the results list to their desktop
Some of the advantages of using Federated Search are that it gives information workers one consistent view of their results no matter what the remote repositories user interface is. This is important when an organization has many different repositories, all with unique interfaces that the information worker must learn. Federated Search can also streamline the way information workers find information. For example, let’s say that the information worker is building a PowerPoint presentation and wants to insert a picture that is stored on a Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 site. Normally they would open up their browser, go to the SharePoint search page, enter their search term, pick out the image they want from the results, and save it to their PC. After doing this, they then go back in PowerPoint and insert the picture they just downloaded. With Federated Search, they can streamline this process by searching SharePoint for the picture within the dialog box used to select the picture without ever leaving the PowerPoint application.
IT Professionals can help make Federated Search even easier to use with Enterprise Search Scopes. Available in Windows 7 Enterprise and Ultimate, Enterprise Search Scopes allow information workers to quickly re-scope a search to another location if they did not find what they were looking for in their original search location. The Enterprise Search Scopes can be found in the Start Menu and in the “Search again in” area at the bottom of the search results in Windows Explorer once they have been configured using Group Policy.
As you can see Windows Search and Federated Search can help your information workers be more productive by helping them find information faster. For more information on how to search from the Start Menu and Explorer please review this
article. For more information on how to use search connectors and Federated Search please click here
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