Note: This blog post is from 2009. Some content may be outdated--though not necessarily. Same with links and subsequent comments from myself or others. Corrections are welcome, in the comments. And I may revise the content as necessary.
Update in 2019: Though this post is from 2009, I still use and recommend this tool daily, so nothing about what I said below has changed (except of course where I indicate other informational updates in 2010 and 2013). And to be clear the tool is updated constantly and sports a modern interface (unlike the favored "old tools" of other folks, which may look the same as they did 20 years ago).
Ever need to do a search for files with some given text (or files of a given name) in Windows? I realize you may use a favored file editor to do it, or (worse) may rely solely on the anemic Windows find. I'd like to point you to an awesome and free alternative.
For years I've used a great freeware tool, FileLocator Lite, and I love FLL for several reasons (as does nearly everyone I show it to). Read on for more.
Beyond fast, effective, and easy searching, it also has a cool regular expression building wizard that may be reason enough to use the tool when you need to create a RegEx quickly. It's the freeware version of a commercial product, File Locator Pro.
(Update in 2010: Originally, the free version was only packaged under the name AgentRansack, which was a little scary-sounding for some tastes. The makers finally offered a rebranding of the tool under the name File Locator Lite, though they still also offer it as AgentRansack, being the same product. The makers just seem to have a fondness for the "old" name so are going with both.)
(Update in 2013: While I still recommend FLL most highly for nearly all search needs, I do want to add that if you're ONLY searching for files or folders by name, not content, then there is a potentially better (and still free) tool to consider for that need, called Ultrasearch. I use both at least weekly. See the added section at the end of this entry.)
Why I favor it over Windows Search
I do realize that the Windows File Find feature can be enhanced by using its available Indexing Service. I've never been a fan of that for various reasons, and many won't enable such (for good reason) on production servers. Yet you may need to search for files on such a server. FLL does its searching with little overhead, so it's absolutely safe to use on servers (and leaves no indexes behind).
(By Windows Find I'm referring to the feature available from the search feature in Windows explorer, or searching via the Start menu or via WindowsKey-F).
And I realize also that later versions of Windows do offer better text file searching, but it's still not as simple as it could be (if the first search doesn't find files, you're offered a chance to do a deeper search). FLL instead is incredibly simple to use, from the first.
And when compared to the Windows File Search feature, it's not only far faster but also DOES search for content in ALL file types. Have you ever used Windows find to search text in CFM files, and found that it never finds files you know it should? The problem is that it has (at least in some Windows versions) had an internal list of file types it WOULD search, and all others it will simply IGNORE. It also ignores files marked with the hidden and system attributes, which may not be expected.
Sadly, some people may not ever both to do such searching of files by name or content simply because the available tools are so poor. This one will change your mind!
Why I favor it over search tools in editors
Since learning of it in about 2004, I no longer use the find feature within editors to search across multiple folders anymore, whether CFBuilder, Eclipse, DreamWeaver, CF Studio, or various alternatives (including Sublime, Atom, VS Code, etc in years since this post). FLL
In my experience, FLL is just so much faster than those when I've tested things, whether searching tens, hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of files. (I've even used it to search millions of files and it did not take hours to do the search. Of course, if you search a million files but tell it to only search for files of a given type, then it's really searching only those files--so when I say millions of files I really do mean millions of files searched.)
And unlike using your editor to search, FLL doesn't lock up your editor while it's searching away.
Again, it's really FAST! I find it can search gigs of content in just a few moments--yet it DOES NOT rely on indexing the content in any way.
Another great benefit it has over the other more traditional search approaches is that while the left pane is showing the files it found in its search, the right pane shows (for any file you select on the left) the lines WITHIN the file that matched the search. You don't even need to open the file(s) shown in the left pane, if the results on the right pane may answer your question/show what you were searching for. (Curiously, the screenshot I obtained from the web site above shows these result panes as above and below each other.)
And yes, in some editor search tools, the search results pane allows you to click on a result in order to open the given file--perhaps even at the location where the search result was found, but this approach in FLL to just show them on the right (as each result file is selected) is just much simpler and more effective, I think.
Perhaps most powerful, it also integrates with the Windows Explorer interface, so it's easily reached by a right-click on any folder to search that folder and its children.
Bonus Regex Feature
As I hinted above, beyond searching, FLL is also great for its really nifty regular expression feature, to help build regex's declaratively (with a wizard-like interface). I find myself opening it just to create a RegEx when needed. More than that, there is also a useful "test" menu option where you can enter a RegEx, and some text against which to search, and it will show what the regex would find in that text. Very handy.
Check it out
Everyone I've shown it to has been impressed. I hope you will at least check it out.
You can see screenshots of 3 main parts of the interface in use (including the regex wizard and results viewing aspect) at the site.
I should also mention that this is indeed just one of dozens of such file/find tools that exist, for Windows, *nix, etc. (yes, including grep tools for both OS's). I do list dozens more in a category for these tools at my CF411 site, which lists over a thousand tools and resources of interest to CFers.
One more update
Here's one more update I'd like to make: if you may be searching for files (or folders) ONLY by name and NOT by file content, then there's a still-better free tool for Windows that I'd recommend: Ultrasearch, from jam-software.com, the same people who make the also excellent and powerful TreeSize tool for analyzing your disk space usage, per folder.
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