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The Search Is Over

New desktop search tools from Yahoo! and Google are about to make your life easier.

By Maggie Leyes

You know you received that email with the new policy information attached. You know you saved it, but you saved it so well you can’t find it now. Using the Microsoft search tool that your computer came with to find that email can be slower than calling the home office and waiting for a new email to be sent. If this has been your frustration: “lost” files (or emails) and no way to find them, then the new desktop search applications will find a welcomed home on your computer.

No more taking a long lunch while your computer churns through bits and bites; these new tools—the most visible from Microsoft, Google and Yahoo!—not only move at lightening speed; they’re also free. So it’s time to get a real search engine up and running on your computer.


The benefits
The concept is simple. These tools, which you can download free from the internet, index everything on your computer, barring parts you specify that you don’t want searched, as well as password-protected documents. Then with search speeds previously seen only on the web, these applications comb through the contents of your computer, through upwards of 200 types of files in some cases—from Word documents to emails to pictures—to find matches to your queries.

“Time and accuracy of results is what you will gain,” says Kip Gregory, principal of The Gregory Group, a consultancy that helps advisors leverage technology in their business, and author of Winning Clients in a Wired World. “These new products will search deeper and wider than the Windows tool. They will get to content within files, not just do a search for the title of the file. That’s a huge improvement. These tools give people a significant amount of control over the information they possess and get them out from under the blanket of information overload.”

The question then becomes: Which do I choose? Microsoft’s Windows XP and 2000 has a built-in indexing/search function. But the fact that Microsoft delivers its product with this search engine turned off by default speaks to its inherent worth. To compete in the desktop search arena, it has purchased the third-party tool, Lookout (for Microsoft Outlook 2000 and Windows 2000 or later) as a stopgap until it creates a proprietary product. However, in a recent interview with ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, Bill Gates admitted that Google had gotten the upper hand in the search arena, actually referring to Google as the Goliath to Microsoft’s David. Imagine that! So we’ll let Mr. Gates perfect his slingshot and move on to Yahoo! and Google. Gregory weighed in on these two products.

Google and Yahoo!
Google Desktop, Gregory feels, will be the natural move for most. “It’s a known commodity. Whether the advisor is a super-sleuth or a reluctant searcher, the interface will be familiar to him,” he says. And while this tool has ease of use, and many fans in the tech world, it does have one major drawback: It doesn’t search PDF files. Gregory calls this “a gaping hole.” But remember, this product is still in beta release, which means, in essence, still under construction. More bells and whistles will follow.

The technology behind X1, the search software that has already been converting raving fans with a paid version, is now available on Yahoo! free of charge. (You still need to pony up cash for the super-charged version of X1.) Called Yahoo! Desktop Search, this tool integrates into your desktop and lets you search the results directly in a preview window. This makes searching faster and more intuitive than Google’s browser style window, which makes you open the found document separately. “Quick View Plus is great. It incorporates the ability to not only locate a file, but to view and manipulate it as well,” says Gregory. It also searches through more types of files than the Google or Microsoft tools. This search tool does, in fact, find your well-hidden PDF information.

Since these products are free, it is worth downloading the one that appeals to you and trying it out. If you are dissatisfied, you can always switch to another search tool. The caveat: You can only have one of these programs running on your computer at a time. Also keep in mind that the Yahoo! and Google tools are in beta release and require you to be running Windows XP or Windows 2000 SP3 and above.


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