Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Searching Woes in Windows

Is it me?  Am I the only one?  For a long time, I used Google Desktop to index and search my PC.  It made me very productive - where was that e-mail or file or whatever with a person's name, a customer's name, and some function call in it?  Instant results, most information on my desktop indexed.  Yes, the index file was gigabytes.  Yes, when it got big, often the index got corrupted and I had to delete and reindex.  But it worked, and search results were fast.  They were integrated with Google website, so I can just do one search, and the results from my desktop or web based on what I choose.  Awesome.  Then, they discontinued it!  Why?  Because Microsoft included a new Windows Search.  But of course, like all things Microsoft, it is poorly implemented, and it sucks rotten eggs.

So, yes, you can download the last version of GD, but of course no improvements in the past few years or ever. I assume it will eventually stop working on later versions of Windows.  So what are the alternatives?  For a while, I used Exalead Desktop, who also mysteriously one day gave up the Desktop version.  Copernic didn't work at all for me, plus it is loaded with advertisements that take over your computer (so much for free).  Plus, Copernic search terms are very difficult to use, and not very flexible like Google searches.

So let's examine what exactly is wrong with the Windows Search feature:
  • Doesn't index network drives
  • It is folder-centric; that is to say, first, the search window only appears in the Windows Explorer window.  Second, when you do a search, it occurs within the folder.
  • It is app-centric; on the Start menu, the search only searches for application names and document file names, not even document contents.
  • Advanced searches with multiple and complex expressions? Fugghedaboudit. 
  • It doesn't search everything. And I also use gmail, so it doesn't search the online as well as offline in the same query. 
Typically, how do users use a search?
  • Why do you search?  Because you can't remember what folder you put it in, or what you called the file.  But you may remember when you did it, or some key words that are in it.
  • How do you search?  By some word, phrase, name, or date, or combination thereof.
  • Where do you search?  You may search your entire knowledge store (everything that is mine).  You may limit your search to a location - perhaps a drive, a folder, or even a computer on which you know it resides.  You may restrict by type of data (file type, e-mail message, text message, chat log, etc.).
Google Desktop is still the most fantastic search engine - it is Google for your desktop.  It searches across Outlook and GMail, as well as files.  However, it lacks a central repository for "all my info" across devices, across computers.  And, most importantly, it lacks the support of the developer.  I would suggest to an entrepreneur to raise capital and offer to buy Desktop from Google, and put it out as your own product.  I think there's a market, even on the Mac.  If you can integrate with Spotlight, or make a side-by-side product (pull-down in the menu bar like Spotlight, that replaces it), that would be the ultimate.

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