Looking for that e-mail or text document you used last year? You don't remember where you filed it on your disk drive? Google can help. Today the search engine giant announced it is offering a test version of a free Windows application designed to let users search for information stored on their desktop computers.
Google Desktop Search will let users search for information stored in their PC files, local e-mail inboxes, archived chat sessions and list of Web sites visited. It is like a miniature search engine only it looks at your hard drive, not the Web.
Finding information in users' desktop PCs can be a problem, as tools to do this have been scarce and inefficient. Several companies make indexing and search tools for your hard drive but Google's reputation should make this new program jump into the number one position within days.
Google Desktop Search can search for information stored in users' Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail applications from Microsoft, in Microsoft Office files from applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, in the list of visited Web sites kept in Microsoft's Internet Explorer and across stored instant message chat sessions from America Online Inc.'s AIM service.
Google Desktop Search is also integrated with the Google.com Internet search engine, so that queries run through Google.com are also run simultaneously in a user's Google Desktop Search application. Results from Google Desktop Search are added to the Google.com results.
However, for the sake of privacy, the desktop results aren't made available to Google.com without the user's permission, said Google, which is based in Mountain View, California.
Google Desktop also will index e-mail messages a user views from his Web mail account (such as Hotmail or Yahoo mail), even when those messages aren't physically stored in the user's hard drive. Ironically, it does not search Gmail, Google's own online mail service.
Google Desktop Search can be configured very granularly, so users can instruct the application, for example, to index all visited Web pages, none at all or all with the exception of those belonging to a specific URL. Likewise, users can instruct the application to not index AIM chats and to also leave out of the index certain parts of their hard drive, Mayer said.
Google Desktop Search can find multimedia and PDF (Portable Document Format) files based on their file names. It doesn't currently search the metadata of multimedia files, such as images, MP3s and video clips, nor does it index the full text of PDF files. That support is expected to be added in the future, along with the ability to index IM chats from services other than AIM.
Google Desktop Search is available now for Windows XP and Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and above. It is available in English now, and there are plans to support other languages in the future.
Google Desktop Search can be downloaded for free from http://www.desktop.google.com/.