Rethinking Your Desktop Search

Google has announced that it’s long running Desktop search tool will no longer be supported.  It was a great product for a number of reasons.  It improved over the operating system search and ran on Windows, Mac, and Linux machines.  You can download it until September 14th but current installations will not be supported after that date.

Why Desktop Search?

Why would you want desktop search, you might ask?  It provides the ability to search beyond the files on your computer, to make your searching experience more powerful.  As an example, a search with Google Desktop would return results both from your local machine and the Web, without you having to do searches in two places.  The Desktop tool was also extendable, so that it could look into files that the Windows operating system search couldn’t, improving your results.  It could also search network folders, so you didn’t have to clear that first obstacle of figuring out where you saved a file.

Still not convinced that desktop search is worth worrying about?  A LexisNexis 2008 workplace productivity survey of lawyers and non-lawyers found that nearly a third of lawyers spent between 1 and 2 hours a day looking for documents and e-mails.  Another 16% reported spending 2 to 4 hours a day.  That’s a significant amount of potential revenue, whether billable hour or lost time in an alternative fee arrangement, that can be improved by applying better search to information management.

Many lawyers have not yet migrated to Windows 7, and so are limited in their choices for alternatives.  Windows Desktop Search 4 is still available as a free download and is a huge improvement on the search within XP.  Windows 7 users have it built-in to their operating system.  Windows 7 users also have the benefit of additional search configurations, including forcing Windows 7 to index ALL the files on their desktops, and to add search connectors to enable you to search other sites from your search box.

One of the best known alternatives is Copernic, which has a commercial license for their Desktop Search Professional version.  There is a free version but it’s only for home users.  It is a more powerful tool than Google Desktop was, without some of the limitations on the size of file it could index.  It also has additional options for customizing which files are searched.  Copernic is a Windows-only product.

X1 is another well-known alternative to Google Desktop and has a range of fee-based products, for searching your business files or your Sharepoint server, among others.  Both Copernic and X1 have an e-discovery review focus, so if you are replacing Google Desktop, you may be able to get a replacement tool that can do dual duty.

Cloud Search

Another possibility is that your information is no longer stored on your desktop.  As lawyers and others move their files onto hosted Internet servers, the so-called cloud, they may not need to use desktop search any longer.  A great option is Greplin, which will search many of the most popular document and file storage sites, including Google Docs and Dropbox.com.  Here’s a quick video I made of how it works.  Another service similar to Greplin is Cloudmagic, although it searches fewer services.  I would expect to see more of these sorts of offerings appear in the future.

This is the latest in a progression of products to be sunsetted by Google.  Operating system search is improving and the Google ecosystem has been a bit sprawling, so this weeding certainly makes sense.  It’s been a good 7 years.

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