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Thursday, October 14, 2004

Google's latest toy - Google Desktop

A couple of days ago, Google introduced the Google Desktop application, which is basically a Search utility for your entire desktop. You can download the software from Google and installation is pretty much straight forward. Some of the salient points are as follows:

  1. After the installation of the software, there is an initial period where the indices are created by the Google Desktop application (running on your system tray). Of course, this will only run when your system is idle and so, it does not harm you in anyway. In short, it will take a few hours after your installation for you to be able to search through your Desktop completely. (it also depends upon the amount of data you have). In my case, it started sometime in early afternoon and ended in the late evening. The total idle time must have been around 4 hours.

  2. Clicking on the Google Desktop icon on the system tray will bring up a Browser window from which you can search for any text in your desktop. The results are organized into the following categories : Emails, Files, Chat and Web History (and there is another category called All, which puts all together).

  3. Currently the Google Desktop application searches through the following types of files: Outlook, Outlook Express, AOL Instant Messenger, IE, Text, MS-Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. I am not exactly sure how this would work if you had any other application as your Email client.

  4. I found the Email search really very useful - I have stopped using the Search utility that comes with Outlook and Outlook Express. When you click on the link in the Search Results, you can not only read the email, but also reply to the email.

  5. I already found a practical application for it yesterday. I was looking for the address of a friend of mine. I know I did not have the address in my Outlook Express address book, but I definitely knew that it was present somewhere in my machine - either in a file or within some email. I simply launched the Google Desktop application and searched on my friend's name and lo! - I found the email that I was looking for. In short, it works :) !

Of course, people are bound to find issues with it. This is a beta version and it will take some time for it to be production quality. There are quite some areas where they can improve. Some of them which I noted, are:

  1. Support on multiple platforms [currently, it's only supported on Windows XP and Windows 2000 SP3]
  2. Ability to search through other file formats such as PSD, GIF, JPEG, WAV etc.
  3. The Email interface is neat but can still be ramped up - for instance, it doesn't provide a way to forward the email, when you click on the Email link in the Search Results.

This development is definitely going to have some impact on some companies, most notably Microsoft. The Software giant was working hard on a similar kind of search for it's new Longhorn (Longgone ? ;-)) OS, which has already been heavily affected by Project delays. This release by Google has just heated up the Search Engine battle - the coming months are really going to be interesting. Let's just wait and watch - to be honest, we only stand to gain from all this :).

Signing off !