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I'm looking for a Windows search software that can search for a string of text within files. I would like the software to meet these requirements,

  • Compatible with Windows 10
  • Supports ANSI encoding (what notepad.exe uses) as well other popular encodings
  • Gratis
  • Search within subfolders
  • Relatively fast (If it takes hours to perform a search on a few small files, that's not going to work)
  • Shows what line of the file the search string was found
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I'm currently using AstroGrep and it's been working out great. It meets all my requirements and is very fast and easy to use. It is highly configurable and is constantly being updated.

AstroGrep (free)

AstroGrep is a Microsoft Windows grep utility. Grep is a UNIX command-line program which searches within files for keywords. AstroGrep supports regular expressions, versatile printing options, stores most recently used paths and has a "context" feature which is very nice for looking at source code.

AstroGrep UI

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You can use notepad++ there is a built-in search function that can search any text within a directory including subfolders. It is under the menu Search > File in File.

  • Didn't even know notepad++ had that feature, thanks – Tom Aug 1 '16 at 3:02
  • me too, and ive been using it for around 10 years. thanks for telling us. TIL – FONZ Aug 2 '16 at 16:36
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For many years, I have been very happy with the free Agent Ransack, which is free for both Commercial and Personal use.

You can get the same application, but titled File Locator Pro, if you are worried that your company's IT department might not like you using something with "Ransack" in the title :-)

It will search text, PDF and MS Office documents, including searching into archives.

It shows results a few lines around each hit, for context.

It lets you export results in CSV, HTML or MXL.

It has good command line options, for scripting.

It comes in free & pro versions, with a feature comparison here.

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