Agent Ransack’s early years

If I’m honest Agent Ransack was an accident. After reading an article by Brian Kernighan (co-father of C and Unix) in 1999 on regular expressions I decided to play around with my own regex engine. However, to really test it out I needed a framework to throw lots of data at it so I created a basic C++ application (initially called FileLocator) that would run through all the source files on my computer and match it against the regex engine. And it worked!

Feeling really pleased with myself I had a look on the Internet for other regex engines and realized that there were some MUCH better implementations. I found one by a guy named Henry Spencer and plugged that into my search framework. It not only worked, it was REALLY fast.
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Windows keyboard shortcut for snapping

A few weeks back a colleague showed me a keyboard short-cut that I’ve been using constantly since. It’s concerned with how to snap windows using just the keyboard. It’s really simple:

WinKey + Left arrow

WinKey + Right arrow

Even better, if you have multiple monitors repeated ‘snapping’ moves the window across the monitors. Brilliant.

Performance

At the end of March there was a new update for FileLocator Pro titled March 28th Performance Release. The significant performance enhancement was concerned with how FileLocator Pro handles Boolean searches, especially when concerned with wildcards or word boundaries. It’s not such a big deal when searching for one or two keywords (modern processors are SO much faster than standard HDDs that the performance bottleneck is reading the data not searching it) but with faster SSDs (or cached data) and large keywords lists the performance improvements of the new Boolean searching routines really make a difference.

Keep checking the Version History page because there a plenty more upgrades on the way!

Agent Ransack 2014

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In this season of big credit card bills and constant requests to ‘Spend, Spend, Spend’ we have a little treat for you that won’t cost a penny, a new version of Agent Ransack (and of course FileLocator Lite).

Both have a more polished look and include loads of improvements, here are the big ones…

User Interface

For anyone who had any, slightly odd, nostalgic affection for the badly drawn wire frame Agent Ransack icon I’ve some bad news… we have a new logo.

It’s a huge improvement and should work much better on dark backgrounds. But that’s not all, almost all elements of the User Interface have been given a make-over and look much better.

New Reports Tab

New Reports Tab

Contents View Tabs

The Contents View is now broken up into three tabs. The standard Summary and Hits tab, which you’ll recognize from previous versions, and now a new Reports Tab.

The Reports tab provides a convenient way to copy/save text information from search results. It’s sort of like Exporting with a preview.

File name matching

In previous versions of Agent Ransack to exclude a group of files you would enter an expression, such as

*.exe;*.dll

and then click the ‘Not’ button. But what if you also wanted to add an additional filter, e.g. the file name itself? In previous versions you couldn’t do it, but now you can. If you want to search for all files with the word Holiday in them but exclude mp3 files you can enter something this:

Holiday;NOT:*.mp3

There’s quite a few more expression matching enhancements that you can read about here: DOS Expressions

License agreement changes

There’s a small but important license change. The product is still completely free for personal or commercial use but we now require that commercial users register the product. We don’t think that’s too much to ask for a free product.

We have also introduced an option of a ‘Supporter’ license for anyone who’d like to support the continued development of Agent Ransack / FileLocator Lite. The product still has the same functionality but the support license offers premium technical support and includes the option of a MSI installer, ie instead of using the usual EXE installer, for unattended installs. If you’re interested in a supporter’s license you can pick one up here:

Agent Ransack / FileLocator Lite Registration

Much much more

Since this release has been built on top of the latest FileLocator Pro core search engine there are many small improvements, too many to list. Things like better icon handling so that SolidWorks shell extensions stop causing problems, better PDF searching, hit counts, improved memory management, exporting to Unicode formats, improved CSV exporting, support for UI internationalization, better folder browsing, and much more. Give it a try and I think you’ll agree it’s a nice improvement.

Download Agent Ransack

Seasons greetings

Finally, a big thank you to all the enthusiastic Agent Ransack supporters who have sent us feedback over the last year. Every email is read and goes to forming the direction for future development.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

FileLocator Pro version 7.0

I’m really pleased to announce that FileLocator Pro version 7 is finally here!

FileLocator Pro Download Page

It’s hard to believe but it’s ten years since the first version of FileLocator Pro was released back in April 2003. Looking back at the old versions it’s quite amazing to see how much the product has improved over the years and we hope you’ll agree with us that version 7 is another great improvement. But, are the new features compelling enough for you to upgrade again? Well, here are the highlights:

Dedicated Word and Excel Filters

While IFilters work pretty well they don’t always work perfectly. They require a separate install, can often get confused by complicated formatting, and don’t provide text in a format intended for display. Therefore FileLocator Pro now has bespoke filters for Word and Excel files for improved text accuracy and formatting.

As you can see in this simple Excel example it makes quite a difference. However, if you decide you prefer the IFilter format you can revert to it in the Configuration settings.

Document Cache Settings

Document Cache Settings

Document Caching

While FileLocator Pro’s multi-thread searching algorithms are lightning fast they can still be slowed by the need to convert large documents into text every time they’re searched. Version 7 introduces a new Document Caching functionality that allows FileLocator Pro to store converted text in a caching database for use in subsequent searches.

This worked so well for one our beta testers, where search times over 26,000 PDFs went from over 5 minutes down to just 10 seconds, that they were able to use cached searches instead of going with an indexed search solution (avoiding with all the headaches associated with indexing).

Reporting

Reporting has long been a feature we’ve been looking to add to FileLocator Pro. Although it’s always had the ability to print the Hits tab or export to a file any form of customization required quite a strong technical ability. Not anymore, FileLocator Pro now includes a dedicated Reporting tab, with reports for Files, Contents, and Keywords. Each report can be customized and is available in numerous styles and formats, e.g. CSV, HTML, Text etc.

There’s much more we would like to do with Reporting but as always we’ll be guided by your feedback.

Column Filters

If I’m honest this was a self-indulgent feature. Something I really wanted, and actually delayed the release date for. It’s a simple idea, following a search you can filter the files listed by entering filters in the column heading.

Column Filters

Column Filters

Every column can be filtered on the text within the column but date-time and numeric columns can also be filtered on ranges, e.g. > 20KB < 100KB. Try it out, I think you’ll like it.

Saving Workspace

Saving Workspace

Sessions and Workspaces

Working with large result sets can take time, sometimes days. Version 7 adds a new Session/Workspace feature so you can save your search results and then re-load them back into FileLocator Pro at a future time.

It allows you to save just a single search tab (a Session) or all the open search tabs (a Workspace).

Other features

It’s not always the big features that make the biggest difference, sometimes the ‘small’ features can punch well above their weight. Here are some of my favourite new small features:

Search Again Ever found yourself copying text from the Text tab and pasting back into the Containing Text field to do another search? Well now you can simply right-click on the word and click the new Search Again menu option. The search will be re-run with the new word replacing what was in the Containing text field.
LINES Operator If you find yourself only wanting to search the first X lines of each file you’ll love the LINES operator. It can be used to limit the lines a following expression can appear in, e.g.
LINES:3-10 "ERROR"
Include filename in search Prior to version 7.0 FileLocator Pro only searched the contents of a file for the term in the Containing Text field. This new option adds the file name to the contents when evaluating the search.
File name presets
Filename presets

Filename presets

Rather than having to type in *.png;*.bmp;*.jpg;*.tif every time you want to search pictures FileLocator Pro now includes presets for:

  • Folders Only
  • Files Only
  • Music
  • Pictures
  • Videos

Note: With a preset selected the file name field is treated as a Boolean expression.

Thank you

Over the last ten years FileLocator Pro has morphed and grown through great continuous feedback from you, our customers, to the fantastic product it is today. But in some ways we’ve only just started. We’ve literally hundreds of features we’re going to be adding over the NEXT ten years. All of them focused on one thing, helping you work better by finding your data faster and easier!


Update: After this was sent out we had a great question:

“Just please tell me you didn’t do anything to slow it down. FL is bar none the fastest grep utility for Win. Please don’t do anything to bloat it up or slow it down.”.

It’s a good point and one we take very seriously, we understand it’s one of our key selling points. In all aspects of performance from application start-up and core search times to memory foot print we regularly compare the latest version to old versions just to make sure we haven’t inadvertently introduced any issues.

The improved accuracy and layout with the dedicated Word and Excel processing can occasionally result in slightly slower times than with Office IFilters but in our tests it wasn’t significant and was worth the small performance penalty. However, if you want the same Excel/Word processing as v6 just set the IFilter Search Priority to Primary in the IFilter Settings.

While we’re talking about performance, during this v7 release we’re going to be doing some profile guided optimization work to see if we can squeeze out another 5-10% speed improvement. I’ll keep you posted on that work.


Avast Win32:Evo-gen [Susp]: Some customers have been reporting issues with Avast anti-virus flagging the FileLocator Pro download EXE as Suspicious and deleting it, and then blocking any subsequent links to the download. Apart from how this makes us look we can only imagine how nervous it makes our customers feel, not the sort of experience you want for your sparkling new product update.

Unlike Norton, Kaspersky, and AVG Avast don’t have an ISV white-listing program for ISVs to clear their software before publishing and Avast’s support has been painfully slow in responding to our (numerous) requests. For now we can only apologize and thank you for your patience.

30 Sep 2013: We received an email from Avast this morning “False positive detection. We are sorry. Our virus definitions has been updated.”. So, if you’re still having problems please update your virus definitions and try again. If that doesn’t work please contact Tech Support and we’ll look into it.

Playing Frisbee is like eating fish and chips

I was throwing a Frisbee with my six year old son at the weekend when he remarked:

Daddy, playing Frisbee is bit like eating fish and chips. Throwing a Frisbee is like eating a chip but catching one is like eating a bit of fish.

Which made me think. What can I compare to fish and chips?

The best I could come up with was bug fixing and adding new features:

Adding a new feature is like eating a chip but fixing a bug is like eating a bit of fish.

Hmm, it’s not quite the same is it?

Ps I bet you thought that would’ve been the other way around.

Agent Ransack 2012 (revisited)

Okay, you may have noticed a distinct lack of Agent Ranasck 2012 in, well, 2012. Unfortunately there was so much work going on with our other products that Agent Ransack work was pushed back.

However, work has started (I’ve even seen a demo) and I promise that it will be out in 2013. Honest. No excuses this time.

P.S. There’s also some really cool stuff in the pipeline for FileLocator Pro and FileLocator Network in 2013. Watch this space!