Battle of the Desktop Search All-Stars

When I first saw Google Suggest I was instantly addicted, the only problem was I, almost exclusively search from Firefox’s quick search feature that is integrated in the browser and I couldn’t get Google Suggest be the default for this tool. I tried changing the user preferences and such but I could only get the default search when “search” is clicked to update.
As with most things, however, if you just wait and let the Power of the Internet™ work for you rarely have to lift a finger. Carlos Navea has created a new Firefox plugin that does just what I wanted it to do. Perfect!
I have also been evaluating* both the Google Desktop Search and the new MSN Desktop Search products (both in beta). Despite some of the recent problems regarding security (and subsequent fixes), I was not worried that Google would get its act together, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if similar weakpoints were found in the MSN offering.
* By evaluating I mean I downloaded each and clicked buttons for a day or two.
Here is a lost of some pros and cons of each focusing primarily on points of differentiation:
Google Desktop Search:
Pros:
1. Search results are in a familiar format that is similar to Google’s main search results.
2. Can search instant message communications.
3. Cached website results show screenshot previews.
4. Integrates some search results from desktop in web-based searches (could actually be viewed as a con as well, but can be disabled).
Cons:
1. Very annoying habit of opening in the current tab (at least in Firefox), taking you away from the page you were on.
2. Same, nice, familiar interface we expect with web searches may be slightly disorienting for users who may not understand what data is being returned.
3. Cannot search email unless it is in MS Outlook or Outlook Express products (they should also search gmail if logged in).
MSN Desktop Search:
Pros:
1. Results available outside of browser in a small box above the taskbar.
2. “Real-time” searches return results as you type (ironically ala Google Suggest).
3. Can integrate into the Windows taskbar and other places within Microsoft’s products.
4. Can designate the exact drives or even directories you would like to have indexed. (rather than specifying certain directories to be excluded).
5. Advanced methods for sorting the search results including by Author, Date, Size, Type, Location etc. as well as my media type like photos, music etc.
Cons:
1. Requires Internet Explorer for advanced search results page.
2. Adds (by default) MSN search bar to most windows in the OS.
3. Does not search instant messenger data. (this is also ironic as Google’s search does yet they do not have an instant message client – though I think they will- while MSN does).
4. Cannot search email unless it is in MS Outlook or Outlook Express products.
So is there a clear winner yet,? Alas, no. I think I may continue using both for a while, at least until they go final release. Which way am I leaning then? Suprisingly to the MSN Search. But maybe if i feel up to it I will test out Yahoo’s foray into this arena (IE only?).
Does all this interest in desktop search and indexing point to what many feel is the replacement for the file system? Maybe. Will this change the way we look at computers? Break an old and outdated metaphor? Maybe for some. Prolly not for my mom.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by superdude on December 28, 2004 at 12:04 pm

    It’s cool to test how google suggest responds to naught searches. It tries to steer you away from most things. They must have an avoid these phrases list. But, they missed rimjob.
    yee bob,
    Eric

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