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Sunday, October 17, 2004

Google Desktop Search versus Microsoft Windows Search

Google Desktop Search versus Microsoft Windows Search
or "Honey! Have you Seen My Keys, Glasses, Tivo Remote?"

by Mike Banks Valentine © October 17, 2004

Google Desktop Search Software can't find your lost keys or
tell you where you left the Tivo remote control, or that your
glasses are on top of your head, where you left them. But the
beta software from Google Labs is nothing short of mandatory
for those with more emails, Word documents, Powerpoint, Excel
and PDF files than they know what to do with. That's me.

New fixtures in our lives can become near necessities pretty
quickly. You know, like the Tivo remote when you want to skip
repetitive loud jingles in commercials. I've even begun to
start reaching for that Tivo remote out of habit when I've
missed an important news item on the car radio! Wait, Back up!

I'll grin as I catch myself doing this, while wondering why
that Tivo functionality isn't built into our new car radio.
My wife has told me she does the same thing. Now I believe
I've been just as spoiled & smitten by Google Desktop Search!

Once you install the software at
and try it a few times, you'll be hooked. In fact, if you're
like me, you'll wonder how you got along without it! My wife
is less impressed, but she also said to me, "I KNOW where
stuff is on my computer!" That's because she only has emails
and occasional Word documents and photos on her machine and
knows where each of them are stored.

Those of us who use the computer all day long, every working
day, have multiple folders, long lists of emails, downloaded
files, emailed receipts from online purchases, ebooks, PDF's,
spreadsheets, client information and files, PowerPoint files,
and web pages we've visited while doing work all day long.

Have you tried using the Windows built-in search lately? The
search function is accessed by clicking the "Start" button,
where you see the option "Search" and then options including
"For Files or Folders", then "On The Internet", then "Using
Microsoft Outlook" and "For People". Clearly, you must know
where your lost item MIGHT be & decide to search only there.

Your choices expand and you choose where to look from among
MORE places your lost item MIGHT be found so Windows knows
where to look. Choose from among "Look for Files or Folders
Named" and then "Containing Text", the infuriating "Look In"
choices "My Documents" and "Desktop" and "My Computer" and
"Local Hard Drives (C)", and inexplicably - "Browse"! Might
as well do that first by opening every folder and browsing!

My experience has been that I don't remember where it is, and
THAT is why I need to search for it! And most often, Windows
search function fails to find what I've misplaced - BECAUSE I
LOOK FOR IT! That is certainly NOT a useful search tool.

Google has completely resolved this problem and eliminated my
frustration with Google Desktop Search Software. It's a 400k
application that takes less than a minute to download on a
dial-up modem! This powerful tool is tiny, fast and nothing
short of amazing in it's functionality.

The first thing you see after installation is completed is a
note in your browser window that says "Indexing has Begun" or
something similar. I tried to use Google Desktop Search to
find the cached page of that window, but it didn't turn up.
I went to their "Help" pages and found that it's because I am
using FireFox Browser and "Web pages which you view in Firefox
aren't added to your Desktop Search index". They apologize and
promise future Mozilla Firefox support.

But Desktop Search does show you cached copies of every web
page you've visited in Explorer and search result pages show
the Title of each page, along with a thumbnail sized image of
those pages to the right of those results!

But that is only the beginning. I did a search for a phrase
from an email to a new client as my first search in Google
Desktop Search. A search for three words brought up several of
the emails we had exchanged, a (Word) contract with my client,
cached web page with thumbnail image and yes, the email I was
looking for was among the results. Very impressive and FAST!

The results page has links across the top including "All - 3
emails - 2 files - 1 chats - 6 web history" with the number of
items that match each type of result in Google Desktop Search.
If you click one of these links it shows results only in that
file type or email results or web pages. All results display
as "Cached" in browser windows, including Word documents, so
that each software needn't open for that document! I love it!

If you click the "emails" link from those in the top of the
Desktop Search links, it lists only the emails that turned up
with the search words in them, then click on any one of those
results and it shows the email in the browser window. At the
bottom of that page it shows "< Older | Newer >" links to see
them by date, then "View Entire Thread (2)" and "Reply",
"Reply to All", "Forward", "Compose", "View In Outlook" links,
which to me, makes Microsoft look awful! (Again, sigh)

Why? That functionality is not even an option in Outlook or
Explorer - even with the so-called integration that has courts
trying to separate Windows software bits out of the operating
system, and Microsoft claiming that would harm Windows! Google
provides a powerful little bit of code that does all this as
a stand alone tool which outperforms Windows search tools in
speed and functionality in a 400k application! FOR FREE!

Google Desktop Search even performs searches in the background
when you search the web with Google online and inserts their
odd little Desktop Search logo beside the first result on the
search results page - which is a result from your computer!
The first time I saw this, I was unaware of how it was done
and found it quite disturbing that my private hard drive was
indexed by Google for all to see!

I looked closely at the result and clicked the "About" link
beside my personal email description in the Google Web Results
page. It took me to a Google page that set my mind at ease by
telling me that "These combined results can be seen only from
your own computer; your computer's content is never sent to
Google (or anyone else)." Whew!

On top of all this magical stuff, Google online search pages
now have another link on the page labled "Desktop" right next
to the Froogle link because it is inserted by the browser if
you have Google Desktop Search software installed on your own
machine! (This browser integration does work in Firefox.)

There's a cute little item at the bottom of the Desktop Search
that tells you "Searching 5,834 items" which references their
"Searching 4,285,199,774 web pages" online, and seems downright
charming by comparison. If Google can search billions of pages
online, then surely my few thousand files are nothing for them
on my comparatively tiny machine, eh?

This all adds up to an incredibly fascinating bit of software
that I simply cannot live without, now that I've seen it work.

I can't wait until Google turns their attention to helping me
to find my lost keys! Results page shows "Black jeans, laundry
basket - Cached 3pm Sunday - 6 keys"
Mike Banks Valentine practices Search Engine Optimism at: and operates WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorials at:


Blogger GaryHarvey said...

I was worried about the confidentiality of my files... until I read your 5th last paragraph, assuring us that they wont turn up on somebody else's search engine results page tomorrow.

Thanks for a handy report.

6:41 AM  
Blogger RobW said...

Tried to install but says needs 1Gb disk space on drive c: and reports there is not enough space. For a 400k app seems excessive!

Doesn't allow installation on any other drive; gives no options to change.

Hope this is addressed in final version.


4:41 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Just a quick note: Google desktop search doesn't work with windows 98. Only 2000 & XP.

7:40 AM  
Blogger Boston Zydeco said...

This application requires minimum one gig on the C: drive. I happen to have all my available space on an extra D: drive (20+ gigs) but to no avail. Google Desktop Search will not load, even though I downloaded the application on the D: drive.
No flexibility here - pity.

8:08 AM  

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