One Quick Tip: How to Find a Computer File in 5 Seconds or Less

This post may contain affiliate links, including Your price won't change but it enables free content & supports our family business.

Sometimes I use a tool in the same way for years, never realizing there’s a better, more efficient way to complete a task.

For example, I used to be almost OCD about scraping every last bit of whatever – strawberry puree, or bread crumbs – out of my blender before moving on to the next batch. Finally one day I had a conversation with myself:

“Listen, sister. You’re spending two full minutes scraping strawberries out of this thing, when what are you going to put in there next? Strawberries. Let’s be real here. It doesn’t even count as cutting a corner, it’s just being smart! Leave the last little bit in the bottom of the blender. Step away from the spatula.”

On the computer, I’m embarrassed by the number of tasks I’ve done manually that should be automated with some program or another.

How to Find a Document on a Computer FAST

One Quick Tip

If you’ve read Kitchen Stewardship for very long at all, you know I’m famous for uber long posts.

This One Quick Tip series is an attempt to write a super short, quickly helpful post that you can pin and share and use right away in your kitchen (or sometimes the rest of the house).

You can follow the One Quick Tip pin board so you don’t have to read the longest posts in the world but still keep up on the tips, things that speed your day along, increase nutrition in the kitchen, or make life more manageable in some way.

This tip, if it’s not something you do already because you’re way smarter than me in the field of technology, is going to change your life. You’ll save so many half-minutes not having to look up files on your computer, and likely quite a few frustrating five-and-ten-minutes that you won’t have to spend trying to remember where you put such-and-such a document.

For example, it’s possible you have a number of eBooks saved on your computer. Or perhaps you put recipes in a file, or you have stuff you’re organizing for your kids’ school, or you homeschool and you have tons of resources in various files on your hard drive. Can you find what you need in all of them?

No matter how organized I think I am, how logically I title and nest my folders, I always seem to misplace something.

“Did I put that information on lead-free crockpots in my “Food for Thought” file or “KS Drafts?” And what did I title the document anyway? (As I sift through the 244 items in my drafts folder…)”

Find Your Document NOW

I will not tell you how many minutes or hours I’ve spent looking for information I KNOW is in a document on my computer.

I’ll just show you what I do now:

1. Press the “Windows” key, usually on the lower left of your keyboard, or click the “Windows” icon on the lower left of your screen. (Sadly, this only works for Windows 7, maybe Vista, but not XP if you have an older system. I’m skeered to death of the changes that may come with Windows 8! I don’t want to learn new tricks!) This is what you’ll see:


Whether you use the keyboard or mouse, your cursor is already in the box there that says, “Search programs and files.”

2. Type what you’re looking for, like this:

what to type

Look what shows up in real time:

what shows up

I can click that and I’m on my way! Do I know what folder I put that handy dandy info in? Nope. Doesn’t matter. I have it in my sights.

UPDATE: On a Mac, the search function is called “Spotlight” and is in the upper right, typically. You can also access it by pressing the Command spacebar. (Thanks to reader help in the comments!)

How to Use the Search Function

This little function has improved my efficiency in so many ways. For example, I just took some screen shots and opened them in Paint (’cause I’m so high tech) to add the arrow. I saved the first one as “what to type.” I did put it in a folder that makes sense, under “My Pictures/Kitchen Stewardship/One Quick Tip.”

But I didn’t need to open all those folders to find it to put it in this post.


I hit my Windows key, typed “what to type,” pressed the up arrow a few times and “enter” to open the image, then ctrl+c to copy and ctrl+v to paste, and boom – the image was in Live Writer (the program I use to compose posts) and I was finished. It took about ten times as long to type that out as it did to do it.

How to Find a Recipe NOW

Another great example is finding recipes in eBooks. I use my own eBooks a ridiculous amount, and I’m finding that I use more and more recipes from other people’s eBooks, too.

I just timed myself finding the dish we had for dinner on Friday, Black Bean Soup from The Everything Beans Book. It took less than 9 seconds from putting my fingers on the keyboard to looking at the ingredients list, and that was probably a little long because I was counting “one-mississippis” in my head. Winking smile

Let’s look for tomorrow’s recipe, from Better Than a Box. Ready, set, go!

1. Press Windows key:


2. Type “better than”

btab search

My ebook already shows up. I would add “pdf” to make sure I get the right item if needed.

3. Click to open the eBook:


4. Press ctrl+f for the “search” function in a PDF:


You can just start typing after that, but here it is in the top bar above.

5. Type “chicken with rice” and press enter:


The first “enter” takes me to the table of contents. This line is the reverse engineering explanation of the recipe:


“Enter” again takes me to the recipe in the table of contents:


“Enter” a 3rd time takes me right to the recipe:


I counted less than 6 seconds for that.

How’s that for efficiency? Still want to rely on your box of index card recipes? Winking smile

On Navigating PDFs

I love the “find” function in any document, but sometimes it’s not even the most efficient. Certain recipes might be mentioned many times in the text of Better Than a Box, or referred to from other recipes. To find “Veggie Bean Burritos” in the beans book, I think I have to hit enter almost 10 times.

Instead, I just ctrl+f for it in the table of contents, then type the page number right here:


Press “enter” and you jump right to the recipe (if the ebook author formatted their book correctly, that is).

Even in Email

A super cool function, if you use Gmail and Firefox, that I just figured out, is that you can even drag the name of the document right from the start menu to an email, like the compost bin ideas doc I just sent my husband for a Mother’s Day possibility:

dragging files to email

I don’t even have to open the folder in explorer nor do I need to click “attach file” in my email and then sift through my folders until I find the doc. This is a serious timesaver (although it doesn’t always work with images, fair warning. I’m still working those details out.).

Now I can plan dinner tomorrow, my husband will get me something awesome for Mother’s Day, and you can shave seconds and minutes off of your computer time.

Don’t you love it???

Now you can make a pin board for tips and share this greatness with the world and actually have some extra time to browse Pinterest, plus get a jump on today’s Monday Mission: conserving paper. Winking smile

Other Quick Tip Posts:

Click here for my disclaimer and advertising disclosure - affiliate links in this post will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn't change your price.

10 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. Grace says

    Good stuff in these One Quick Tip posts!

    The search feature for a Mac (Spotlight) is actually typically in the upper *right* corner….

  2. says

    Spotlight on a Mac is one keystroke away: press Command Spacebar and you are presented with a search box. Items are searched as you type, I can usually get a file from anything on my computer (even email, calendar and address book items) within two to three letters. Super easy and fast, it’s my go to search.

  3. Tiffany says

    I’m pretty sure this might be one of the most useful things I have learned recently. Thank you!

  4. Cynthia H says

    For Win XP it’s a little more complicated — but not much.
    1. Click on “Start” icon
    2. Click on “Search”
    3. Decide what you want to search for — searching through everything can take a while.
    4. If you know the file name use it. If you don’t, use “A word or phrase in the file”. Decide which disk(s) you’re going to search.
    a. More detail means less searching!
    5. Click Search and wait for the search to finish. Not as fast or as glossy as Win 8 but it gets the job done . . . .

  5. Debbe says

    Love it!! I discovered some of it awhile back, but didn’t take it as far as you did, so enjoyed your post.

    A future tip idea: how to QUICKLY find a particular recipe on Pinterest! I save all my recipes in pinterest now, because I ran out of hard drive space after ‘they’ told me I never would.

Take a Bite (of conversation)

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *