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Using Windows 7 standard Open file dialog (e.g. IE9>Ctrl+O>Browse... or Excel>Ctrl+O or Firefox>Ctrl+O), it is possible to search for files within the current directory - using the File Name box and pressing ENTER, e.g.:


Is this feature documented?

I cannot find any documentation for the wildcard syntax or any official (or unofficial) tutorial or tips&hints page to give a link to users.

I tried googling and the like, but I only got:
- programming tips for OpenFileDialog (does not count as a user-friendly tutorial)
- windows search feature (different syntax than in open file dialog)
- tech support when this feature does not work
- forums with broken links

share|improve this question
It's just using wildcard characters to search for files in an Open file dialog, which, if you think about it, is a file search. – martineau Mar 13 '13 at 13:11
@martineau thanks for the Win XP link. I still would like to see it documented somewhere that you SHOULD be able to use wildcard characters in the File Name box. What Windows (other OS?) versions support it? How can I be sure this is not something special on my computer with all the 3rd party apps? – Aprillion Mar 13 '13 at 15:03

The use of ? and * as wildcards for matching file names is not new to Windows by any means. The wildcard matching algorithm used in Windows is based on that of MS-DOS, which of course inherited it from CP/M.

See for example Raymond Chen's article titled How did wildcards work in MS-DOS? for details.

share|improve this answer
thanks for the history lesson :) so you say this is just an undocumented left-over and is in all Windows versions known today? – Aprillion Mar 14 '13 at 15:50
Not sure if it's specifically documented anywhere that you can use those two wildcards in the standard File Open dialog. Might find something if you look hard enough, or perhaps it's just taken as a given because that's how file naming and wildcard matching rules have always worked, in all versions of Windows and back to their roots in MS-DOS and CP/M. – Karan Mar 15 '13 at 0:47

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