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  • App synonyms in Cortana search feature in Windows 10 that will make you smile!

    Posted on May 23rd, 2017 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    Ever wondered why the search feature in Windows 10 list the results as it does? Today I found a really interesting text file that shed more light on how some search results are listed.

    One of my favorite tools in Windows is “Resource Monitor“. I use it all the time, basically every day to figure out what is going on in Windows, most of the times at the disk activity tab and watching what is going on (if things are installing, if something is being downloaded or what log files things are written to etc).

    What I found today made me laugh and smile for quite some time. I found a text file containing app synonyms, and in there lies some explanation to why and how the search feature in Windows 10 lists search results as it does when searching for applications, apps and settings.

    The funny thing is that it lists all common misspelling of some common applications. For instance, did you know that you can do a search for “exell” and it will display “Excel 2016” in the search results? You can also type “npo” to find “Notepad“, or type “c prompt” that will list “command prompt”, or “exx” that will find “Internet Explorer” or if you search for “ie” and it will list “Edge”.

    The file where all these synonyms are gathered is named appssynonyms.txt and is located in C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Packages\ Microsoft.Windows.Cortana_cw5n1h2txyewy\LocalState\ ConstraintIndex\Input_{3fe4e30f-3de5-44d2-b081-e763cc324698}

    This is just hilarious, and it made my day 😊 Now I know another reason why Microsoft need to collect whatever the user types (when telemetry is set to “full”); To gather more misspellings and intel for this synonyms list.

    Note: Also see settingssynonyms.txt in the same directory as the one above, where all aliases for finding control panels and settings are listed!

  • Microsoft changes search feature in Windows 10 v1511 using sneaky background delivery options – this is Microsoft “Searchgate”!

    Posted on August 12th, 2016 By Andreas Stenhall + 1 comment

    So in Windows 10 1511 and 1607 I have an issue with searching for internet shortcuts as outlined in this blog post. For Windows 10 1607 things seemed to get worse. But, then I noticed in Windows 10 version 1511 as well that all of a sudden “Search my stuff” was gone although it had been there before! The investigation reveals some interesting stuff and magic things happening in the background!

    SHORT SUMMARY: Microsoft is pushing Windows 10 1607 (Current Branch) search features to Windows 10 2015 LTSB and Windows 10 1511 (Current Branch for Business) silently and in the background without any announcements made.

    Search in 1511 (as when Windows 10 entered Current Branch for Business and as long it has not been connected to the Internet):

    1

    Investigation

    1. I installed Windows 10 1511 (media updated in april 2016) in a VM – with no Internet connection. Note: system language is set to Sweden (Swedish) during install.
    2. I logged in and noticed that “Search my stuff” was there.
    3. I then thought I’d connect the machine to Windows Update to get the latest CU and see what happens after that. But before I knew it, “Search my stuff” vanished just after connecting the machine to the Internet. Now, things are getting interesting!

    Further investigation

    1. I installed Windows 10 1511 (media updated in april 2016) once again in a VM – with no internet and system language set to Sweden (Swedish).
    2. I logged in and noticed that “Search my stuff” was there.
    3. Checkpoint created in Hyper-V :)
    4. Fired up good old Resource Monitor.
    5. Connected the VM to Internet.
    6. AS SOON AS I CLICKED THE WINDOWS FLAG IN WINDOWS  – things started to happen in the background!
    A process named BackgroundTransferHost.exe started to download new packages, including what seemed to be new and updated code for the Shell and Cortana!

    2
    7. When it finished downloading – Voílà – the search box in Windows 10 1511 looks very much a lot like in 1607 and yes, the option “Search my stuff” is gone.

    3

    Conclusion

    This raises more than a few questions:

    What else is changed using this background delivery manager? Can we expect the start menu in 1511 to look like 1607?

    Is background delivery the reason why MS always writes “No new operating system features are being introduced in this update” on any CU:s released? I mean, “no new features are introduced in the CUs but we will gladly publish (new and) changed features unannounced using other delivery technologies than Windows Software Update packages (CUs)”. (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/12387/windows-10-update-history )

    I thought the whole idea of different builds (1507, 1511 and 1607) would mean no feature changes and especially no new feature changes which are completely unannounced or did I miss this announcement in feature change?

    Is Windows 10 LTSB affected by this as well? UPDATE! Windows 10 2015 LTSB is affected by this as well which should be troublesome for Microsoft as Cortana is not supposed to be there and it is supposed to be feature locked.

    Does this mean you can easily deploy a feature change/fix to my machine so that internet shortcuts are returned in the search results?

    No further questions on this – I’m still shocked!!!

  • Internet shortcuts and search in Windows 10 v1607 – it’s getting worse!

    Posted on August 5th, 2016 By Andreas Stenhall + 1 comment

    This is a follow up to the post “Internet shortcuts in the Start menu not returned in quick search in Windows 10“. The plot thickens quite a lot with Windows 10 v1607.

    UPDATE February 8, 2017: The fix is out! Read more in this blog post: LNK files now searchable in Windows 10 search (Cortana / Start menu search) 

    UPDATE August 21, 2016: In a newly opened support case with Microsoft they have come to the conclusion that this is a code defect and will be fixed, for both LNK as well as URL files. Question is when it will be fixed, and (*irony*) if it will be distributed quickly in the background using the sneaky update method I wrote about in a recent blog post.

    UPDATE August 12, 2016: It seems that Microsoft has also introduced this change in Windows 10 v1511! The option “Search my stuff” in the search box in the start menu and task bar is long gone! Read more about the sneaky update of the search feature in not only 1511 but also 10240 (CBB and LTSB).

    Scenario

    It is no secret that web applications become more and more common for every day that passes and that has been the case for many years now. I know Microsoft wants and thinks that everyone is now turning all their Line of Business applications into modern apps but that’s just not the case just yet. This is a fact on how it looks in the real world. With that said, the problem here is that Internet shortcuts in the start menu that points to a URL is listed in the Start menu list of applications but they are not searchable in the Windows search feature.

    Now things get interesting and at the same time worse! In Windows 10 v1511, you can search for an internet shortcut by typing its name and then choosing “Search my stuff”. In 1607, this option is gone. So without applying any workarounds the user must go back to find the web application by manually browsing through the long applications list in the start menu. So, with that we can tell all the users we for 10 years have tried to learn to use the search feature now to go looking for applications manually in the start menu. Well done Microsoft!

    Lapse in logic? I and users expect that whatever application can be seen in the start menu (EXE, modern apps or web apps) is also found when doing a search! As described above, this is not the case in Windows 10 version 1607.

    Workarounds

    Yes, there are workarounds, but only crappy ones.

    • You can exchange all LNK and URL:s and point them to iexplore.exe URL, i.e. “iexplore.exe http://www.microsoft.com”. This is what Microsoft recommends. Hmm, well is that a good solution? So when the customer wants to switch their standard browser will this workaround be a good idea? This workaround kind of defeats the idea of defining standard programs and URLs open in the browser defined as the standard program. I try to make my customers Windows client environments less complex and more standardized but this workaround points in the opposite direction to that.
    • You can also instruct the users to open the web site in Internet Explorer 11 and choose “Add Site to Apps”. By doing that you get a shortcut with the extension .website which is listed in the Start menu AND apart from that also being indexed and searchable! Is it possible to create these .website files and distribute? Not quite, as these were invented for IE9 where users could pin websites to the Task Bar, and are intended to be pinned by the user, not programmatically. Also, .website files are always opened only in Internet Explorer regardless if you set the OS standard browser to Edge or some other browser.

    Summary

    To sum it up, am I the only one having customers with internet shortcuts in the start menu? The reason they are there is that I do not want users to have to distinguish if a Line of Business application they use for their daily work is a EXE file or a web application (or a modern app for that matter). I expect them all to be treated the same as well as existing in the same place. I expect that EXE applications are returned in the search results. I expect modern apps to be returned in the search results and I expect web applications (internet shortcuts) to be returned in the search results.

    That is just simple logic in my world but who knows, I might be all crazy. I know 10000+ users that must think Microsoft are crazy when they are forcing users to go back to manually finding stuff instead of using search!

    Solution

    There is no solution so I appeal to Microsoft and specifically the Search team, that you repair the lapse in logic that exist in the current implementation in Windows search in Windows 10 1511 and 1607!

  • Internet shortcuts in the Start menu not returned in quick search in Windows 10

    Posted on April 15th, 2016 By Andreas Stenhall + 1 comment

    This issue is quite annoying but as it seems shortcuts to URLs placed in the Start menu is not being returned in the quick search in Windows 10, i.e. press the Windows button and type the name of a Start menu item pointing to a URL. You have to click “Search my stuff” for it to be displayed.

    Scenario

    A few customers have a bunch of MSI packages containing shortcuts pointing to URLs which are published in the start menu in Windows 7 and in there being easily findable in the search feature in the start menu. When moving to Windows 10, the user logic comes to a halt when shortcuts in the start menu is not being returned in the quick search.

    Steps to reproduce

    1. In File Explorer, go to C:\Users\<username>\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs.
    2. Right click anywhere in the empty space and choose New > Shortcut.
    3. Enter a URL, for instance http://www.microsoft.com, then click Next.
    4. Name the shortcut “TEST URL” and click Finish.
    5. Wait a few seconds and then try to search for it by pressing the Windows key and start typing “test”. It will find nothing which is what one is expecting in this scenario.

    Clicking “My stuff” will show the shortcut, and it is also listed in the root of the start menu under All apps. Also, creating a shortcut the same way but to an EXE instead, using the above steps will return it in the search results instantly.

    Cause

    The Microsoft search and indexing team thinks that returning internet shortcuts placed in the start menu means too much “noise” to the users. My opinion is that whatever is found under Start > All apps would also be returned when just pressing the Windows button and starting to type.

    Workarounds

    Well there are a few workarounds but none are actually appealing nor logical.

    1. GPO Preferences. Yeah you could distribute the Internet shortcuts with GPO Preferences.
    2. Repackage the MSI packages (or by scripting) and point shortcuts to “iexplore.exe http://www.microsoft.com”. This is what Microsoft recommends. Hmm, well is that a good solution? So when the customer wants to switch their standard browser that will this workaround be a good idea? What happened to defining standard programs and URLs open in the browser defined as the standard program? I try to make my customers Windows client environments less complex and more standardized…

    To sum it up, the chances of Microsoft actually fixing this problem is very much zero percent chance as I interpret the communication we had with various Microsoft people in this issue.

  • Pin federated search connectors to the Start menu

    Posted on May 11th, 2009 By Andreas Stenhall + 1 comment

    Normally when you search for something in the start menu in Windows 7 you see a link at the bottom of the search results which say “See more results”. If you have installed a customized search connector you can easily make a setting so that a link to your search connector appears above this “See more results” link. The changes for this are made via group policies which means you can easily let your users’ search in for instance your Intranet based on SharePoint.

    Create a new GPO and look for the setting under (Policies) > User Configuration> Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Explorer. The policy name is “Pin Libraries or Search connectors to Search again links and start menu”. What you enter in the various “location” fields in the GPO is the full patch to the search file. You can get the path by right clicking the search connector in Windows Explorer, choosing Properties and then copying the entire path from the “Target” field.

  • Create your own federated search providers in Windows 7

    Posted on April 6th, 2009 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    In Windows 7 you can create and add your own federated search providers for use in Windows Explorer. A while ago I published a step-by-step guide on how you can build federated search for a SharePoint site or for your favorite web site. The article is available in its full (in Swedish) at tipsomvista.se.