Thursday, January 06, 2005

Musings about search - Desktop search in 2004

The hype about search engines definitely peaked in 2004, so lets start 2005 recap of what happened.
Search on the desktop - the things I tried this year.
  • Microsoft bought Lookout, a search engine for Outlook. After downloading the free version ( all search engines for clients seemed to be free this year, .... wooohooo), I used it for quite some time and I was actually pretty impressed. Until MSN Desktop Search arrived (I guess Microsoft integrated this product completely in their msn desktop search), it was the best tool to use for searching your emails, but finally uninstall ...

  • Ask Jeeves also released a desktop search engine, never tried it and probably never will

  • Google had its IPO and with their heap of cash, they did some pretty impressive stuff, one of them was the release of Google Desktop Search. I tried it out for a couple of weeks and I actually liked most of except for the web interface - why do we need a webinterface for doing things on the desktop. Another thing, Google Desktop Search blocked some of the integration features of Outlook and SharePoint. So uninstall....
  • Yahoo decided not to create their own searchengine but instead licensed the X1desktop search engine. I actually tried it out myself but one of the things I didn't like was that the UI seemed to freeze at times when performing a search. So uninstall ...
  • Doomsayers concluded that Microsoft completely missed the ball (... sounds familiar, it's like the browser wars revisited) and then they launched MSN Toolbar suite Beta. I'm pretty satisfied with this one, and I just installed it a couple of hours ago on a Windows 2003 Server (Unsupported scenario but pretty easy todo, unpack the exe, by typing "msntoolbarsuitesetup_en-us.exe /c" at command prompt, next install the msi by typing "msiexec /i msntoolbarsuite.msi TBSDEVCODE=1 .

    There actually is a pretty good comparison of all of these tools at Slate - assessment of desktop search engines. Except for the Copernic Search Engine which I haven't tried (Apparently AOL is promoting Copernic as a searchengine) I have to agree with the general assesment, MSN Desktop search definitely deserves its B grade.
    Which are the features I like most:
  • It allows you to specify specific folders to search, so I doesn't have to index my complete hard drive

  • It also allows for searches from within Outlook, and for emails within the search results you can easily find the complete conversation by just rightclicking it.

  • It categorises the search results, so you can get all the results or only search results from within documents

  • Another cool thing, not quite search related is the quick launch, you can type =calc and it will launch the calculator, now I don't even have to click start and go to my command prompt

  • It also indexes my code files (C# and VB.Net)

  • Which are the things I'm still missing:
  • When do we get an SDK for desktop search?

  • Limited configuration options, how can I specify for example that it has to put his indexes somewhere else - now it defaults to c:\documents and settings\[UserId]\Local Settings\Application Data\MSN Toolbar Suite

  • How can I make it to also index other type of files?

  • The user interface should definitely include a more advanced search option, you can do queries like give me all documents with the word "desktop" in it created before 11/21/2004, by typing in "desktop before:11/21/2004" but it would be nicer if the UI supported this.

  • A better preview of the found results would be nice

  • Well, with all the competition, I think we will get a lot of nice features in the next couple of months, I can't wait untill they release the next version of MSN Desktop Search.

    No comments: