Tips for free

I can't tell you how many times I've searched the web to study a Windows problem and then found pages saying something such as, 'Start the Registry Editor and delete anything you think you don't need'.

I can't tell you how many times I've searched the web to study a Windows problem and then found pages saying something such as, "Start the Registry Editor and delete anything you think you don't need".

Don't get me wrong. Today's generalised search engines are way cooler than a mountain of manuals when you need a quick information fix.

But you can seriously mess up your PC by following the advice on some web pages that happen to match your search terms or that a lot of people have linked to.

That's why I've developed WinFind, a new, specialised Windows tips search engine that's free for you to use. The service indexes more than a dozen websites that I've found to be packed with extensive and reliable Windows guidance.

I announced this project last year and invited readers to nominate sites for the index. Since then, I've used a preliminary version of the search engine at my personal site.

But my hundreds of articles, as nice as they may be, pale in comparison to the more than 22,000 pages of Windows tips, tricks and workarounds that are now searchable through WinFind.

Starting with the sites you nominated, I spent the last few months judging the sources and contacting the strongest ones to make sure they had no objection to being included. I'm happy to say the very best resources are on board. If you know of another treasure trove that should be added, let me know so I can expand the index.

To use WinFind, visit a new site I've set up called www.briansbuzz.com. To see the list of indexed sources, click Advanced Search. Because WinFind's basic search interface is spare — just an input box and a Go button — I recommend you always use advanced mode for the best results.

On the advanced page, you can search all the Windows tips sites simultaneously, or pick just one or two to hone your query. If you don't know exactly how a word is spelled ("mnemonic" always stumps me), you can turn on Soundex, which finds words that sound like what you typed.

The technology behind all this comes from www.Atomz.com, a marvelously configurable service that powered my original search engine. The implementation effort on the new stuff was led by my research director, Vickie Stevens.

To build upon WinFind, I've decided to publish a free, monthly newsletter called Brian's Buzz on Windows. I receive each week far more tips from readers than I can possibly print in any magazine or book. Brian's Buzz will share these gems with you and stimulate a dialogue between me, you and anyone with good data to contribute.

To get this information, just send a blank email message to windows@briansbuzz.com with "winfind" in the subject line. I promise your address will never be sold or given out, and I'll never send you any other, unrelated messages.

Livingston is co-author of 10 Windows books. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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