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Nerd Corner: Google Desktop Search

Did you ever Google for something that you already downloaded, because it's easier to Google for something than it is to sort through your own files? I have. How did we get to the point where searching a global network of millions of computers is more convenient than searching the computer sitting on top of your desk? That's a fundamentally backwards situation, and it's a real problem considering how much information we have on our computers - phone numbers, emails, instant messages, files, and so on.

Ideally, this is something that should be tackled at the operating system and/or filesystem level. Apple realizes this and has a pretty exciting feature called Spotlight in its next release of OSX. It looks to be simple, slick, and very fast. Problem solved... for Mac users.

Most of us are stick on Windows machines, and this is an area where Windows is lacking. Windows' built-in search function hasn't progressed since Windows 95... and it was pretty pathetic back then, too. They've promised better search functionality with Longhorn and WinFS, but those products are years away.

This is where Google Desktop Search (GDS) comes in. It's free, runs silently in the background, and allows you to search your own computer using the simple Google interface we're all used to. Great news: it's a winner. This is how all software should be: simple to use, time-saving, and powerful. I've been using GDS for under a week and I'm addicted. I can now find any piece of information on my computer without hunting around for it.

Don't confuse this release with last year's unimpressive beta preview version of GDS: it now recognizes a greater array of file types (great news for Mozilla/Firefox and Thunderbird users) and has a simple plug-in architecture that will allow other types of files to be indexed in the future.

You may also wish to check out Copernic Desktop Search, which is similar to GDS and is also free for now. Copernic is excellent and allows some fancier searches, although its interface is more cluttered than Google's and I found the extra search options unnecessary. I prefer the simple interface of GDS.

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