Following Leaders

The IT technology world has turned on it head. Much is being made of the new Google Desktop. This free program allows Windows users to do a Google search of the Web or some of their local desktop files and assets in the same way as they do a normal Google search. The local filetypes supported are:
# Outlook 2000+ and Outlook Express 5+ email files;
# Search files in TXT, HTML, DOC, XLS, and PPT formats (Office 2000+);
# Search chats from AOL 7+ and AOL Instant Messenger 5+;
# Search web pages viewed in Internet Explorer 5+ .
Whats interesting about this announcement is that a)it is very Microsoft centric – the program only runs in Windows 2000 and XP and the search files it supports are again primarily Microsoft, b)requires users turning ona rapidly obsoleting and security plagued ActiveX-in-browser technology and b)it is such a “following” technology. Other free programs (see below) are less restrictive and more feature packed. I had expected much better from Google. It seems Google is willing to sacrifice a lot for the benefit of having a fast and easy download (because of the tiny module) and intimate relations with Microsofts data assets.

Even more astonishing is that Microsoft is following the follower. Microsoft has nothing available to respond to Google and others although it has bought Looktop desktop search engine technology earlier this year. Yet again on major desktop OS capability, Microsoft appears to be “innovating” by following and then using its monopoly power to muscle in as a late adopter. Granted, Redmond may provide more features than Google but so do a lot of other players.

Dont Knee Jerk to Google

Dont get me wrong, Google has a GREAT Internet search engine. I stay in Google and Copernic (which uses Google and ten other search engines) a good portion of the day. But there are some attractive alternatives to Google Desktop.

Blinkx is a free IE browser addon add-on that ataches itself to the titlebar of IE. It does roughly the same search of desktop filetypes as GoogleDesktop, but has a neater crosslinking capability and neat UI. Blinkx has a number of additional modules available (still free for now) that enhance its search and find capabilities.

Copernic Desktop Search
is a free standalone desktop search engine that has all the features of Google Desktop plus more file types support and more controllable auto indexing features Copernic also has along history of great meta-Web and other search software.

DTSearch Desktop is the jack-of-all-trades of Web+Desktop searching capabilities. For $129, you have a Web Spyder as well as one of the most versatile PC desktop search engines at your command.

Enfish has a 30 day free trial and costs $200 per seat. The number of options and data files types that Enfish supports is broader set of file types for search inluding Adobe PDF, ACT! sales files, Lotus Notes, any .dbf database files among others.

ISYS desktop has a fourteen day free trial version. ISYS has many different feaures for accessing data within your desktop hard drives in cluding two query modes – English language like and simple command syntax. It also has a scratch knowledge repository as well.

X1 is a standalone desktop search engine available for free for 15 days and costs $75. It indexes 255 diferent filetypes and provides the contents of those files while users type in X1s editor window. X1 is is very fast and also responds to a search window query as well. With X1 you never lose eMail or document contents – it finds them fast.

Of all these desktop search tools my personal favories are Copernic, Blinkx, and X1 because they have a robust set of file types supported, some control on what and how often indexing is done and each has a unique way of invoking and displaying results. I prefer X1s in editor approach in some cases, and others the Copernic/Blinkx summary. Take a good look at these options – they are all a step ahead of Google Desktop …plus Copernic and Blinkx, like Google, are free.


20 thoughts on “Following Leaders”

  1. Even in days of now with large disks, its still important that indexers look inside zipfiles. Vision by Scopeware (not free) does so with an add-in. I expect that Copernic will do so eventually with a paid version. Im waiting…

  2. Enormous P2P Network by Google
    When millions of users will have installed, Google will simply release a new version in which the user can check a box and say “Share the files in my disk” (maybe only files in a certain directory). This will…

  3. A few years ago I used a very good local search product by Altavista. It worked just like the web tool but on local disks and lan. But lost it on a disk crash and then couldn´t find it anymore on Altavista site. Now can´t find even Altavista.

  4. The list is nice, but I think your analysis of Google being a MS whore is misguided. Googles overiding motif seems to get a set of core features for a product working really well, and then release it as soon as possible. If you were going to release a desktop search with a limited set of capabilities you would always make it for windows first because its over 90% of the desktop market, and you would make it index IE because its about 95% of the browser market.

    I think this illustrates the key difference between Google and MS. While both Google and MS will start out with an MS centric approach, Google will probably move quickly to expand beyond that. MS generally tries to leverage its software to maintain a MS centric world.

    I will note that Googles desktop search is obviously aimed at creating a more Google centric experience too. Its just that in the end Google wants to be the center of your searching experience, not to leverage its OS, Browser, and Office products. Thus, google has more of an interest in supporting multiple platforms/documents faster.

    Editors Response

    I think “whore” is way too charged and not appropriate decorum for this blog.

    I would say that Google has deferred almost slavishly to Microsofts monopoly numbers. For example both Adobe PDF and MySQL database files also have very substantial usage rates (and growing very fast fast in the case of MySQL) – if they had been included or perhaps an XML/RSS reading capability (suddenly a whole world of Star/Open Office, a broad range of BEA, Oracle, Autocad, Adobe, Visio, InfoPath, etc etc are opened up) – then in that case I would be less inclined to accuse Google of a misguided Microsoft bias. Maybe in the next version they will be more “openly committed to a broad set of filetypes”.

    However, I am under no illusion that Google is confining/limiting itself to deliver ever better seach/find experiences. Froogle, Gmail, Picasa – say that Google wants to be in sustainable search and fulfillment tasks/businesses. And by sustaiable I mean that they are not easily copied by competitors nor are subject to quick vanquishment by freebie give-aways and tied-to-the-OS tactics for a relatively quick and DOJ-immune “cut-off the oxygen” kill. And sad to say there are more players in the ISV ranks than our favorite Redmond monopolists capable of emulating those tactics.

  5. Yep used the same alta Vista product – then Digital was bought by Compaq and Alta Vista was sold off and Sayanora. Again DEC way ahead of the curve – could be the Google of our day because the DEC 64 bit architecture was way ahead of the rest – but no, internal managerial internecine warfare did the company in.

  6. Yes even I miss that great tool from Altavista – it had a toolbar which could be docked to the top of the screen. Any clues if it can be found anywhere ?

    Editors response

    I believe Terra Lycos boufght Alta Vista assets – if that is correct, start there

  7. Re: the “editors response in comment #8” — I think that “Microsofts monopoly numbers” is an all-too-convenient euphemism for number of users. Were talking about maximum effectiveness here… carpet bombing the search landscape. I agree that PDFs should be indexed, but how many home users do you know running MySQL? Maybe hardcore techies, but truly not that many people.

    On a tangent, my biggest problem with Google Desktop Search is its lack of support for indexing network drives, which makes it much less useful for me at work, where I store everything on the network. If anyone knows a workaround/hack, please post at this article on my blog!

  8. MS has made such a late entry in the search field. But MS have a reputation of wiping the entire competition. (Remember Netscape) So we must wait and watch.

    I particularly liked this note:It is nice what competition can do to a market, which did not even existed mainstream sometime back. Only few relevant players were there like Filehand, X1 and dtSearch with few of them free for the end users.

  9. Hard disk searching takes off
    Thanks to the publicity provided by Google’s move, lots of applications are coming out of the woodwork. Here’s the latest…

  10. none of these other desktop search functions compare to Blinkx. The smart folder idea is truly groundbreaking- apple and msn have been talking about it for years, but Blinkx is the first program that actually indexes files while actively scouring the net for more documents based on contextual understanding of the documents youre looking at.

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