Platform and Browser Restrictions

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-10-18 Print this article Print

Google has taken an unsurprising amount of flack over its limited platform support for Google Desktop Search. GDS help files and FAQs have many apologies for their limited support for applications and platforms. They promise they are considering support for others: an emphatic "maybe."

GDS only works on Windows XP and Windows 2000 with Service Pack 3 or higher. This is partly because it works as a Windows service and partly because Google only wants to use recent, supported versions of the OS. It only searches Web caches of Internet Explorer from IE5 or greater (although no recent copy of Windows 2000 or Windows XP would use anything less than IE6). It only searches e-mails from Outlook 2000, 2002 and 2003; or Outlook Express 5 or greater. It searches files in several standard formats such as TXT and HTML, but also Microsoft Office formats such as .DOC, .XLS and .PPT for Office 2000 or greater. It also says it searches chats from AOL 7+ and AOL Instant Messenger 5+, but I didnt test this, and the utility of it escapes me at first glance.

So, you may notice the absence of Mozilla cache support, OpenOffice formats and other things such as Linux support. I hope were all adult enough to recognize the fact that if one is prioritizing formats to support, IE and MS Office obviously are more important than Mozilla and OpenOffice. Dont count on expansion to the more obscure formats or other operating systems anytime soon.

Google already supports many of the same Microsoft formats on Web searches (see my column on privacy implications of this feature). Its an interesting mix of file formats that it supports using the filetype operator, and one would think the software might be the basis for file support in GDS, but not necessarily. Software on operates under resource constraints very different from those of a service running on the average desktop. It may be that supporting all of these formats isnt worth the cost in terms of memory. And none of the open-source formats are up there. But Google does say, "We intend to add new file, e-mail and chat formats and browsers as Google Desktop Search evolves, and when new formats are created and used." You can suggest new ones, too.

Next page: Conclusions on criticisms.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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