A Search for a Better Search

BY J. CARLTON COLLINS

Q: Our CPA firm has more than 400,000 data files on the file server, and we constantly struggle to locate the right file. For example, recently an audit staffer retrieved an Excel file that contained fixed-asset depreciation calculations and used this in the audit. Unfortunately, the version of the file retrieved was not the most current and, as a result, additional time was wasted updating the older file. We hope to avoid problems like this in the future. What is the best way to manage such a large volume of files?

 

A: In last month’s column (“Say Goodbye to Wimpy Searches,” JofA, Feb. 2011, page 65), we addressed the concept of indexed searches, but let’s dig a little deeper into this subject. The Explorer window in Windows Vista and Windows 7 provides additional searching capabilities to help you quickly view and narrow your search results. Start by performing a search in an Explorer window. (As you may recall, last month we searched for the term “regression,” and I will continue with this example.) Once Windows returns the search results for the term “regression,” I can further refine my search results by clicking on any of the column headings to view filter options. For example, in the screen below I have clicked the dropdown arrow next to the Type column heading. This action “stacks” the data files according to “type of file.” Notice that I have many file types containing the word “regression” including Excel 2003 and 2007, Word 2003 and 2007, HTML, PowerPoint, XML and others.

 

The search results can be narrowed by checking the boxes in the Type column next to the desired Group(s). By default, these advanced options narrow search results by file name, date range, file type, file size and folder name. For a more refined search, Windows Vista and Windows 7 provide an additional 281 searchable field names. To access these additional field names, add them to the column headings of the Search Results in Data screen by right-clicking on any column-heading label and selecting More… to display the Choose Details dialog box shown below.

 

Place a checkmark in the box next to those field names you would like to include in the Search Results in Data dialog box. For example, you might add the fields Authors, Comments and Status to locate files authored by Albert, files containing the comment “very useful,” files containing the status “reviewed,” or files meeting all three criteria.

 

These additional file search methods may help your audit staff identify and select the correct fixed-asset depreciation files in the future.

 

Note: The effectiveness of a search improves when document properties are added to the data files. Document properties can be added to Word documents as follows:

 

Word 2010: Select File, Properties, Show Document Panel.

Word 2007: Click on the Office Button, Prepare, Properties.

Word 2003: Select File, Properties.

 

The Document Properties panel (shown below) will allow you to insert keywords, authors, titles, comments and other custom information.

 

Document Properties are used by Instant Search to not only locate files, but also to sort the search results in priority order according to those files that most closely match your search criteria.

 

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