November 15, 2005

Using Desktop Search to find information quickly

Desktop search applications are the latest of the ‘free’ utility software to be released by .com businesses ready to help you manage and find things on your local computer. Desktop search applications are run locally on your computer and they index all the information you have saved and then let you find it quickly, accurately and easily. Mac OS X Tiger has desktop search built-in, called spotlight and it is very effective. When the next release of Windows is available (some time in the next 12-24 months) it will also have desktop search built-in – however, until then you have three other options.

The first desktop search application to market was from Google – and this application, called Google Desktop Search gives you easy access to information on your computer and from the web. It provides full text search over your email, computer files, music, photos, chats and web pages that you've viewed. Google says that using their search application makes finding information on your computer as easy as finding information on the internet.

Microsoft have also released their own version of desktop search – called Windows Desktop Search, however their version is integrated with the MSN toolbar so you get other (in my view, annoying and time wasting) features. A simple keyword search lets you find anything on your computer (depending on the search plug-ins you have installed).

Lastly, just recently Yahoo! have also entered the fray with their own version of desktop search, called (surprisingly) Yahoo! Desktop Search. Again, Yahoo claims that its desktop search software lets you find specific types of files as quickly as you type the search request. Additionally, Yahoo! Desktop Search lets you search instant messages (as long as you are using Yahoo! Messenger). Like Microsoft, Yahoo! search can be enhanced by adding additional file plug-ins.

In my testing all three programs performed adequately, however I preferred Google’s product as it is the easiest to use and produces the most accurate search results. Also, like most web users I am accustomed to the Google interface, plus in my testing their software was reliable and easy to install, while the other two caused me some grief. Once installation hick-ups have been resolved all three search applications make it much easier to find information on your computer, and more specifically make the built-in Windows search look like the outdated, badly designed search utility that it has been since it was launched almost 10 years ago.