Like most people, I store information in many different places. Lots of data is stored directly on my work laptop while yet more data is stored on my computer at home.

  • Mail folders
  • Address book
  • Text files
  • Corporate blogs
  • Presentations
  • Word documents
  • Intranet resources
  • Whitepapers
  • Web history
  • RSS feeds
  • Photos
  • Music

Even more data is stored on external servers

  • Gmail
  • Blinklist
  • Web site, blogs and mySQL databases at Bluehost
  • Post-it on fridge
  • Mobile phone
  • Palm PDA
  • My head (last resort)

I first used Google Desktop a couple of years ago when it was first launched. Back then, the ongoing indexing process seemed to add a unreasonable load on my laptop, so I decided to uninstall the program and revert to old-fashioned searching in Windows Explorer and Outlook (and now Thunderbird). However, recently I decided to give Google Desktop another go because I am a Google whore. The initial index of the entire computer took a few hours to index a grand total of 131,854 items (44,118 emails, 5,059 Web history and 82,677 files).

After the initial index was complete, the overhead of the ongoing index process barely seemed noticeable (although my laptop has also been upgraded to a higher specification in the interim).

Google Desktop scans email folders, text files, PDF, Powerpoint, Word documents, Gmail and Web history. As you might expect, the search is lightning fast, much faster than searching within Thunderbird although the range of options isn’t as comprehensive.

I find myself using Google Desktop a lot. Often I am not looking for a specific email, article or document but researching a topic, trying to locate all possible relevant information from the different sources available. Google Desktop makes this type of searching across multiple, disparate data sources very easy and quick.

Google Desktop caches data locally so you can search Gmail folders and even Web pages while offline. There is also a Preview option available.

I can also increase the accuracy and quality of my search results and save some disk space by deleting dated, obsolete or irrelevant information as I find it.

Another neat feature which worries the men in white (or black) hats is a positive bonus to me. Google Desktop can be configured to search documents and Web history from my home PC. This feature would be even better if my domestic email folders could be included as this would potentially enable me to reply to Dave’s email message about drinks next Thursday or Friday from a hotel room in Prague.

Currently, I would have to call the wife, ask her to log on to the computer, educate her how to search in Thunderbird, locate the correct information and mail me the results. All of this is too much trouble given she moans at being asked to perform the simple task of setting the video to record ‘Lost’.

The only minor issue I have encountered thus far is that Google Desktop does not search within WinZip archives despite claiming to ‘search the full text of Zip files’. This is less than ideal as most of my formal reports are Word documents zipped up to save space. Just as well then, that there is precious little of technical value buried deep within those archives.

Coincidentally, Google Desktop has just been updated to 5.1 (beta) with a dark, transparent sidebar, improved gadget support and enhanced security. Although I have experimented with the sidebar, I don’t actually use this feature as I find it too invasive (i.e addictive and time wasting).