Spreading the Search Net

By Steven Vaughan-Nichols  |  Posted 2005-03-08 Print this article Print

If you want to spread the programs search net even farther than your local PC, youll need to do some registry editing. As it is, Google Desktop will search only your local drives and files on network drives that you create while Desktop is running. Wherever your information is, make no mistake about it, Google Desktop will get it for you in a hurry.
Im running it on my main Windows desktop system, a Gateway 503GR tower with a 3GHz Pentium IV, 1GB of RAM and a 160GB Serial ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment). I had most of my files drive indexed in the same time it took me to write this story. Yes, thats a fast machine, but there was also more than 40GB of files, and I was also using the PC for multiple other tasks at the same time.
By including Thunderbird e-mail and Firefox Web pages, my e-mail and browser clients of choice, Google Desktop has made my life a lot easier. In particular, while I like Thunderbird, its sorting and search mechanisms are … well … to be kind, both are sorely in need of improvement. Even if Thunderbirds search were better though, it would have a way to go to match Google Desktops abilities. For instance, with e-mail, you can search on the Subject, To, From, cc and bcc fields. So, say I wanted to search for all messages from my boss with the subject of promotion. I just enter: From:My_Boss@ziffdavis.com Subject:Promotion And Im done. As someone who gets hundreds of real—not spam—e-mail messages a day, this isnt just handy, its a lifesaver. As you would expect in a Google product, Google Desktop also includes a full range of search features. You can search by exact phrase. So a search on "Chicago Cubs," for instance, would only find references to the baseball team rather than articles about bear cubs at a zoo in Chicago. You can also use the "not" operator. For instance, the search "Major League Baseball" –Yankees would only turn up files with the phrase "major league baseball" with no mention of the Yankees. In addition, theres a useful filetype operator. With it, you can make sure that you only search for a particular kind of file. So Filetype:doc Linux would turn up Word documents with the word "Linux" rather than e-mail messages or StarOffice documents. Speaking of StarOffice, by opening up its API, its now possible to get Desktop to search for formerly not supported file types. Google does this by using plug-ins that expand Desktops search abilities. These are available at its Plug-in page. Im currently using three of these new plug-ins: Larrys Any Text File Indexer, Larrys Help File Indexer and, the most important from where I sit, Larrys OpenOffice.org and StarOffice Indexer. They work well, and theyre completely transparent to me as a user. In addition, Google has already made a few other plug-ins available for programs like the mIRC and Trillian Pro IM (instant messaging) clients. I have no doubt that many more such clients will be coming quickly. Myself, Id be pleased if someone would come up with plug-ins for the ancient WordStar word processor, the Pegasus Mail e-mail client and the GAIM IM client. While its not to everyones taste, I also like Googles integrated interface. With one search, I have access not only to what I have on my PC, but also to whats on the Web. No fuss, no muss, no need to learn another program. Desktop search has, of course, become a very hot field. Yahoo, Microsofts MSN and Ask Jeeves have all entered it. In addition, old hands at the local search game like Copernic Technologies Inc. are launching new programs. For more on the rush to join the desktop search game, click here. As competition heats up in this race, you can expect to see improvements in all these programs and Google Desktop. For now, though, Google Desktop is the class of the field. eWEEK.com Senior Editor Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has been using and writing about operating systems since the late 80s and thinks he may just have learned something about them along the way.

Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on enterprise search technology.

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.

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