Review: Google Desktop

Mikey 11 comments
Review: Google DesktopUbiquitous search is a term that has been used a lot recently as developers tout the advantages of said technology as an alternative to the industry standard explorer and finder based search system.

When first came into the market I was initially sceptical of said 'advantages' and had uninstalled the application by the end of the day. But with new releases and a noticeably stronger online marketing presence I decided to give the application another shot.

Google Desktop is designed to allow the user to search their computers for information in the same manner they use Google to search for information on the web. So it comes as no surprise to find the interface is identical to the search giant's engine.

Downloading and installation is as simple as it gets. You are initially presented with some basic options which are promptly followed by the process of indexing all your files.

Unfortunately indexing only occurs when your computer has reached 30 seconds of idle time which means a long wait before you can utilise the software to its full potential. My computer took over an hour to index all files and I encountered a problem.

When indexing one of my movie files, a codec alert was initiated which required user input. I was not aware of this until I came back to check on the progress an hour later. Only until I clicked 'yes' did the indexing process continue. This was a major annoyance with no option to change it. It should also be noted that emails are only indexed when Outlook is open.

Once installed, a new icon will reside in your system tray and a search field in the task bar. Both can be disabled if desired.

The preferences window allows you to specify the indexing parameters which are great for excluding certain (private) folders or files from the search.

One particular option (enabled by default) is to show desktop search results on Google web search result pages. This has been the cause of much concern when people perform a Google web search and find their private files in among the search results, leading them to believe their files have suddenly become public domain. This has been enough to scare people away from the desktop tool. I highly recommend you disable this option if you scare easily :-)

My first test was a simple search for my daughter's name, Danica. The results returned were just like any other Google search sans the usual sponsored links, with options to sort by relevance or sort by date. (which I have modified for privacy reasons) will give you an indication of how results are returned.

Small icons represent the file type; email, PDF, word document etc. Images and movies are represented with a thumbnail view. Clicking on a file will open it and launch the associated application.

There is no doubt Google Desktop is easy to use. Though I still can not help but wonder how much benefit I will gain when I already know the exact location of all my files. Anyone who maintains a logical directory structure will probably feel the same way. I can not remember the last time I uttered the words "now where did I store that file?".

Scanning my emails is however quite advantageous especially considering my PST contains every email and conversation I have ever had with my clients over the past 5 years. Although I do maintain a logical directory structure in Outlook, using Google Desktop has made the task of searching for emails a lot easier. Having said that, Outlook does have a satisfactory search tool built in already.

With giants like Google and Microsoft battling to manage your desktop, like it or not ubiquitous search is here to stay. If your current file management is not as well arranged as you would like, or if you are an absent minded file saver, then Google Desktop will probably appeal to you. But for the well organised, benefits may be limited to the occasional use.

  • Fast, efficient and familiar.
  • Low on system resources.
  • Small download size. (730k)
  • Plug-ins available.
  • It's Free!

  • Tired old ugly Google interface, with no options to customise it.
  • No choice of installation directory.
  • Microsoft Windows 2000 and XP only.
  • 1gigabyte disc cost.
  • Single users only (no privacy for multiple user computers).
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Sunday 24th July 2005 | 09:34 PM

Ubiquitous, gee what a big word and first paragraph left me "google eyed " so i asume that if you have google desktop then you click on one of the items eg word and it opens up? maybe for now i will stick with what i have.

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Sunday 24th July 2005 | 10:32 PM

Exactly. Though the term "Ubiquitous" is obviosuly another example of some wanky marketing guy incorrectly utilising a word because it sounds cool. Close, but no cigar.

The desktop tool is cool though. But I cant see it staying on my computer for very long. I know where all my stuff is too!

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Fluke Skywalker

Sunday 24th July 2005 | 11:04 PM

I have been using it for a long time and it has saved me a lot of messing around looking for files. Long live google.

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Monday 25th July 2005 | 07:34 PM

I can see how it would be useful. But google desktop is not the only answer to file managment. Apparently" target="_blank">this is pretty good.

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Monday 25th July 2005 | 07:39 PM

"Apparently this is pretty good."

Sure but that is not really in the same league as a desktop search tool. Google desk is aimed at people who dont mind searching thier files the same way as they 'Google' online. If I am not mistaken the Mac 'finder' already does this? I have not used it but seen someone use it. I am probably wrong :-P

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Tuesday 16th August 2005 | 11:20 AM

Agreed, the Google Desktop is a very fast and slick search interface, But... I'm on a Windows network and the search index is a part of my profile, slowly but surely, slowing down my machines response times and until I deleted it last week chewing up 250 mb of space on my profile. So until there is some method of cleaning up, it's Google Desktop no longer. Definitely do not want it in my profile... Bit of a shame really :(

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Michael O.

Tuesday 16th August 2005 | 07:56 PM

I know what you mean Spacey. But I am finding it more useful especially for tracking down old emails. Outlook's search is pretty lame.

But Google Desktop is not as configurable as I would like. I am noticing a trend with a lot of new apps that make the assumption no-one partitions their drives. IMHO you have to be insane to keep every file you own on the Windows partition. If you need to format you will have a lot of backing up to do.

I have a 5 gig partition for Windows XP, and my other partitions contain apps, and personal files. Google Desktop doesnt give me an option to store the cache in a location of my choice, so my C: drive has lost a lot of room for no good reason.

Well, I am about due for a format soon anyway :-)

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Friday 19th August 2005 | 10:50 AM

just responding to michael o's comment aug 16th - i am curious, is it a good idea to separate program files from the windows partition? if the os needed formatting, wouldn't all the program files need to be reinstalled anyhow, otherwise they would be deregistered? or does this option simply mean that all your program preferences remain intact even tho each app needs to be reinstalled? cheers

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Michael O.

Friday 19th August 2005 | 04:35 PM

steph says: "is it a good idea to separate program files from the windows partition"

It is a personal thing I guess. Saying you would have to be insane to not partition was a bit tounge in cheek :-)

But yes most of your programs would need to be reinstalled - unless you backed up the registry as well. Or perhaps use a drive image program. But that is not much effort anyway. I do this and also mirror all my personal files on a server at the back of our house with backup software. As someone who once lost 150gb of data (yes I said gigbytes!), I take no chances.

But mainly it is personal files that are the issue. If your primary partition crashes, or won't boot, has a virus infected boot sector, or NTDLR can not be found or any of those other scenarios that make our but cheeks pucker up at the sight of, you will be glad when you realise all your personal documents and files are on a different partition. The thought of having to reinstall Windows will suddenly seem trivial.

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Monday 30th October 2006 | 07:05 PM

hey guys, i had recently used Parvail PC Controller as an excellent alternative to Google Desktop - with plenty more features then Google Desktop - try that - you can find it at here -

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Tuesday 6th November 2007 | 08:35 AM

I really liked Google Desktop when I first got. I found the search really quick, but I didn't realize it took up so much space! . I filed my laptop to the point that I couldn't safely defrag so I started trimming fat. That's when I discovered Google Desktop was taking 2.29 Gigs! Considering I am using 37 gigs (of 40). That's over 6% of my hard drive. I am deleting it and, if I can't find it with the old faithful doggy searh, I'll download it, use it and delete it again. They need to find a way to make it smaller, a lot smaller.

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