search of a better computer search tool
by Alan Zisman (c) 2004 First published in Business in Vancouver
30-December 6, 2004; issue 788 High Tech Office
In BIV issue 785
(November 9 - 15), this
column noted that "cheap data storage is radically changing the
computer landscape." Big, cheap hard drives, DVDs and other forms of
storage make it easy to keep huge amounts of e-mail, documents, photos
and videos, storing them on your local computer, across a network, or
But the more stuff you keep, the harder it can be to locate what you
need when you need it. Windows and the Mac OS offer search tools, but
they don't seem to work the way people want.
generation operating system, code-named Longhorn, had promised a new
file system, storing file information in a searchable database. But
Microsoft pulled this feature as part of efforts to get Longhorn out
the door by 2006 or so.
is promising new and improved system-wide searches with Searchlight, a
feature of its next operating system, Mac OS X 10.4, expected next
But you might not need to wait for Microsoft or Apple. Canadian Web
search tool developer Copernic
offers Copernic Desktop Search, free for Windows users (www.copernic.com
Installed as a
small box on your desktop, it lets you search either on your own
computer or across the Web. It checks content in eight common text file
types, including common Microsoft Office and Word Perfect formats and
Adobe Acrobat PDF documents, along with some image, music and video
file types. It can also index and search Outlook mail and contact lists.
Web search giant Google
also gotten into the act with a free pre-release of its own Desktop
Search tool (http://desktop.google.com
Clicking on a tiny taskbar icon opens what looks like a standard Google
search page, but instead of producing hits on the Web, it offers up
hits on your hard drive among your saved MS Office documents and your
Outlook or Outlook Express e-mail. Nice feature: it will also search
your browser cache, letting you find information on websites you've
recently visited even if you're not online.
Google Desktop Search is currently only available for Windows 2000 and
XP users and only works with Internet Explorer. (Copernic's product
works on the full range of Windows versions and is browser-independent).
Google has promised versions for other browsers and for Mac OS X and
plans to search more file formats, including PDF, e-mail and chat. Both
Copernic's and Google's search tools start off indexing your drive's
contents, making their results appear quickly.
When I recently tried out Google Desktop Search at my work, however, I
was disappointed. Almost all my work is saved to a folder on a network
drive, and that meant that it didn't appear in the search results. But
if you store your work on your local hard drive, one or the other of
these tools is worth a look.
There have been suggestions online that these tools are risky.
Google notes that their tool does not make your local data available to
others across your local network or online. If you share you computer
with other users, though, you may need to be wary about the power these
tools give people logged onto your computer to search your files.
While Copernic and Google Desktop Search products are free tools aimed
at individual users, corporate users needing more features and power
(including the ability to search across a business network and to work
with a variety of file formats) might want to check out products like dtSearch
US$800 for five
users) or ISYS
priced from "under
US$1,000" and up, based on the number of users).