You can’ find what you need if you don’t know how to search correctly and coming up with the right incantations to produce the correct results used to be difficult, but Google has been working on the problem.
Some updates to the search facility have made it easier to find the files you are looking for, like the one you created last week, last month, containing a certain word or phrase, and so on.
Search like you would say it
Natural language processing, sometimes abbreviated to NLP, has been incorporated into the search box at the top of Google Drive. This means that you can enter phrases that you might use in everyday language.
For example, go to Google Drive and in the search box, enter:
Show me the files I created last week.
If you try this, it does not immediately show the correct search results, but under the search box is:
Did you mean: Owner: Me Modified: 2016-09018 to 2016-09-25
Clicking this link produces the results that are wanted.
Getting the right results is sometimes a two-step process and you might have to click a ‘Did you mean’ link. However, you can also see the correct way to search for what you wanted. After seeing the right syntax a few times, it might stick in your mind and it teaches you the tricks you need to find the files you want.
I found the natural language processing bit hit and miss. Sometimes it was useful, but sometimes it wasn’t. It will surely improve over time, so keep trying it.
Filter your search results
The best way to find files in Google Drive is to search for a keyword and then to apply filters to the results.
Here I searched Google Drive for ‘windows’ and a long list of matching files was displayed. This included Sheets, Docs, images and other files.
Click the down arrow at the right side of the search box and a panel opens that enables you to configure filters. For example, click Type and select the type of file you are looking for from the menu.
Click Date modified and there are several options to choose from, such as last 7, 30 or 90 days. The Customised option at the bottom lets you manually select a date range. This is useful if you know the file you want is a recent one.
You can add more words, select the owner if you share documents with other users, or select the location. Usually you will leave it set to Anywhere, but there is an option to search the Bin for deleted files and to search for just starred ones. Click Search after setting the filters.
More advanced Google Drive searches
Here are some phrases that will help you to find files on Google Drive:
Has the words: Follow this with a list of words to search for. They can be anywhere, even inside files.
Type: Find files of a particular type, such as type: pdf
Item name: Follow this with a word or part of a word and only filenames will be searched. It does not search for text inside of files. ‘Item name: report’ will find files with ‘report’ in the filename.