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Google Desktop Search versus Microsoft Windows Search

Google Desktop Search versus Microsoft Windows Search

or “Honey! Have you Seen My Keys, Glasses, Tivo Remote?”

by Mike Banks Valentine © October 17, 2004

Google Desktop Search Software can’t find your lost keys or

tell you where you left the Tivo remote control, or that your

glasses are on top of your head, where you left them. But the

beta software from Google Labs is nothing short of mandatory

for those with more emails, Word documents, Powerpoint, Excel

and PDF files than they know what to do with. That’s me.

New fixtures in our lives can become near necessities pretty

quickly. You know, like the Tivo remote when you want to skip

repetitive loud jingles in commercials. I’ve even begun to

start reaching for that Tivo remote out of habit when I’ve

missed an important news item on the car radio! Wait, Back up!

I’ll grin as I catch myself doing this, while wondering why

that Tivo functionality isn’t built into our new car radio.

My wife has told me she does the same thing. Now I believe

I’ve been just as spoiled & smitten by Google Desktop Search!

Once you install the software at

and try it a few times, you’ll be hooked. In fact, if you’re

like me, you’ll wonder how you got along without it! My wife

is less impressed, but she also said to me, “I KNOW where

stuff is on my computer!” That’s because she only has emails

and occasional Word documents and photos on her machine and

knows where each of them are stored.

Those of us who use the computer all day long, every working

day, have multiple folders, long lists of emails, downloaded

files, emailed receipts from online purchases, ebooks, PDF’s,

spreadsheets, client information and files, PowerPoint files,

and web pages we’ve visited while doing work all day long.

Have you tried using the Windows built-in search lately? The

search function is accessed by clicking the “Start” button,

where you see the option “Search” and then options including

“For Files or Folders”, then “On The Internet”, then “Using

Microsoft Outlook” and “For People”. Clearly, you must know

where your lost item MIGHT be & decide to search only there.

Your choices expand and you choose where to look from among

MORE places your lost item MIGHT be found so Windows knows

where to look. Choose from among “Look for Files or Folders

Named” and then “Containing Text”, the infuriating “Look In”

choices “My Documents” and “Desktop” and “My Computer” and

“Local Hard Drives (C)”, and inexplicably – “Browse”! Might

as well do that first by opening every folder and browsing!

My experience has been that I don’t remember where it is, and

THAT is why I need to search for it! And most often, Windows

search function fails to find what I’ve misplaced – BECAUSE I


LOOK FOR IT! That is certainly NOT a useful search tool.

Google has completely resolved this problem and eliminated my

frustration with Google Desktop Search Software. It’s a 400k

application that takes less than a minute to download on a

dial-up modem! This powerful tool is tiny, fast and nothing

short of amazing in it’s functionality.

The first thing you see after installation is completed is a

note in your browser window that says “Indexing has Begun” or

something similar. I tried to use Google Desktop Search to

find the cached page of that window, but it didn’t turn up.

I went to their “Help” pages and found that it’s because I am

using FireFox Browser and “Web pages which you view in Firefox

aren’t added to your Desktop Search index”. They apologize and

promise future Mozilla Firefox support.

But Desktop Search does show you cached copies of every web

page you’ve visited in Explorer and search result pages show

the Title of each page, along with a thumbnail sized image of

those pages to the right of those results!

But that is only the beginning. I did a search for a phrase

from an email to a new client as my first search in Google

Desktop Search. A search for three words brought up several of

the emails we had exchanged, a (Word) contract with my client,

cached web page with thumbnail image and yes, the email I was

looking for was among the results. Very impressive and FAST!

The results page has links across the top including “All – 3

emails – 2 files – 1 chats – 6 web history” with the number of

items that match each type of result in Google Desktop Search.

If you click one of these links it shows results only in that

file type or email results or web pages. All results display

as “Cached” in browser windows, including Word documents, so

that each software needn’t open for that document! I love it!

If you click the “emails” link from those in the top of the

Desktop Search links, it lists only the emails that turned up

with the search words in them, then click on any one of those

results and it shows the email in the browser window. At the

bottom of that page it shows “< Older | Newer >” links to see

them by date, then “View Entire Thread (2)” and “Reply”,

“Reply to All”, “Forward”, “Compose”, “View In Outlook” links,

which to me, makes Microsoft look awful! (Again, sigh)

Why? That functionality is not even an option in Outlook or

Explorer – even with the so-called integration that has courts

trying to separate Windows software bits out of the operating

system, and Microsoft claiming that would harm Windows! Google

provides a powerful little bit of code that does all this as

a stand alone tool which outperforms Windows search tools in

speed and functionality in a 400k application! FOR FREE!

Google Desktop Search even performs searches in the background

when you search the web with Google online and inserts their

odd little Desktop Search logo beside the first result on the

search results page – which is a result from your computer!

The first time I saw this, I was unaware of how it was done

and found it quite disturbing that my private hard drive was

indexed by Google for all to see!

I looked closely at the result and clicked the “About” link

beside my personal email description in the Google Web Results

page. It took me to a Google page that set my mind at ease by

telling me that “These combined results can be seen only from

your own computer; your computer’s content is never sent to

Google (or anyone else).” Whew!

On top of all this magical stuff, Google online search pages

now have another link on the page labled “Desktop” right next

to the Froogle link because it is inserted by the browser if

you have Google Desktop Search software installed on your own

machine! (This browser integration does work in Firefox.)

There’s a cute little item at the bottom of the Desktop Search

that tells you “Searching 5,834 items” which references their

“Searching 4,285,199,774 web pages” online, and seems downright

charming by comparison. If Google can search billions of pages

online, then surely my few thousand files are nothing for them

on my comparatively tiny machine, eh?

This all adds up to an incredibly fascinating bit of software

that I simply cannot live without, now that I’ve seen it work.

I can’t wait until Google turns their attention to helping me

to find my lost keys! Results page shows “Black jeans, laundry

basket – Cached 3pm Sunday – 6 keys”


Mike Banks Valentine practices Search Engine Optimism at: and operates WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorials at:

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • admin October 21, 2004, 6:41 am

    I was worried about the confidentiality of my files… until I read your 5th last paragraph, assuring us that they wont turn up on somebody else’s search engine results page tomorrow.

    Thanks for a handy report.

  • RobW October 22, 2004, 4:41 am

    Tried to install but says needs 1Gb disk space on drive c: and reports there is not enough space. For a 400k app seems excessive!

    Doesn’t allow installation on any other drive; gives no options to change.

    Hope this is addressed in final version.


  • Mark October 22, 2004, 7:40 am

    Just a quick note: Google desktop search doesn’t work with windows 98. Only 2000 & XP.

  • Boston Zydeco October 23, 2004, 8:08 am

    This application requires minimum one gig on the C: drive. I happen to have all my available space on an extra D: drive (20+ gigs) but to no avail. Google Desktop Search will not load, even though I downloaded the application on the D: drive.
    No flexibility here – pity.