Monday, January 24, 2011

Instant File Find: Acceptable, While We Await a Windows 7 Version of AvaFind

I had installed Windows 7.  I was now seeing that AvaFind was not compatible with it.  It was crashing frequently.  It was time to find a replacement.  This post describes my efforts in that regard.

AvaFind was a fast file finder.  It searched only file names.  To search file contents, I used Copernic.  Ava Find had been remarkably stable.  I would call it up by a Shift-Esc hotkey combination, type in the name of a file (with wildcards, if I wished), and see the results.  Very fast.  If I wanted to delete, move, or otherwise work with those files, no problem:  in the paid version, it could do that.  It would give me an option to open up the Windows Explorer right-click context menu, and anything that I could do in Explorer, I could do with these files that I had just found.  So this was essentially what I wanted to replace.

I spent some time looking over alternatives.  There were not many that seemed to provide these features.  After a number of searches, I came up with a few contenders.  One was Everything, which sounded like a fast file finder, but did not seem to have Explorer file handling features.  Another was Locate32, which sounded about the same.  I put in a request for AvaFind-like features there.  The third contender, and the one I decided to try, was Instant File Find (IFF).  Like AvaFind, it offered free and paid versions; and like AvaFind, its paid version included Windows Explorer actions.  It looked like it actually might be better than AvaFind, insofar as it offered an Advanced Search option.  (Honorable mention to Find and Run Robot (FARR), whose purpose was largely to find and run programs very quickly, without having to mouse around in the Start Menu.)  IFF would cost $29.95 (normally $39.95 - Buy Now!) if I decided to get the paid version.

IFF did its file searching fast enough.  I noticed some features right away.  I liked its less cluttered interface.  I had never known what the AvaFind Scout Bot was.  A useful feature:  IFF had a drop-down box where I could quickly recall and re-run previous searches.  It also would apparently let me save searches, but only in the paid version.  Advanced Search was another paid feature, and so was Search Network Drive and those Windows Explorer features.  The Help File said there was a free 21-day trial period where I could use most features, but apparently that was no longer the case.  I sent them an email (no forum on their website) to ask about that, and also to find out whether there was a hotkey, like AvaFind's Shift-Esc, that I could use to start the program.  It turned out that Shift-Esc was the hotkey, but if AvaFind was loaded first, it would commandeer that hotkey.  In other words, that problem disappeared when I disabled AvaFind.

After a week of using IFF, I felt that I would still have preferred to have a version of AvaFind that would work on Win7.  A minor problem, and possibly not the fault of the programmer, was that I could not persuade the AvaFind window to take any shape other than the original, which was too tight to see long pathnames.  Another drawback, not quite as minor, was that, at least sometimes, it would not search while it was refreshing its index.  Yes, I wanted accurate search results, but sometimes I just wanted to know if a file by a certain name existed somewhere on my drive.  I was more bothered by not being able to set how frequently the program would refresh its index.  Sometimes I would be moving some files around, and I would know I had recently seen one that I was now looking for.  AvaFind would have found it, with its index refreshing every hour, but sometimes IFF did not.  (I could manually refresh the cache, but during that process IFF would not find anythin gat all.)  IFF, unlike AvaFind, did not see my network drives.  One feature that I really missed was AvaFind's ability to rename files that I had found.

I had always been amazed that AvaFind had not taken over the world.  It was a great utility, for those who were running pre-Win7 operating systems.  It was too bad that its developer vanished.  I hoped he was OK, wherever he was.  In the meantime, my tentative decision was to buy IFF.  It was a good product, just not as good as AvaFind.  But perhaps its developer would make it as good as AvaFind, or even better.



I am not sure I fully emphasized how much more capable AvaFind was for everyday purposes. For instance, in AvaFind, I could type "2010*AT" and it would tell me that I have a file called 2010 AT&T Bills. In IFF, that same search finds nothing.


Later, I noticed that IFF also lacked the ability to block a particular folder from a search. So if I had one folder with lots of entries that would clog other searches, entries that I knew were there and almost never wanted to see in the search, I could prevent them from appearing in AvaFind, but not in IFF.


I appreciate your comments on file search tools. I'm still looking for something on Win7 to replace File Tracer ( which I have used for at least 10 years (win95 - winxp). It somehow has a hook in the windows file I/O so it keeps the index current as files are written/moved/removed on the drive. Wildcard searches work perfectly and the context menu augments what explorer gives you.


More recently, I've posted a note on Everything, which has been working really well as a file search tool. See