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Google Desktop Search versus Microsoft Windows Search

Google Desktop Search versus Microsoft Windows Search

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 CAN’T REMEMBER WHERE IT IS, SO CAN’T TELL WINDOWS WHERE TO 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 “” 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! It’s described in detail on Google.

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 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 a search engine blog where you can read this article with active links to web resources.

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SEJ STAFF Loren Baker Founder at Foundation Digital

Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing ...

Google Desktop Search versus Microsoft Windows Search

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