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  • 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.

  • Taming the user interface in Windows 8.1 for enterprise users

    Posted on February 16th, 2014 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    It is no secret that there are challenges related to the user interface in Windows 8.1. It is no secret that it has raised a lot of feelings – both good and bad. It is no secret that Microsoft is aware of the issues and they are bit by bit working on addressing them.

    Windows 8.1 is without doubt the greatest and best operating system from Microsoft to date in terms of features and when it comes to security, performance, stability and responsiveness. Add to that an active development and continious distribution of fixes makes which Windows 8.1 the most dynamic Windows release to date.

    However, not many enterprises use modern apps on their desktop/laptop machines and will not do so for quite some time. This blog post is intended to show you how you can make Windows 8.1 behave well in enterprises if you want your users to recognize themselves in the new user interface in Windows 8.1.

    Boot to Desktop

    The option for the user to instantly get to the desktop is imperative when matching the user experience to what they are used to. This means that instead of landing on the start panel after login, the user is taken straight to the desktop. Another issue with the user interface in Windows 8.1 is that if the user for instance open a PDF file from a desktop application, the PDF file will open in the Reader app (that is if Adobe Reader or another PDF reader has been installed). However, after closing the modern app the user is not brought back to the desktop application, instead lands on the Start panel. The below group policy setting solves these two “issues”.

    In the Group policy Editor, locate the setting “Go to the desktop instead of Start when signing in or when or when all the apps on a screen are closed” located in User Configuration > (Policies) > Administrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar and set it to Enabled.

    Desktop background on start panel

    A small but never the less important setting that will make your users recognize the desktop is the setting to make the desktop background image being present in the start panel.

    Activate this setting by creating a User Group Policy Preference registry item with the following information:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Accent
    Value name: MotionAccentId_v1.00
    Value type: REG_DWORD (32-bit)
    Value data:  000000DB (Hexadecimal)

    File extensions for modern apps

    In Windows 8.1 images there are a bunch of modern apps included, which are installed the first time a user log in to a Windows 8.1 machine. You can when building your Windows 8.1 image remove all provisioned modern apps which will not only speed up the first login to a machine but also prevent users from opening for instance pictures in the modern app picture viewer and instead open them in “Windows Photo Viewer” on the desktop.

    Solution 1: Remove all provisioned apps by using Ben Hunter’s excellent script for this, see http://blogs.technet.com/b/deploymentguys/archive/2013/10/21/removing-windows-8-1-built-in-applications.aspx. In the scripts you see the relevant commands which can also be run manually, removing one modern app at a time. See the PowerShell cmdlets Get-AppxProvisionedPackage and Remove-AppxProvisionedPackage.

    Solution 2: If you do not want to remove the provisioned apps, you can use Michael Niehaus’s great guide to remove the file associations from the modern apps. Michael also show how to deal with this dynamically at deployment time as you probably want to have this configuration dynamic if you are using Windows 8.1 on touch enabled devices. The blog post is located at http://blogs.technet.com/b/mniehaus/archive/2014/01/10/configuring-file-associations-in-windows-8-1.aspx

    Customizing the start panel

    Well, there are PowerShell scripts which you can use to export a start panel layout and then send it out to multiple users using group policy settings. However, your users will not be able to actually modify it which kind of make this feature useless to say the least. What you can do to customize the start panel, awaiting better and more dynamic means to centrally manage the layout, is image customizing the layout of the start panel in your Windows 8.1 image, and then use the CopyProfile=true method to make that start panel layout the default for all new user profiles. This will present a default layout of your choice which the end users will be able to modify to their liking.

    Remove the (annoying) help guidance arrows

    The help arrows that appear the first time a user sign in to a Windows 8.1 machine are important for the users to learn how to reach the charms menu and navigate in the new user interface, when they actively or mistakenly end up there. However these little helper arrows tend to become rather annoying after time and you will be glad to see that there are ways to turn them off.

    Create a User Group Policy Preference that adds the following registry:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\EdgeUI
    Value name: DisableHelpSticker
    Value type: REG_DWORD (32-bit)
    Value data: 1

    The power of search

    I have been involved in many deployment projects with Windows 7 and my simple conclusion is that users tend to love not to use the built in search box in the start menu in Windows 7. Moving to Windows 8.1 is not going to change that and especially not as the users have no idea that they can just type anything while on the start panel and a search will be performed. I’m still waiting for a group policy setting that will make users use search instead of clicking and clicking and clicking but until that arrives instruct your Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to use the built in search feature.

    Summary

    Well, by taming how the user interface behaves and my modifying or totally removing the modern apps the start panel goes back to just being the search feature and the new user interface is acting pretty much as it always have traditionally in Windows. And at the time of this writing we know that there will be an update in April 2014 that will present even further improvements to the UI. Things are improving but rest assured, the good old start menu as we know it since Windows 95 will not be back.

  • HOW TO: Search non indexed libraries in Start menu

    Posted on October 20th, 2010 By Andreas Stenhall + No comments

    By default when you search using the search box in the start menu in Windows 7, it only returns indexed content. This is by design. However there might be scenarios where you might want to also search libraries which are not indexed and for this scenario there is a hotfix that enables a registry settings that controls this behavior. It is documented in Microsoft KB article 2268596.