UKeiG (UK eInformation Group) is running a one day event on desktop search entitled “Desktop Tools – managing the flight deck”.
Date: 14th June 2006
Venue: Bloomsbury Suite, Brunei Gallery, School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Whether we like it or not, desktop search will be landing on our PCs in the very near future. It will play a central role in Microsoft’s new operating system, Vista, and will enable users to quickly locate files and search the content of documents stored on their computers. The other major players in the search market have already entered the fray with their own versions of desktop search, the serious contenders being Google, Yahoo, Ask, Copernic, Exalead, Blinkx and ISYS.
It is essential that we understand and are aware of what is happening in this area. It is no longer just about web search with an option to install and use desktop search for those of us who are geekishly inclined. The two will become inextricably entwined and we need to know who is doing what and understand the implications for both our users and ourselves.
The programme includes speakers from Copernic, Microsoft and ISYS, and I will be presenting the users point of view with a session on “Desktop search tools compared: the good, the bad and the ugly”.
The event costs £80 + VAT (total £94.00) for UKeiG members, and £100 + VAT (total £117.50) for non-members. Further information can be found on the UKeiG web site and on their blog.
An interesting story from Information World Review on the Norwegian enterprise search vendor Fast Search & Transfer, and their plans for their “Personal Search Platform” (PSP). This will not be just desktop search. The plans are to involve information providers such as Reed Elsevier so that PSP can provide users with a one-stop-shop for peer reviewed articles, web and desktop search. The article implies that PSP will not be limited to scientific and biomedical publications. Fast, it says, has strong relationships with Reuters, Lexis-Nexis, Factiva and CNET.
Exalead is the latest to join the desktop search club, with its preview launch of exalead one:desktop. This has been tested for several months by a selected group of users (I was one of them), but the non-disclosure agreement forbade us to mention that the software even existed! I can’t say that I have tested it exhaustively; I rarely need to use a desktop search program and Exalead’s does not yet index Thunderbird email or Star/Open Office documents. Support for these applications is promised for later in the year.
If your documents are mostly Microsoft, Adobe, html or Wordperfect then exalead one:desktop is worth considering for its unique advanced search options. As well as the standard phrase searching, OR and NOT commands there is a NEAR command which searches for words within 16 words of one another, a phonetic search, approximate spelling and pattern matching. You can also have word stemming switched on by default.
When you install the program, you can specify which directories and areas of your hard disk you want it to index and you can also control when it indexes. The results are displayed with preview thumbnails for some of the formats, but you can switch this off if you prefer to view the results as text only. On the left had side of the screen, there are options that enable you to narrow down your search by folder, author, date, size and document type. This will all be very familiar to users of the Exalead’s web search. For web search Exalead is the default but you can set up shortcuts to other tools.
Overall, definitely worth a try – especially for the advanced search features.
Google Desktop 2 has been launched with a new sidebar. I am not a great fan of Google Desktop – I actually use Yahoo Desktop – but decided to give this latest version a try. The good news is that indexing of secure web pages such as bank statements and of password protected documents is switched off by default. You can even encrypt the cache that Google creates on your PC. The sidebar also looked promising with news, options for RSS feeds, a scratchpad, share price monitor, weather, and a panel where you can have a sort of slide show of your favourite photos.
Now for the bad news. My enthusiasm quickly waned as I discovered that the share prices and weather are US only, and that the news is from Google.com. I would have preferred news.google.co.uk but there seems to be no way to change this. You can ‘train’ it by telling it not to show any more articles “like this”, and if you have the advanced features switched on it is supposed to be able to work out the type of content you prefer to read. After three days, I gave up and removed that panel, as well as the Web Clips/RSS one; I find it much easier to use a proper RSS reader. I also found the Quick View of recently viewed files and doucments irritating.
It did, though, list new emails that appeared in my Thunderbird inbox but I wanted it to alert me to just new Gmail messages. The only way to do that is to create filters to stop the Thunderbird mail being listed. Far too time consuming and tedious to do, so that panel went as well. Which just left me with the scratchpad (actually, quite useful) and my photo slide show. I then occupied the empty spaces with an Adsense plug-in to display how much my web pages are earning and a to-do list. There is a list of plug-ins at http://desktop.google.com/plugins/.
As far as searching my hard drive, it still lags way behind Yahoo Desktop in terms of accuracy, number of documents found, and indexing procedure. Google Desktop works continually in the background. I found it to be a serious resource hog, even when I forced it to pause indexing, and it significantly slowed down the performance of my computer.
I have now uninstalled it 🙁 A pity, because I rather like the sidebar. It has real potential, and I am sure that there will be plenty more useful panel plug-ins along soon.
Final version of MSN Desktop Search launched
Microsoft have launched the final version of their Desktop Search. Although it now supports over 200 file types the email search is still limited to Outlook and Outlook Express, and there is no direct support Open Office or Star Office documents. They claim, though, that they will allow developers to create plug-ins for the toolbar that will search other file types.
UW E-Business Institute Benchmark Study of Desktop Search Tools
A useful 15 page PDF report comparing the performance of the major desktop search tools.
“… In an effort to help understand the differences between the latest desktop search tools on the market, the UW E-Business Consortium recently conducted a benchmark study of 12 popular desktop search tools. The benchmark criteria that were used for the evaluation included usability, versatility, accuracy, efficiency, security, and enterprise readiness.”
Apart from switching the top two positions, I agree with their final ranking. They have Copernic in the number 1 slot and Yahoo at number 2. I prefer Yahoo because of the wide range of file formats it supports but would agree that Copernic’s dynamic indexing, which means that it detects new and updated files on the fly, is a big plus.
Google Desktop Search
Google Desktop Search is out of beta and has been officially launched. It is much improved and now searches PDF files. Support for Netscape, Firefox, Mozilla and Thunderbird has also been added. For Open Office and Star Office users there is a plugin at http://desktop.google.com/plugins.html
As well as switching off cacheing and indexing of secure web pages, such as your online bank statement, you can also switch off indexing of password protected pages. All documents still remain in the cache after you have deleted the original unless you follow the remove instructions at http://desktop.google.com/features.html#remove
It is a rather tedious process and isn’t straightforward. There is a danger that you could miss files, especially individual emails.
Personally, I’ll stick with Yahoo Desktop for the time being.
Copernic Desktop Search – The Search Engine for Your PC
Copernic have launched version 1.5 of their Desktop Search tool. Significant additions include support for Thunderbird and Eudora email and attachments, and search in Thunderbird contacts. CDS already supports the Firefox browser. For me, all it needs now is support for Open Office and Star Office files and it will be a worthy competitor for Yahoo Desktop.