The Desktop Search Dichotomy

I’ve updated my directory of desktop search engines and indexers to take into account the Yahoo/X1 tie-up and one or two other changes in the landscape since I created it. Yahoo!, as you have no doubt heard, is basically giving away a free version of X1, quite an excellent file indexer and searcher which would usually cost about $70. A nice deal, but all this leaves me with an odd taste in the mouth.

While I’ve been making a noise for years about this fundamental weakness in our computers (where we can find stuff online more easily than our own computer) why is it only when the super big boys get in on the act does anyone stand up and take notice? Enfish have been offering pretty much all this for at least five years and while they didn’t do themselves any favours by making their software worse with each new release, I always believed that gradually people would realise that finding stuff was important and cotton on.

But no. This episode seems to confirm that only when a big company comes along and pushes something right in our face that we wake up to its usefulness. I guess it being free helps. But how many other great ideas are out there that we are ignoring?

Another nervous twitch I have over all this: Given how jittery Yahoo!’s PR were over breaking embargo about the formal release of a product that had been flagged since December, Desktop Search is clearly big business. But is it for the right reasons? Are companies falling over themselves to get inside our hard drives because they want us to be more productive people, or is there something else afoot? Perhaps privacy concerns might start to return to the debate as these programs proliferate.

11. January 2005 by jeremy
Categories: Search | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. PC Magazine has a review of the new search tool. While it is essentially X1’s engine, the review says there are some cons:

    “Does not automatically index new/changed files or e-mail; does not index Outlook appointments, tasks, or notes; won’t sort results by relevance; preview of huge files can be slow.”

    There’s no specific mention if it searches within PDF files though.

    I’ve tried out Google, and MSN so far. I think I’ll stick to MSN (trust me, it’s a first!) – it seems to be the best in terms of results, search types, etc.

    Unfortunately, the afore-mentioned review doesn’t compare Google, MSN & YDS. Perhaps Jeremy can provide some input there?

  2. Following a read on Jerry’s Loose Wire I downloaded Copernic Desktop Search for free and I am still overwhelmed. I love it, use it nearly every day. It indexes everything (and hey, and I mean EVERYTHING, inc. pdf, mail, contacts …), indexing goes on automatically, but only if you don’t use the computer. Everyone I gave it to (it’s permanent on my thumb drive now coz everyone wants it) says the same. Jerry, I can’t say nobody realizes that potential. It’s more like mobile phones – before you had one you didn’t know why you would need it, once you got it, you don’t know how to live without it.
    Thanks for dipping my head into it!

  3. I’m waiting for Spotlight. I like the idea of a built-in indexer/searcher rather than having to add on (with potential cost). Plus I trust Apple a lot more than I trust Microsoft.

    You’re right about it being a “big guys” thing though – lots of people have been doing this, not just Enfish. I was doing this with Eric Freeman’s Lifestreams technology way back in 1997 on my Unix machine, then later on Windows.