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When Google Desktop Search came out at the end of 2004, it was the best thing to happen to a lot of us.  The need for a better way to search your own computer grew out of technological advances in searching the web. It became painfully clear that there was something amiss when you could search billions of web pages for a particular phrase in a matter of seconds, but it took forever to find a file on your PC.

Integrating online and offline search was clearly the next step, and there are plenty of programs out there to get this done, but no two seem to have the same appearance or functionality.  Check out my two-penny-worth of the desktop search applications I have experience with.

Google Desktop is slick.  It’s Google… plain and simple, but perhaps too simple.  It lacks a visual edge.  Plus, it doesn’t index your stuff immediately, so if you’re as impatient as I am, you have a problem.  If this was a little more visual, I would be a fan… but it has one thing the others don’t offer.

Google Desktop’s toolbar can also sit on your desktop, customizable with all sorts of widgets.  Have your favorite RSS, weather, or flickr right there to distract you all day!  Then again, unless you’re using 2+ screens, you’ll just keep in in your start bar, right?  Once this is indexed, I like the way google will combine the web and local results as you type.  Nice touch, but perhaps a little stalkerish when the results return your recently surfed Facebook profiles.

Yahoo! have teamed up with X1 for their version, and you’d think that was good news.  Back in the day, X1 was the king of desktop search – now they charge you $50 for the privilege.  Yes, there is a free trial, but it’s nicely hidden 😉

If you do opt in for this, it’s fast… but X1 itself is not web search.  This probably explains the partnership with Yahoo.  Personally, I am loathed to part with that much cash when I can get pretty much the same elsewhere without reaching for my mastercard.  Nope, there is no paypal option.

Ergo is new and in Beta… and I am a fan… so far it has won me away from Google Desktop for one simple reason – the visualization of the product is pretty cool (see this image on flickr).  It has that ipod-touch style, and most impressively, it allows you to annotate the previews of documents and websites.

There is one more thing that Ergo does, that leaves the others behind – you can choose which search engine(s) you want your data to come from.  There is no assumption that the desktop search app of your preference is also your preferred search platform.  Seach also includes wikipedia, and flickr – which won a lot of points from my point of view as a avid photographer.  Indexing of your data is immediate too.

Microsoft have their version too and despite the fact the download URL sucks (that’s the SEO in me!), I am a fan of this too.  It seems to integrate nicely with Outlook – but that opens the argument that Outlook should have it’s own.  It’s generally hard for me to praise Microsoft, but they have done a good job here.  They have kept their search app as a search app, no sign of widgets or flare.

The results are displayed in a similar format to the Google App – but a clearer separation between local and net data.  The lazy among us will not like the fact to you need to click a button to see net results.

Copernic is also on the market, and, like Ergo, is not developed by a search engine, but from testing this, I am not impressed.  The software didn’t index my computer for a LONG time, and when it finally did, the color scheme comes across as some kind of Kodak-1980’s deliberation… if we’re talking desktop search, aesthetics have to play a large part – and Copernic let me down here.

As a plus – Copernic comes with a Firefox Plugin.  The internet search seems to compile data from a number of search engines, and the results were not what I was expecting.  Desktop search from the plugin will open a new window, full screen, and honestly, is a little annoying.  My first impression – stay away!

Off the “big three” search engines, Google kicks butt in terms of the number of searches.  People seem to think Desktop Search and think Google.  Check out the graph below or see here to compare search trends:

Once again, it would seem that Google is synonymous with search, be it on-or-offline.


  1. Nice work.

  2. Thanks for the encouraging words re Ergo ( When Vista SP1 comes out, it seems likely that Google will write an implementation of the search protocol so that it replaces the ms-search for the integrated search. When that happens, Ergo should work with Google as well as Windows Desktop Search after a little tweaking at our end.

  3. Desktop search implies search within the content stored on the deskop which belongs to a person and for that reason personal.

    For some special reason, I wish to use a desktop search to organize and search public data stored on my desktop ( desktop has no personal data)

    Is it possible to allow someone else to search this desktop via web ?

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