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How to search in all fields of Windows 7 Contacts (Windows Address Book replacement)

I’ve been using the Windows Address Book (WAB) for years, since Windows 95. As anything that has been used for years, it has a lot of information about people I really care. Not only I keep the basic stuff, like names, e-mails and addresses, but also birthdays, the place I first met people, etc. All that extra information is saved into the “Notes” field of the WAB.

After migrating to Windows 7, I realized that there’s no WAB! After recovering from the first shock, I thought there should be a replacement for such a simple, basic functionality. After googling a little, Windows Contacts looked like the replacement for WAB, but it was so simple that I just could search for names. No search capabilities for addresses, phones or notes. That’s not enough.

Here I’ll show you how to improve searches on Windows Contacts information.

Windows Contacts

Windows Contacts is nothing but a folder with text files containing contact information shown in a fancy way. You can see every contact as a single file and open every file to see your contacts information, but you can only search on the first and last name. This is too simple and is far from the functionality I had with WAB.

The Windows Contacts folder is in:


I suggest you to create a shortcut to this folder and place it in your Desktop.

To import WAB information into Windows Contacts, just double-click on the “.wab” file and Windows 7 will offer to import the information.

First alternative for basic search: Windows Live Mail

Windows Live Mail is (kind of) a replacement for good ‘n’ old Outlook Express. It’s not shipped with Windows 7. You may download the installer from the Windows Live Mail home page.

When Windows Live Mail opens, you’ll see a menu on the bottom left with several tools, including “Contacts”. Click on the Contacts menu item. On the Windows Live Contacts, you’ll find a search box that helps you find contacts by name, phone number and e-mail address. Nice, but no capabilities to search for information on other informations fields, like “Notes”.

Search for any contact information: configure Windows 7 advanced search options

Follow these simple steps:

  1. Click the Start button and in the search box at the very bottom type “how windows searches” and choose the result
  2. Click on “Advanced”
  3. Click on the “File Types” tab
  4. Look for the “contact” extension and highlight it by clicking on the row
  5. Change the indexing property to “Index Properties and File Contents”. The value of  “Filter Description” column for the “contacts” extension will change to “Plain text Filter”.
  6. Click OK. Windows will rebuild some indexes.

When the index rebuild process finishes, open the Contacts folder. In the search box, write the text you are looking for between quotation marks and Windows will look on every text inside the contacts file.

As an example, I have my contacts birthday as part of the “Notes” field, always with the same format (mm/dd). Then, if I want to look for someone whose birthday is on April 25, I’ll wirte the following text in the Contacts search box:


If you don’t use quotation marks, some characters, like slashes, may not be correctly interpreted.

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