Search any file with Total Commander

How-To

When it comes to manage files and directories, a very basic and common operation is the search for files or specific directories. This type of operations are very simple, but rarely are used the right way, so file searched is not found, or it takes more time than necessary to find what we are looking for.

In this tutorial we are going to address one of the most powerful functions of Total Commander: the search for files and directories.


Let's start by clarifying a few concepts that are basic to continue with this tutorial:

  • Full filenames: The full name of a file is determined by the name and its extension. For example: readme.txt is a full filename that is composed by readme (name) and txt (extension). The name of the file and the extension are separated by a dot (.),

  • File Name: The name of the file is the one that is responsible to describe briefly what is it about the file. For example: “Computer-study.doc” indicates that the file is related to Computers.

  • File Extension: The extension of the file is usually 3 characters long e.g.: txt, exe, bat, msi, doc, odt. Although it may be of more characters (.jpeg) or less (.gz), or even there can be files with no extension.
    The extension indicates the type of the file. There are a multitude types of files:

    • .avi: video files

    • .exe: executable files

    • .mp3audio files

    • .zip: compressed files


    On Windows Explorer the file extension tend to not be showed. Instead of the extension, an icon is displayed for identification. For example, in the following picture we can see how the Windows File Explorer displays .mp3 file without the extension and with an icon of a musical note.

  • Directories and subdirectories: A directory is a container where you can store one or more files/directories. A subdirectory is a directory within another directory.


To open the search dialog on Total Commander, we must go to “Command->Find”, or press Alt+F7. This will open a window like that.

We will start by introducing a simple search. Our goal is to find the file “hosts”, which we will edit and modify. We do not remember the exact path where is located the file, so that we are going to start the search process.

In the “General” tab we fill in the “Search for” field, this field indicates the name of the file we want to locate. In our case we will introduce hosts.
Search in” is the path where we want to locate the file. In our case we are going to look at all over the C drive, so that we introduce “C:\”.
Now we click on the “Start search” button. The program will begin to search. At the bottom are displayed the results. We can see that there have been found several results. Now we need to select the file from the list that we are interested in and click on the button “View”, in this way we will see the content of the file. We can also go to the directory where the file is located by clicking on the button “Go to file”.


We will perform a more exact search. To do this we will make use of two characters that will act as wildcards in the search. These characters are:

  • Question mark character ?: When we introduce this character in the search, it means that in the position of the character ? there can be any another character. For example, if we want to search for a document can't remember if we keep it with tilde or without it, we can use the character ? to perform the following search: se?or.doc. This search will find both the file “senor.doc”, and the file “señor.doc”.

  • Asterisk character *: This character it is the most widely used to perform advanced searches. The * indicates that in its place there can be any number of characters. That is to say, if we search for “Se*”, the results of the search can be: Señor.doc, Senor.doc, September.pdf, Seldom.jpg, etc.
    Another interesting search that we can accomplish using the *, is the one that search for an specific file extension. For example we can search all the mp3 files in a folder by entering the following text in the search box: *.mp3. This will return a list with all the files whose extension is mp3.

Total Commander ability to search does not reside only in the use of wildcards, it also offers the possibility to search on different locations in a simple way. For example, imagine that we want to perform a search in 3 different locations. We only need to enter these 3 locations in the “Search in” field and separate them with ;. Example: c:\; c;\Windows; d:\ This will look for the file in the 3 locations indicated. In this way, it will be very easy to limit the locations where we want to search the file.

It is usual to perform the search in all subdirectories of the search path, however, if we want to limit the depth of subdirectories we can do this by using the “Search subdirectories” drop-down and select the level of depth. We can choose to search only on the current directory and ignore subdirectories, or look into the current directory and subdirectories of the first level, or the second level subdirectories, etc


Another option that will increase the depth of our search is the “Search Archives (ZIP, ARJ, LZH, TAR, GZ, CAB)”. When we select this optionthe search also will be performed inside compressed files. That is to say, if the file we are looking for is in a compressed file, by checking this option we will find it. This option makes the search process to be slower, because the program has to unzip all the compressed files. Even so, it is worth checking this option to perform a deep search.


To end with this tutorial, we will make use of the advanced search options. To do this we click on the tab “Advanced” and we can search by:

  • Dates: we can choose a date range, in such a way that only shows the files that were modified for the last time in a date between the range chosen.
    We can also select to search only for the files modified in the last X minutes/hours/days/months/years.

  • Size: this option allows to refine search to find those files that have that occupy certain size. We can choose Bytes, Kilobytes, Megabytes, and Gigabytes. We can search for files that occupy more than X size, less than X size or the exact size we select. This is very useful if we want to search files that are very large and that maybe we can erase to free up space on the hard disk.

  • Attributes: Here we can select which attributes should have the files that we are looking for. For example, we can search only for files that are hidden, or read-only.


Thanks to all the combinations and options that we can choose on Total Commander to perform searches, we can quickly find a PDF format document that we created last week, or we will be able to find all the .mkv files on C:\ drive to be able to organize and classify it.


In this tutorial, we have covered the Total Commander basic search functions. In next tutorials we will address other more advanced features that allow us to make more complex searches and more accurate. Even so, with all the concepts explained in this tutorial, we will be able to cover 90% of our needs when searching for files and directories.

by Rubén Hernández

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