File finding

Have you ever thought it’s sometimes easier to find information on the internet than on your own PC? Prepare to change your mind as Windows Middle East searches, finds and talks you through some of the best desktop search engines around.

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By  Maddy Reddy Published  October 24, 2004

|~|Workshop-maddy-main.jpg|~|Just when you thought the internet’s miracle worker couldn’t get any better after Gmail, here comes Google Desktop Search|~|1: Windows xp sEARCH While Windows XP offers a much improved search function, searching for that one piece of information when you have hundreds and thousands of MS Office documents, PDF files, e-mails, MP3s, images and web pages, can be a daunting task. Keeping on top of these growing mountains of information isn’t easy, unless you have the right file names and can wait patiently to search by guesstimating the file name and the date it was created. The old fashioned way of searching could be a thing of the past thanks to a new breed of desktop search engines (or DSEs). As the name suggests, these bring all the features of an online search engine and apply them to your PC’s hard disk. The DSE indexes or catalogs all the contents of standard file formats such as .Doc, .XLS, .HTM, .TXT, .PDF, e-mails when your computer is idle. By assigning keywords and meta-tags, you can now search inside the contents of a file, rather than only using its name. Since you can easily search for information on your computer, you don't need to worry about organising your files, e-mails, or bookmarks. Nor do you have to remember exactly what file, e-mail, or web page had that information, and where that item is now located on your computer. Like their online counterparts, desktop search engines have a simple interface and gentle learning curve. 2: PC GOOGLE Just when you thought the internet’s miracle worker couldn’t get any more personal after Gmail, here comes Google Desktop Search. You can search the full text of your e-mail, files, viewed web pages, and chats. Specifically, you can search your e-mail from MS Office files and web pages. Google Desktop Search is currently available for Windows XP and Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and above. Although the download is a tiny 400KB, it requires at least 500MB of hard disk space, not to mention hours in which to index your hard disk drive’s contents. Google scores in the simplicity of its interface and makes searching a seamless process, whether from your desktop or the web. On the downside, it does slow down your PC’s performance as it indexes in real-time every content you create in a file. Since the application is still in beta form we recommend you turn off the ‘Save secure pages and web history’ and customise the desktop Google settings to avoid searching for any specified folders and websites. To pack more punch, check out Google’s deskbar and use it in combination with the desktop search engine for additional horsepower. 3: Blinkx Free and easy to download, the 5.55MB blinkx toolbar search box will search your desktop or the web. It will find the documents, e-mails and attachments you’re looking for quickly and easily. Compared to Google, Blinkx searches a wider range of file formats, including MP3s and images, and can be used by Windows 98 users, unlike Google’s tool. 4: Diskmeta The name originates from an Ukrainian word that means "purpose, aim, goal." diskMETA-Lite is a free version of the diskMETA hard disk search engine. This version has very basic features compared to its commercial cousins. While an unlimited number of indexes can be created, it supports only three document formats : txt., .doc. and .html. The Ukranian company’s personal and pro versions support a much wider range of file formats and offer a host of features, but the indexing has to be done manually. Professional desktop searchers can try the steroid versions of Disk Meta, which are priced at US$48.50 and US$97.50 and available as trial downloads. 5: LOOKOUT Now that the desktop search party is open, can Microsoft be far away? The company’s recently acquired LookOut is shaping up to be a contender, but with support only for Outlook 2000 or later (not even Outlook Express ) and Windows 2000 and above, this 855Kb lightweight comes with the heavy baggage of the .NET Framework 1.1, a 23MB download. If you are a heavy e-mail user then you can schedule Lookout 1.2 to index all your Outlook folders and My Documents, while the new experimental version 1.2.4 promises even more functionality to search for content across networks. LookOut’s disclaimer in the download page, which doesn’t offer any support, did put us off. However, the word on the street is that Microsoft is working on integrating a Lookout style search engine into Longhorn, but that’s some time off yet. 6.Enfish If you are a power searcher and don’t love freebies as much as some users, Enfish’s promise to “find anything, anywhere” could be worth testing out. With just about every search feature you will need. Enfish Find comes at US$50, while its professional brother costs US$200. Enfish also comes in 30-day evaluation form. 7.DTSEARCH dtSearch offers a wide range of personal search products, which let you search across a desktop, network, internet or intranet. With over two dozen indexed and unindexed text search options for all popular file types, DT sits up there with the best in terms of its search functionality, but with single-user licenses starting from US$199, DTS may be too expensive if all you need is a good old fashioned desktop search engine. 7.X1 Search X1 version 04.09 uses a proprietary indexing system to locate files, e-mail messages, across local and network drives and includes support for up to 255 file formats. However, it’s true that all good things come at a price. The 15-day trial version will set you back US$74. ------------------------ Search Tips Avoid running more than one desktop search engine at a time, as this will slow down your PC’s performance. Be patient the first time you index your hard disk. The more files you have, the longer it will take to index. Try scheduling this indexing to run overnight or at a time when your computer will be idle. Always password protect and exclude sensitive information. ------------------------ ALT.SEARCH Readware's ConSearch Hotbot Desktop File Hand Agent Ransack & FileLocator Pro Ad Hoc Search 1.3 Copernic Desktop Search 1.1 Surfnity Search 6.0 ISYS: Desktop 6.0 ------------------------||**||

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