Google has formally launched its desktop search application, after a comparatively short beta test period of just five months.
Version 1.0 of the desktop search application adds a number of new formats to the list of file types searched and addresses many of the privacy and security concerns raised after the release of the initial beta version last October.
The program now indexes the full text of PDF files stored on your computer, as well as the meta-information stored with music, image and video files. Google Desktop is now also compatible with the Firefox and Netscape browsers as well as Internet Explorer, and is available in English, Chinese and Korean language interfaces.
Email support has also been beefed up. In addition to searching Outlook email, Google Desktop now also searches the contents of Thunderbird and Netscape email folders. Adopting a feature from Gmail, all email messages in the same thread are grouped together as a "conversation" in a single search result.
There are now a number of ways to initiate a search. As with the beta release, you can click the desktop search icon in the tray to call up a web browser that displays the familiar Google home page with an additional desktop search link. You can also now search directly from your desktop without opening a web browser, or switch between a search box attached to your Windows taskbar (Deskbar) and one that you can place anywhere on your screen (Floating Deskbar). If you opt for the Floating Deskbar, it remains visible on top of all other windows on your display.
Google is one of the few desktop search applications that automatically indexes all web pages you've viewed and stores them in a cache on your hard drive. I personally love this feature; it's both a terrific "personal web" stash as well as one of the easiest ways to view pages offline when no net connection is available. But this feature raised security concerns in the initial release.
Google has responded by allowing you to block secure HTTPS web pages from indexing. The program now also automatically excludes all password-protected documents from Microsoft Word and Excel.
Many of Google's advanced search operators are supported, allowing you to limit results to specific file types, include or exclude terms from results, and so on. Google has also added new operators to limit results for email, including the operators to:, from:, subject:, cc: and bcc:.
For the technically inclined, Google has created application programming interfaces (APIs) for desktop search. Plug-ins developed with these APIs are available for download, and extend the search capabilities to content types such chat clients, non-Microsoft Office file formats, the full-text of scanned images such as faxes and so on. More information about the Desktop Search APIs is available on Google's web site.
Google Desktop Search is available at http://desktop.google.com. It is currently available for Windows XP and Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and above. The program requires 500MB of disk space, a minimum of 128MB of RAM, and a 400MHz (or faster) Pentium processor is recommended.
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