19 Oct Google delves deep within your computer with new desktop tool
The good news? Your computer can now have a photographic memory. The bad news? Your computer can now have a photographic memory.
This secretly sourced and powerfully protected photographic memory — actually, it’s Outlookgraphic, AIMgraphic, IEgraphic, Wordgraphic, Excelgraphic, PowerPointgraphic and textgraphic — is again in the palm of your hands but this time for delving deep within your very own computer rather than just the puny recesses of the rest of the world.
Sure, you can find 60 million instances of the word “cat” within the 4.2 billion Web pages currently spidered by Google, but how easy is it to find that special phone number you typed in 1997 and stored somewhere within the heaps of your ever-growing hard drive?
Thanks to offline desktop dominator Microsoft, it has been more difficult to quickly and intelligently find files and the important nuggets within those files on personal computers than on the bjillions of computers around the world.
That headache has permeated the world for years and still existed as of last Wednesday. As of last Thursday, though, that headache got seriously Tylenoled away with the long-rumored and much-anticipated beta release of the free Google Desktop Search tool.
Before I delve into the details of how this 400-kilobyte wonder wonderfully wiggles its way through your private computational chasms, let’s get really simple and really clear about what this thing is and what it does. This list is in no particular order of importance. It’s all deathly important stuff.
- Google Desktop is a direct attack especially against Microsoft but also Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, AOL, Terra Lycos, Apple and Copernic Technologies, which all plan to play catch-up by later launching competing services.
- It immediately makes obsolete the search function within Windows 2000 and Windows XP as well as the find function within Outlook.
- Windows searching laboriously pours over your whole computer. Google indexes everything in advance and can zip through it all in seconds with the same surgical accuracy you’re used to from Google.com searching.
- Google Desktop is free, and unlike at Google.com, it’s not complemented by surrounding advertising.
- It not only finds files fast but can peer into the entirety of the contents of Outlook and Outlook Express e-mails, AOL Instant Messenger cached chats, regular and secure Web pages you’ve viewed in Internet Explorer, text files, Word documents, PowerPoint files and Excel files.
- Now when you search queries from Google.com, you get results from the rest of the world merged with a capsule of results from your own computer, too. You can turn off this feature if you don’t like it.
- If you’re tired of manually saving AIM conversations or you neglect to do so and wish you did, Google Desktop saves (actually caches) them for you so you can find and remember everything you’ve ever said to your friends and colleagues.
- For you folks out there who love to scream bloody privacy intrusion, Google and its advertisers don’t get to know jack about anything on your computer. Google lets you choose whether or not to automatically submit basic usage data (i.e. amount of desktop searches versus Web searches versus simultaneous searches), which is standard stuff.
Just fluff? Nosireebob. Yes, there’s actually room to criticize the latest tool from the all-knowing and all-powerful Google.
While the search within e-mail feature is mighty tasty, and it’s just swell that you can immediately reply and forward into Outlook with the past message preserved, the HTML and formatting of the message within Google’s interface isn’t preserved. Grrr! Get it right.
Also, while it really just makes me a happier human being that Google now caches my AIM chats so I no longer have to manually save them, images embedded within those chats aren’t saved. Google, don’t you know that images are just as important as text?
Also, though Google Desktop only says it works with AIM chats, it also appears to work with AOL chats as well — well, sort of. The problem with this is that your outgoing IMs are saved separately from your incoming IMs rather than together as one.
Now I know Google Desktop searches are fast and the indexing that is the secret to this speed only happens after you leave your computer for 30 seconds. Well, depending on the volume of data on your hard drive, let’s not forget that it can take anywhere from several hours to several days for this process to complete.
Are you ready for that kind of commitment?
Google indexing, by the way, doesn’t stop right after its “one-time” initial job. A little multi-colored Google swash always appears in your system tray to remind you that it’s constantly indexing your computer as you idle. It takes a bit to stop indexing when you come back. How is this one-time indexing if it’s always indexing?
Also, remember how I mentioned that it could be bad news for your computer to have a photographic memory? Well, a curious cubiclemate at work or your doubting lover at home can now locate incriminating information about you on your computer just as fast as you can.
Though private to Google and its advertisers, the flipside is that Google Desktop can be viewed as the perfect computer spy tool.
If you’ve really got something to hide, there is a 15-minute snooze button that allows you to temporarily turn off ongoing indexing if, for example, you want to inconspicuously shop online for a friend or peruse something online I shouldn’t bare.
Pictures and music, by the way, are only indexed by name. Google Desktop doesn’t look within.
I shouldn’t end my recommendation without drawing attention to these saucy matters of fact: Despite exacting war on Microsoft, Google ironically still relies on Microsoft’s Web browser to display results. Also, Windows XP does come with its own indexing service, but considering it slows your computer to a crawl, what the #!?@&% were you thinking in even having one, Bill?
Now Invent This!
Sure, I set the bar very high for what makes it into my Reporter’s Techbook, but that’s only because I want the thing that’s the coolest since sliced bread to be really, really useful for you and not just pretty cool to read about and easy to discard. These aren’t just handy tech tips. These have the potential to change how you work and live.
Speaking of changing how you work and live, I know there are lots of pains we all still have that someone hasn’t yet thought to Ibuprofen away (I’m headache-medicine objective). That’s why I’m going to start ending my Techbooks about the most mind-blowing improvements by suggesting the most mind-blowing improvement that isn’t yet available but sure as heck should be.
This week, my Now Invent This! (NIT) request is simple.
In Outlook, I have lots of folders of people’s names. Of course, when I receive e-mail, my e-mails automatically filter into the appropriate folders. That means I have to vertically scan my entire folder tree every time I hear that Outlook new-mail chime to see where the heck the particular e-mail filtered into and who the heck sent it!
Please just give me a little window that tells who just e-mailed me. I would probably save 20 minutes every work day.
Have a NIT that people should know about? Lemme know.
Adam Fendelman is editor-in-chief of ePrairie.com and specializes in telecommunications in the Chicago area. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article has been syndicated on the Wisconsin Technology Network courtesy of ePrairie, a user-driven business and technology news community distributed via the Web, the wireless Web and free daily e-mail newsletters.