Google has released its desktop search product. I've been testing this application, and here are a few observations so far.
Installation and Setup
The installation process couldn't be smoother. The download is about 400k, and after answering a few questions, the application installs and begins to index files on your computer immediately. The indexing process didn't seem to significantly effect the performance of my computer.
The Google Desktop Search application allows searches against all types of documents, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and text documents. The application will also search Outlook and Outlook Express mailboxes, and AOL Instant Messenger logs. Maybe the best feature of all is the ability to search your history of web pages visited.
Here's how the Google Desktop Search works. After installation, an icon to access the Google Desktop Search appears in the Windows taskbar. Clicking this icon brings up a "personal" Google web page that allows you to search items on your machine, along with all of the standard Google search options (images, Froogle, etc.). Even better, an option to search desktop items also appears anytime you visit the standard Google home page.
When performing a Google search, the results page will now include listings from the items that have been indexed on your machine. Clicking on the summary results listing from your machine allows you to select links that further segment your results into relevant files, chats, emails, or web history.
Of course, from a business standpoint, displaying your personal results alongside "regular" results, makes all the sense, as Google would be positioned to place relevant ads beside your results in a manner similar to the method used in Gmail.
Google mastered the art of simplicity in presentation a long time ago, and these principles are carried forward to the desktop search product. The concept of allowing your personal search results to appear alongside regulr "public" Google listings simplifies the tool to the point that it will very quickly become second nature for most people. No launching of separate search applications, no new process to learn, just a great enhancement to a product that many people already use on a regular basis.
Despite this, I'm guessing that it's only a matter of time before we hear the first case of someone exploiting the desktop search for some malicious purpose.
While the Google Desktop Search application has many nice features, there's always room for improvement. The addition of several other file types, such as .pdf, audio files, and support for other chat programs would be useful.
Another useful enhancement would be to allow a search of keywords associated with pictures stored in Picasa (which Google now owns). Most people don't take the time to change the file names of their digital photos, so combining the Google search with Picasa keywords would improve both products.