Q: My computer contains several decades of Word documents scattered across many folders. Is there a quick way to produce a simple list of all of these documents that I can then sort in Word or Excel?
A: I can think of at least three ways to accomplish this task, as follows:
1. Windows search method. Open an Explorer window, select a drive (or folder), then type *.doc* in the Search Documents box in the upper-right corner, as pictured below.
This action produces a list of all files meeting the search criterion, including all .doc and .docx file formats. Press Ctrl+A to select all files. Hold down the Shift key and right-click any highlighted file and then select Copy as path from the pop-up menu. Paste the results into Word (or Excel) to produce a list as pictured.
(Notice that because this method produces a list of file names with the complete path, the data must first be parsed in Excel to sort them by file name. Solution 3, below, requires no such parsing.)
2. DOS command method. To use the older DOS-based command method, click the Windows Start button, type command, and press Enter to launch a Command Prompt window. Enter CD / to navigate to the top level folder. Enter the command dir /s *.doc* > c:users/carlton/list.txt, as shown below (substituting your own path and file name for the example I used).
This action will produce a text file (in the C:/Users/Carlton folder in this example) containing a list of files meeting the *.doc* search criteria. (The /s switch forces the DOS command to search subfolders; the > symbol forces the results to be saved to a text file.) Open the resulting file in Word (or Excel) to view the results, an example of which is pictured below.
Because this method produces a list of files containing date, time, and file size columns organized by directory, the data will need to be parsed in Excel, and the unnecessary rows and columns will need to be deleted to clean the list so it can be sorted by file name.
3. Everything method. My preferred method is to download and install a free search tool utility called Everything from Voidtools (voidtools.com). (Windows 8 users may need to download the beta version.) Once installed, launch Everything and type *.doc* in the search box, as pictured below.
From the Everything menu, select File, Export, enter a suitable file name when prompted, and then export the results to a comma-separated value (CSV) format. The resulting file can be opened in Excel or Word, ready for sorting without the need for further cleaning or data parsing, as pictured.
Note about Everything: Once installed, Everything indexes all of the file names on your computer, usually in a matter of seconds. Unlike the Windows Search, Everything does not index your file contents, keywords, or properties; hence, the results are less informative than a Windows search, but because the Everything index is very small, it searches file names across all folders very fast.