I have been beta testing the Google Desktop Search feature for a few weeks now. Since it has finally gone live I can talk about it a bit and share my particular insights and opinions of it.
First off, I have to say that I’ve been waiting for this for some time. I have the unique privledge (or obligation) to be inside the tech industry and have access to some of the folks who invent cool stuff. For a few years I’ve been asking Microsoft about the ability to search deeper into the PC based on keywords, much like internet search engines do. Come talk to us when Longhorn is ready, they’d say. Well, Google has *almost* made me stop waiting for that day. Sometimes knowing people on the inside is good, and in this case I had some time to play with the Google Desktop Search prior to it becoming public.
First off, it searches Outlook email, most Office files, some IM chats, some media files, and of course local web page histories. It has a locally run crawler that indexes these files whenever there is idle time on the PC, which is most of the time unless you are playing games. There is a nifty status page that tells you what it has indexed and when, so you know if that confidential email you just read is in the cache or not. Best of all, it responds fast and in most times ranks things by relevance, which is good.
Where things go a bit off course for me are the following areas:
- No ability to search for files by creation date or range
- No ability to search by folder name
- No searching across network drives, even if they are mapped to drive letters
- No image searching based on EXIF data (or any other data)
- No support for Trillian, Yahoo, or MSN chat text
- No option to open attachments on Outlook email messages
I’ll always find something to complain about, but this is a good start. Sure, I have to bounce back and forth between a standard Explorer file search and Desktop Search, but I find myself using Desktop Search more often now. I’m sure Google will continue to make this search better, and I’m sure I’ll keep finding more stuff for them to do. I just wonder how they will pay for it in the long run.
And to Microsoft I say the gauntlet has been thrown down. This is the bar you have to jump over and from an ease of use and performance standpoint, its a very high bar. A standard, Microsoft version 1.0 product won’t do in this case, you’re going to have to come up with something much better. I am betting this will be one of the more interesting product comparisons for the coming years, and it has the power to define who truly is in control of my desktop interface.