April 4, 2005
Q: I’m sure you’ll hear this from other folks too, but Google Desktop (is) slick and I’m not sure how I got along without it! — Greg
A: The Search feature in every version of Windows since the beginning of time (well, since 1985) has left most users wanting more; like faster, more intuitive search options.
Even with the most recent updates to the Search options in Windows XP, many continued to appeal for a better way to find things amongst the tens of thousands of files and e-mails that reside on the average computer.
The unequivocal leader in Internet search, Google, began working on a better way some time back and recently released a free download known as the Google Desktop Search utility.
The power of this smart little program is amazing and will cause many to make the same statement as Greg did about how they ever got along without it.
According to Google, "Desktop Search is how our brains would work if we had photographic memories. It’s a desktop search application that provides full text search over your e-mail, computer files, chats and Web pages you’ve viewed. By making your computer searchable, Desktop Search puts your information easily within your reach and frees you from having to manually organize your files, emails and bookmarks."
Once you download the program, it goes through an extensive indexing of all of the searchable information that is stored on your computer so that you can search your computer like you do the Internet.
Google Desktop Search stores "cached" copies of everything you see, so that you can view older versions of documents, instant messaging sessions and Web pages even if you’re not online.
There is a potential dark side to this power, however. If you have Google Desktop Search installed on a system that is used by many users, the ability to view others’ private interactions on the Internet exists.
If, for instance, a public Internet terminal has the Google Desktop Search installed, it will record everything typed into a Web mail account and cache it for anyone to look up in the future.
This is not a problem with the Desktop Search tool, but rather an issue of how and when it is used.
A hammer can be used to build a house or crush a skull, but that does not make the tool harmful; it’s up to the user.
Also, many spyware detection programs may detect Google Desktop Search as spyware because it records everything that you do (which is what it is intended to do), but it is not a malicious program and should not be confused with those that send information elsewhere.
Parents may want to use it as a monitoring tool to help them understand what their kids are doing online in their absence, but remember to test to see exactly what it’s tracking and who can see the results if it is a community system.
I highly recommend that you don’t just go with the default settings during installation. Be sure to review all of the options in the Preferences section so you understand what is being cached.