Natural language processing-based search in Vista

Here’s a feature I didn’t know about. Alex Wade, who was the technical Program Manager responsible for this functionality in Windows Vista, showed me how to enable it. It’s a pity that such a great feature is disabled by default.

So… go to Folder Options (you’ll find it in the control panel), select the “search” tab, and enable “use natural language search”. Then, you can write queries into Windows Search like the following:

Show me all email messages from Lee Dirks after Jan 24″ or “show me all email messages from Lee Dirks with attachments”.

The surprising thing is that the results are accurate :-)

Well done Alex! Very cool stuff!


After my initial post, I got some more information from Alex. The feature is not truly based on Natural Language Processing. It converts sentences to <property, value> pairs, which are used for the queries. This is why I shouldn’t have typed “show me all” (not that I really wanted all Lee’s messages… internal joke :-) Here are some more examples of queries:

  • email from lee sent last week about tci
  • documents by savas about repositories modified last month
  • feeds from jonas
  • music by david bowie
  • rock music rating *****
  • pictures about plants or flowers taken may 2006

Jonas Barklund has a great post with more details.

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