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Windows 8 Tip: Searching in Metro-Style Apps

With Windows 8, Microsoft is standardizing a lot of common tasks through new system-level features such as charms, contracts, and settings. But this standardization is causing some users fits, so I’m starting a new series of tips aimed at helping you overcome some common gotcha’s. In my third tip, I’ll examine how Windows 8 doesn't just limit you to searching for apps, settings, and files: You can also search in most Metro-style apps.

Windows 8’s new Search functionality is a formalized, system-level capability that most users will encounter through the Search charm (WINKEY + Q), part of the Charms bar (WINKEY + C). If you access this capability from the Start Screen or Windows desktop, you’ll encounter its most common use, as a replacement for the Window 7 Start Menu Search feature. Now called Start Search, this handy capability lets you easily search for apps, settings, and files using a consistent, full-screen interface.


This Start experience reveals a second, even more innovative feature. As you can see in the left pane of Start Search, there is also a list of Metro-style apps that can be searched. This list doesn’t represent all Metro-style apps installed on your PC, however. Instead, it represents only those apps that have implemented the system-level Search contract. And that means that you can search these apps too.

Note: The apps in the Search pane will not necessarily be in alphabetical order. Instead, Windows 8 reorders them according to which you use the most often, and you Pin favorite apps to the top by right-clicking them and choosing “Pin.”

“Searching these apps” takes two forms, both of which work consistently.

First, you can search from within any supported app of course, using the exact same method you use to initiate Start Search from the Start Screen: Just tap WINKEY + Q or choose Search from the Charms bar. When you do this from within an app, the Search pane is scoped to your app, not the system. So it will search within your app by default.

Second, you can search an app from anywhere in the system. Just access Search as before (again, WINKEY + Q). But this time, select the app you wish to search from the Search pane on the right instead of leaving it with the default selection. In this way, you could trigger, say, a search of your Mail app-based email while browsing the web with Internet Explorer.

Note that search results appear within the appropriate app. So if you select Mail from the app list in the Search pane, the results will redisplay using Mail’s custom search experience.

What you’re searching for within any given app will depend on the app of course. Here’s a list of what you can search for with Windows 8’s built-in Metro-style apps:

Finance. Search for companies using the company name (“Microsoft”) or stock symbol (“MSFT”).

Mail. Search for email using Windows 8’s new email app. Search will examine message subject and body as well as the sender name and email address, and other information.

Maps. Find a location or, locally, a business using the Windows 8 mapping solution.


News. Search for news. You can enter virtually anything here; it works like a web search that’s filtered only to news results.

People. Search for contacts in Windows 8’s contacts management solution. Search will look for matches in your contact’s names, but also in other information, including email addresses.

Photos. Search for photos on your local PC, in connected online services, or on SkyDrive-connected and linked PCs. Search uses file names and a limited subset of photo meta-data to find what you’re looking for.

Sports. Search for sports, including sport, team, and player names. This works like a web search that’s filtered only to sports results.

Travel. Search the new Windows 8 Travel app for information about a favorite destination.


Weather. Search for the weather in a specific location. Searches are stored in a Recent Searches list in the Places view in the Weather app.


Windows Reader (Reader).

Windows Store (Store). Search for Metro-style apps and desktop applications in Windows 8’s app store.


Xbox Companion. Search for videos (TV shows and movies), games, and music on the Xbox Marketplace that you will browse for on the Windows 8 PC or device but play on your Xbox 360.

Xbox LIVE Games. Search for games in the Windows and Xbox Marketplaces.

Xbox Music (Music). Search for music—artists, albums, and songs—in Microsoft’s new Xbox Music Marketplace and in your own music collection.

Xbox Video (Video). Search for movies or TV shows in Microsoft’s new Xbox Video Marketplace and in your own video collection.

Note: Calendar, Camera, Messaging, and SkyDrive cannot be searched. (At least in the Windows 8 Release Preview. I’d be surprised if search wasn’t added to Calendar and SkyDrive over time.) When you try to search using a non-supported app, you’ll see an error message.


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