Like most operating systems out there, Windows comes with a built-in search feature of its own. While it may suffice for many users, power users at times need something better and more advanced. SurfFind is a simple yet comprehensive application that allows you to quickly find text files in a given local folder. Simply type in a part of the file’s name in the panel on the left, and the app shows you the results on the right. You can then open any of the files by right-clicking, or quickly start a new search within the results to further narrow down to what you’re looking for. New searches open in in their own tabs, making multiple searches at the same time easily accessible from the same interface. Its search mechanics are highly intuitive, allowing you to concentrate more on the results than the process itself.
SurfFind is a portable application and comes in a compressed zip archive. Just extract the files to any location on your computer and launch the program by running its EXE file (the one with the magnifying glass icon). You’ll notice a ‘Help’ tab that outlines SurfFind’s basic functionality. I suggest you keep it open as a quick reference until you’ve got its controls on your fingertips.
Now let’s begin searching. In the FOLDERS field, specify the path of the folder in which you want to conduct the search. You can specify the path manually, click the Browse button to select the directory, or use one of the paths you’ve previously searched in by using the drop-down. Next, enter part of the file name you are looking for in the FILES field. You can also use wildcard characters here. If you want to exclude files with certain words in their names, enter them in the EXCLUDE field. For a deep search into sub-folders as well, click the Recursive button. The drop-down Windows menu offers a list of different encoding standards that you can use to further narrow down the results. If you are looking for files having some particular text in them, enter it into the TEXT field, and keep the Case option enabled if you want the text search to be case-sensitive. The Word button orders SurfFind to differentiate full words from parts of words. This helps you find the word ‘man’, for instance, without bringing up ‘adamantium’.
Search results are presented in a list on the left, and the preview pane on the right lets you preview the content of any selected file from the results, with any specific text that you’ve specified in your search highlighted here, as you can see in the example below.
Filenames or wildcards are separated by a space in the FILES and EXCLUDE fields. This can be a major nuisance, though; as you can see in the screenshot above, I’ve included an RTF file by the name of “Example 4” in the search criteria, but it doesn’t appear in the results because there’s a gap between “Example” and “4” in the file’s name. The same goes for the EXCLUDE field; I’ve set it to exclude “Example 3” from the search, but it still appears because there’s a space in its file name and because I’ve included all TXT files in the search. Renaming all your files like “Example-3” to avoid all gaps is obviously a solution, but not a practically feasible one.
Right-clicking a selection reveals a context menu that allows you to open the file with an external editor, open its containing folder, or copy its path to the clipboard. You can configure settings for these functions in the options section via the button labelled Opts.
Right-clicking a selection in the preview also opens a context menu, as demonstrated below.
You can directly open a new search from the preview; simply click ‘Find selected text’ on any portion of the text you’ve highlighted and the results will open in a new tab. So if you want to search for “another” instead of “text”, highlight “another” and right-click “Find selected text.” Go for “Find selected text in found files” if you want your new search to be limited to the files you found in the previous search (instead of searching from the folder path you’ve specified in FOLDERS). The application offers support for regex (regular expressions), allowing you to perform advanced search queries. The two ‘Extract result lines’ options allow you to search for lines that either include the words or term entered in the text field or don’t.
A graphic summary of possible search settings are presented as little icons in the UI on the bottom-left. The options you’ve set are colored, with the remaining icons grayed out.
As mentioned above, clicking Opt brings up the options screen that allows you to configure some of the app’s settings.
In the General tab, you can specify the external editor of your choice and any command line arguments you want to use with it. In addition, you can toggle between vertical and horizontal layout. In the Viewer tab, you can select the font, toggle showing some special characters, and choose to wrap the text by lines only, or by lines and words. Do be careful, though, that wrapping for a large files can take longer.
Lastly, under the Advanced tab, you can enable file caching that can speed up your search results of you find yourself frequently searching through the same set of files. You can manually specify the maximum cache size in MB as well.
In summary, what is of particular interest in SurfFind’s approach to search filtering is it’s dual panel display and the fact that you can initiate a new search without the hassle of closing the previous one. This intuitive sense is what makes SurfFind a worthy contender in the genre.
SurfFind works on Windows XP, Visa, 7 & 8. Testing was carried out on Windows 8 Pro, 64-bit.