A Review of Desktop Search Tools

At ITI’s Internet Librarian 2005 conference, searching expert Ran Hock told us which desktop search tool he likes best. Check the archives of this blog for October 23-29 to read a summary of his presentation, or click to hear Ran’s opinion.

Has anything changed since October? Are there any new developments in desktop search engines? For that we turn to a review by Karen Blakeman of RBA Information Services. She listed some features one must consider in choosing a desktop search tool:

• Document formats supported,
• Control over types of files or folders indexed,
• Memory usage, index time, index pause options,
• Searching features,
• Usability, and
• Security and privacy.

Karen’s review found the following for some popular desktop search tools:

AskJeeves: Much improved. Good on multimedia, particularly videos.
Blinkx: Also much improved. Includes support for Lotus Notes, Eudora, and Outlook. It offers a nice visualizer and can monitors web sites visited and list them on a sidebar.
Copernic: Has a nice preview. Can do nested search, and can switch to web search quickly. Copernic’s advanced search screen is very good.
Exalead OneDesktop: The desktop tool incorporates all features of their web search engine, such as truncation, a NEAR operator, etc.
Google: Now incorporates a built-in sidebar. A wide variety of file types can be searched using plugins. Some issues with Google’s desktop search: The cache retains copies of files even after they are deleted, and the Remove command is not foolproof. It is resource hungry even on the newest machines. And the user cannot control when it starts its indexing process, so it can interrupt other work on the PC.
MSN: Like Google, it uses plugins for file type support. The preview window is very primitive and just presents the user with a jumble of run-on text. This is probably because Microsoft plans to integrate desktop search into the next version of Windows and has not devoted any resources to MSN search.
Yahoo: Offers the most comprehensive file type support.

So what’s Karen’s bottom line? She didn’t definitely identify any desktop tool, saying that it depends on the type of information you have and how you store it on your PC. She recommends trying out several desktop search tools before deciding. However, I have the feeling that Karen agrees with Ran Hock because she said that she uses Yahoo!’s tool because of its support for many file types.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today

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