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article imageOp-Ed: The neverending search for search

By Jack Kapica     Mar 24, 2009 in Technology
In which a Google product gets tossed overboard, triggering an intense search for other ways to index all the stuff I’ve been hoarding in my computer
Can Google have created an evil product? I’m beginning to think so.
I’ve been having a lot of fun over the past two weeks rebuilding my computer after a significant software crash. One big problem came with reinstalling Google Desktop.
It was catastrophic — and not in any logical way.
Google Desktop is bundled with Google Sidebar, and I know Google’s Sidebar refuses to make nice with Microsoft’s Sidebar. But every time my system crashed, a reboot would find Google had renamed itself the default Sidebar, setting the two off in a nasty little war over the desktop.
This resulted in Windows Explorer crashing every few minutes. And when Windows Explorer sneezes, all of Windows catches a cold. And I thought my entire computer was terminally ill.
That’s not all. After installation, Google Desktop refused to index the system. One small reference in an obscure support group suggested that it was because I had not yet loaded the driver for my wireless mouse.
So I loaded Microsoft’s mouse driver, Intellipoint, and glory be — Google Desktop suddenly started indexing.
An indexing service not working because of a mouse driver? That’s not logical — it’s downright perverse.
Sorting that out took two days that I’ll never get back from Google.
My revenge: Lose Google Desktop. At least for Windows computers. (Macs have Spotlight, a splendid tool that does just about everything Mac owners need and doesn’t bugger anything up in Mac OSX.)
But what would replace it? In fact, there are some interesting new choices.
I particularly like Copernic, created and run out of Montreal. It’s the engine behind Mamma, the self-proclaimed “mother of all search engines.”
The Copernic Corporate Edition ($59.95) is worth every penny, as are its kid brothers: Copernic Professional ($49.95) and Home (free). The Home version indexes all standard documents, PDF files and e-mail from Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora and Thunderbird, and offers a variety of ways to phrase your search query. The Professional edition adds the ability to search networked drives, Outlook’s appointments, tasks and notes, and displays the results as you type. The Corporate Edition further adds compatibility with Lotus Notes, can invoke group policies, can deploy itself on client computers on the network and allows users to create shortcuts in the search engine.
What I like about Copernic is that it’s a stand-alone product, and doesn’t seem to interfere with any other software or take up too many system resources (it uses up less than 6 megabytes) . Moreover, you can customize which drives or folders to index. You can even look for files that are not documents, spreadsheets, video or audio, by telling Copernic which file types to search.
It’s also fast. Really fast.
Should you pay good money for it? I’d say yes, considering the options, such as Google and its irrational distaste for undriven wireless mice and Windows Sidebar.
If you insist on a free product, Microsoft has just released Windows Desktop Search 4.0, which is actually pretty good. And it’s free.
It has been created as an add-on to Windows Explorer; In Vista, it’s that search bar at the top-right of the Explorer window; run a standard search, and when the results come in, there will be a link at the bottom which says “Advanced search.” That brings up an extended search form.
Too bad, however, that this is a two-stage process; it would be a great service to be able to keep that advanced search form open.
Version 4.0 is also very fast, displaying results as you type your search terms — and that’s not surprising because the indexing process has long been built into Windows. Search 4.0 is basically a refinement.
But it’s a limited refinement. Although it’s fast on the home disk, it’s slow on networked drives, which are not automatically indexed. To search a network drive, you have to navigate Windows Explorer to a specific network location, phrase your query, and wait.
Well, you get what you pay for. But even if you scorn it, you should install it just to give yourself the option. Think of it as one of Microsoft’s Tuesday upgrades.
Another interesting search product is NEO Find, from Caelo Software, of Nelson, B.C., makers of the Nelson E-mail Organizer Pro (hence NEO). NEO Find (all of $15) searches only e-mail, and then only in Outlook.
And that’s not surprising, since NEO Find is designed primarily as a business tool, and Outlook rules the business desktop.
NEO Find shares some of its elder brother’s characteristics. Both NEO Pro and NEO Find are closely tied into Outlook, and are intended for people who get more e-mail each day than any sane person needs (sadly, there are a lot of people like that). Open Outlook and either NEO product will open with it; they’re also intended to stay open, all day long.
Still, NEO Find’s capacity to sort through e-mail is astonishingly efficient and fast. Its search structure makes Outlook’s tools look positively prehistoric. It will organize all messages by correspondent and group sent and received e-mail together. It’s compatible with Outlook 2007, 2003, 2002 (XP), 2000, 98 and operates on Vista, XP, 2000, NT, ME or Windows 98 — with or without Exchange.
As time goes by and I continue to indulge my irrational hoarding urges, I find a desktop search engine, for both files and e-mail, is essential. For me, it would be worth it to buy Copernic’s Corporate edition. But then, not everyone is as obsessively hoarding stuff as I am.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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