Google Moves Desktop Search Out of Beta

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2005-03-07

Google Moves Desktop Search Out of Beta

Google Inc. is taking its desktop search application out of beta on Monday with a release that supports more file formats and opens access to third-party developers.

Google Desktop Search 1.0 moves beyond the beta versions Microsoft focus by introducing support for applications from the Mozilla Foundation and America Online Inc.s Netscape Communications.

While the beta only indexed Microsoft Outlook e-mail and Internet Explorer Web browsing history, the latest release also can search e-mail from the Mozilla Thunderbird and Netscape clients and browsing history from the Firefox and Netscape browsers, Google announced.

To make more desktop data searchable, the latest release adds indexing support for the full text of PDFs to existing support for Microsoft Office formats. It also indexes the metadata of video, images and audio, such as titles or artist information.

"With regard to users, we have tens of thousands of applications and file types they want to search," said Nikhil Bhatla, a Google product manager. "Weve addressed the top requests and most popular applications, and the best way to address [this] is by making desktop search available for developers to write plug-ins."

Google Desktop Search went into beta in October. Since then, major search rivals Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp.s MSN and Ask Jeeves Inc. have entered the desktop search race. Startups such as Blinkx Inc. and vendors like Copernic Technologies Inc., X1 Technologies Inc. and ISYS Search Software also are vying for desktop searchers.

Unlike its competitors, Google merges desktop and Web search results together, using its well-known Web-browser interface to display results. It also indexes browser history and AOL Instant Messenger chat sessions along with files and e-mails.

Next Page: Google merges desktop, Web search results.

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Along with launching Google Desktop Search, the company is making about 10 plug-ins available on Monday. They include one Google developed for indexing instant-messaging sessions from the Trillian IM client and another from ScanSoft Inc. to make the full text of scanned documents such as faxes searchable using OCR (optical character recognition) technology, Bhatla said.

Bhatla said he expects hundreds of more plug-ins to be available in the next few weeks as developers experiment with desktop search.

To let developers create plug-ins, Google is making a COM interface available for connecting into the Windows-based application, Bhatla said. Developers, which could include enterprises, individuals and vendors, will be able submit their plug-ins for posting on the Google Desktop Search plug-in Web site.

Google also has addressed some of the security concerns around its beta desktop search application.

That version would index the contents of password-protected Microsoft Office documents and make the contents available to users without the password. In Version 1.0, according to Google, password-protected documents are not indexed.

Click here to read more about desktop search and corporate security.

Bhatla noted that Google Desktop Search acts as a backup system in addition to an indexing system, since it makes copies of the data it indexes. For instance, if users cannot open their mail client they can still access stored messages through the application.

Google Desktop Search is available as a free download and runs on Windows XP or Windows 2000 Service Pack 3.

Larry Seltzer, Security Topic Center Editor, contributed to this report.

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