The View from Landmark

Trends and issues in personal computing from Bud Stolker, a long-time PC consultant. The View from Landmark features tips and techniques to make time spent with your computer more productive and rewarding, commentary on new personal computer policies and trends, plain-English explanations of new hardware, software, and network designs and their relevance to you, and answers to common questions. There may be personal material interspersed if Bud believes it is of general interest.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Google's Desktop Search program combs your hard disk for long-lost info

Google, Inc., the online search engine company, today released a new program that can search your hard drive and retrieve information stored in a variety of formats.

Google Desktop Search is free for Windows users. (You must be running Windows XP or Windows 2000 with Service Pack 3.) Download it at

The program searches your local hard drive and creates a master index, which it keeps up to date as a background process. Though it works offline, it can also mesh with the online Google search engine. Once you install the program, any online Google search results will include information on your hard drive as well as on the Web. You can select the types of information to be indexed and searched. It can read Microsoft Office applications and several types of e-mail programs, including Outlook, Hotmail, and Yahoo Mail. It can save all AOL Instant Messenger conversations and all Web pages stored on a computer.

As of now, it does not work over a network.

There are privacy issues here, but the Google people insist that the program does not pass local information to the online search engine. (See Privacy concerns, below.) If you decide not to use it, the program uninstalls cleanly.

Microsoft is working on its own tool to search files, but announced recently that it would not be ready in time for the next version of Windows in 2006. AOL is also working on such a program, and industry analysts believe Yahoo will develop a similar tool.

Oddly, Google Desktop Search is not compatible with the company's new Gmail service.

Privacy concerns have been haunting Google lately. Gmail, its free, search-based web mail service that includes an astonishing gigabyte (1000 megabytes) of storage, has been criticized for the way it inserts advertising into email messages. It “reads” the body of each message and tries to place an ad that’s appropriate to the context. For example, if you’re talking about travel, it might insert an ad for an airline or a vacation spot.

What makes Gmail really special is its built-in search engine that finds any message an account owner has ever sent or received. That means there's no need to file messages in order to find them again.

Gmail is still in test mode and is not yet available to the general public, but it has already had an effect on free mail services: both Hotmail and Yahoo Mail have raised their storage limits as a reaction to Gmail’s gigabyte capacity. (If Gmail interests you, sign up for notification of its official release.)

Speaking of Google services, I should mention that Blogger, the service that enables me to easily publish this blog, is yet another fabulous freebie from Google. It's easy, it's fun, and because it requires no software on your PC, you can post from anywhere. I recommend it. Read all about it and set up your own blog at