Review: The just-released Google Desktop has improved security features, is a lot more open-source program friendly and boasts time-saving search features.
Let me open my kicking the tires of Googles new desktop application by saying that I love desktop search programs like a fat man loves doughnuts.
Although, Im one of those people who file documents and correspondences religiously in directory structures like C:\corr\eweek\2004\manuscripts, I still cant find what I need when I need it, as quickly as Id like. Enter Google Inc.s Google Desktop Search 1.0.
Googles free desktop search application only came out of beta on Monday with a new release that boasts better security, support for popular open-source programs and an open SDK (software development kit) that enables programmers to add non-supported file types to the programs search range.
For me, though, theyve already taken care of the most important programs by adding support for Adobe Acrobat PDFs; e-mail from Mozilla, Mozilla Thunderbird and Netscape; and recently viewed Web pages from the Firefox, Mozilla and Netscape browsers.
The program already had support for Microsoft Office 2000 and higher applications like Excel, Word and Outlook and for AIM, the AOL Instant Messenger client. Google Desktop also now indexes video, images and audio metadata, such as title and artist.
Unfortunately, it still runs only on Windows. To be precise, you need XP or Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and above. You cant run it on Linux or Mac OS systems. Google maynote, I say mayeventually port it to those platforms.
Installing it is a snap if you have administrator privileges. Without them, youll be unable to install, or for that matter, use the program successfully. Only users who also have administrator privileges can use Google Desktop, so on a typical business PC with multiple users, only managers can access Desktop.
The program will take up a minimum of 500MB of available disk space and requires a minimum of 128MB of RAM and a 400MHz Pentium processor. The free download itself is only a mere 700KB, so even modem users will have no trouble getting a copy.
That 500MB is a misleading number though. When Google Desktop indexes your files it also creates a cache with copies of your original files. Thus, if, like me, you have hundreds of megabytes of files, you can multiply your total data file storage by two to get an idea how much space Desktop will end up taking over.
In todays world, where 80GB drives are commonplace, that may not matter much. But if you have an older machine with a smaller drive, Google Desktop might end up giving you an unexpected surprise.
And, indeed, if you think about it, that cache might already pose an unexpected and unpleasant security surprise. Google Desktop not only makes it childs play for anyone who sits at your PC to read your e-mail, but it also makes it possible for a snoop at your desk to read your e-mail or what-have-you after youve deleted it.
Is desktop search the ultimate security hole? Read more here.
By default, Desktop doesnt delete anything ever. When you click the link to the "live" version a file that has been deleted, youll get an error message. But you can still get to a copy of it, by clicking on its "cached" link.
Next Page: A tough deletion.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is editor at large for Ziff Davis Enterprise. Prior to becoming a technology journalist, Vaughan-Nichols worked at NASA and the Department of Defense on numerous major technological projects. Since then, he's focused on covering the technology and business issues that make a real difference to the people in the industry.