How To Automatically Search Inside Multiple Text Files in Windows


The other day I lost a text file. OK, more like overwrote it with nothing and in so doing lost my precious thoughts. Knowing very well I had lost it for good I still fired up my go-to recovery software (Photorec) to be sure or to at least console myself that I did actually something. If you're familiar with the software, then you'll know despite its bare bones approach it’s quite phenomenal in the recovery department. It comes with one major caveat though - you can’t preview files before saving them.

Essentially, it sifts through the disk and recovers everything so that you can search for whatever you needed. Another caveat - it finds a lot of files, and I mean a lot, especially if you make the not so wise decision to search through the whole space rather than the free one. I did exactly that and let’s say I got more than I could swallow - hundreds of text files, a great majority of which were logs and app related XMLs seeing the disk in question was in fact a 8GB micro SD for an android phone.

Suffice to say, I was confronted with a monumental task one that I should have ignored were it not for my desperation. Opening each of the hundreds of texts one after the other quickly took a toll on me and that's when it dawned on me that I had to find something automated. I had some search programs but nothing could really look inside the files. Then, an epiphany! My less than adequate memory had come to my rescue.

The fragment of memory served aptly was none other than Agent Ransack (or more appropriately FileLocator Lite). I had used this search utility a couple of years back before switching to some alternatives that use indexing for searching - first Locate32 and then Everything. However, unlike those two, Agent Ransack is more than just a search utility. It not only looks up file names but can also sift through text contained in files and preview them - just the perfect medication for my then woes. In addition to this you can search by size and date of modification, use Booleans (AND, OR & NOT), save/load commonly used search criteria and export results in Text/CSV.

Searching through text files is a painless process. All you have to do is:
A screenshot of Agent Ransack Search Dialog
Agent Ransack Search Dialog (click to enlarge)
1. In the Look in box define the location for look up i.e. where your text files are stored. You can include subfolders as well.
2. Then in the Containing text box, input the text you need to look up.
3. Hit the Start button and let the magic begin.

It’s as easy as that. There's certainly no need to sweat yourself sifting through countless texts when you have something like this. What's more it comes at a very modest price of free. It's got a bigger brother called FileLocator Pro which has more features in addition to the ones I mentioned before. Regarding my situation, it did a stellar job ransacking through the dump of text files, but as my gut had predicted, that file was a done deal.

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