Google has released Google Desktop 3.0 beta, which includes several new features. Three of the new features Google considers "major" enhancements, but several other new features requested by users bolster the utility of the program.
The first new feature allows you to drag panels out of the sidebar and place them anywhere you want on the desktop. You can also now bring panels to the foreground or push them to the background with a single click.
Google has also added sharing features, allowing you to send content from your sidebar to others. You can do this via chat or email, or through a new feature that actually allows you to send your sidebar content directly to the sidebar of other users, by dragging the content into your Google Talk buddy list.
Finally—and to me this is the coolest feature—you can use the Google Desktop to search across multiple computers. This means that you can use your laptop to search for content on your desktop or any other computer that you choose. This is an advanced feature that you must enable to use, but setting it up is a straightforward process.
When you search, the Desktop uses Google servers to create a conduit between the computers, but then delete any information retrieved from Google servers. Results are text-only, somewhat of a limitation, and you can't transfer files in a native format between computers using this service. But it's a great way to find documents on other computers without having to run a search on multiple machines.
Search across computers isn't comprehensive, but does cover a good range of file types, including:
- Web history (from Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, and Mozilla)
- All Microsoft Word documents
- All Microsoft Excel spreadsheets
- All Microsoft PowerPoint presentations
- PDF files in My Documents
- Text files in My Documents
To use the search across computers option, you must have a Google Account; you can sign up for a free account at http://www.google.com/accounts.
Some of the other new features introduced in Desktop Search 3 include password protection, indexing of zip files, the ability to disable indexing and the ability to perform advanced search queries using the full range of advanced search commands.
Google Desktop has long supported third-party plugins, and if you haven't visited the plugins library lately, it's worth a visit. There are now dozens of useful plugins that extend the functionality of the Google Desktop, including to-do lists, an iTunes controller, video indexers, clocks—lots of interesting gadgets. Visit the plugin gallery at http://desktop.google.com/plugins.
This release is available only in English, though Google says it plans to have the program available in 16 languages by the end of the quarter. The previous version is available in 16 languages: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Dutch, Brazilian Portuguese, traditional and simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, and Norwegian.
Google Desktop 3 is currently available for Windows XP and Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and above. It requires 500 MB of available space on your hard disk, with a recommended minimum of 256 MB of RAM and a 400 MHz (or faster) Pentium processor. To download the Google Desktop 3, visit http://desktop.google.com.