Supersonic Search Engines

Whether your information haystack is on the Web, in e-mail, or on your desktop, one or more of these 5 search tools can extract the needle you seek with lightening speed.

During mid-tide, the volume of water thundering through Nova Scotias Minas Channel in the Bay of Fundy exceeds the flow from every river and stream on Earth. The scene, looking out over that rugged coast, uncomfortably approximates the information tidal wave threatening to drown us all. The torrent of facts, figures, opinions—and garbage—makes search tools ever more vital. Weve looked at a number in the recent past, and here weve lashed those reviews together to give you a life raft.

Ease of use, thoroughness, accuracy, and speed are critical in a utility designed to separate what is often a tiny amount of wheat from vast piles of chaff. The tool you choose also depends on where youre looking—on the Web or more locally, such as on your own system or a LAN—and how you can approach your search. In some cases you know specific terms that will produce relevant answers; in other cases, you have only concepts.

At this point, no single product addresses all these needs, so we look at five Windows solutions that, taken in one combination or another, should serve you well—blinkx; Clarity, which at the time of our review was Creo Six Degrees; Google Desktop beta; MSN Search beta; and X1 Search.

When you need to slog through piles of data stored locally or strewn across the Web, but your taxonomic skills fall short of a research librarians, blinkx thinks for you. Open a local document, a Web page, or an e-mail, and youll see a toolbar with six dim icons representing categories like blogs, news, and local files. As blinkx finds content, the appropriate icon blinks (get it?) on. Traditionalists can still use keywords.

Click to read the full review at PC Mag: Supersonic Search Engines