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Google Brings Desktop Search Out Of Beta

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There is a running joke about how Google never brings any of their innovations out of the beta stage. The thinking is, if something breaks, Google can always say it was still in beta testing.

However, every now and then, Google will actually un-beta something, which happens to be the case with Google’s desktop search utility. The search engine incarnate officially launched this past Sunday (an odd day for a major release, don’t you think?).

New to the official release is GDS’s ability to index and search a number of new file types, which include:

- PDF files

- Multimedia files, including audio (MP3, WMA, WAV and more), images (JPG, GIF, PNG, BMP and more), and videos (AVI, MPG, WMV, and more), by meta-tag. For instance, you can search by song title or artist name.

- Web pages you’ve viewed using the Netscape 7+, Mozilla and Firefox browsers

- Email from Netscape Mail, Mozilla Mail and Thunderbird

If you are familiar with Google’ beta version of GDS, then the official version should not be difficult to navigate and use. There are a few additions, as well. Most notably, the ability to download plugins and Google’s releasing of the desktop search software development kit (SDK). Plugins simply allow users to enhance the capabilities of GDS.

This will allow developers to write plug-ins that can improve the performance of GDS. The SDK can also give users the ability to incorporate Google Desktop Search into their own applications.

Google also indicates, “We’ve also made it easier to use Desktop Search by allowing you to access it via a deskbar on your desktop.” The deskbar resides on your taskbar, or it float wherever the user sees fit to place it. Another new feature is the inclusion of a privacy option. This simply prevents indexing of Office files which happen to be password protected.

Of course, since its beta launch, privacy issues have haunted GDS as well as desktop search in general. Some security experts feel virus writers will try and take advantage the indexing ability of desktop search utilities. Because GDS is so thorough and finds items some may not want found, a few people are a little unnerved. To alleviate some concerns, Google made a commitment to privacy, or at least informing users that GDS results are.

From Google: “So that you can easily search your computer, the Google Desktop Search application indexes and stores versions of your files and other computer activity, such as email, chats, and web history. These versions may also be mixed with your Web search results to produce results pages for you that integrate relevant content from your computer and information from the Web.

Your computer’s content is not made accessible to Google or anyone else without your explicit permission.”

The option of using the floating deskbar is a nice, useful feature. Once you place it somewhere, it will give the “always on top” treatment (notice the screenshot), meaning the deskbar is always present for the user to access. As I am typing this, the subdued box is residing in the middle of my word document, waiting to be useful.

deskbar screenshot

And coming from a user who prefers a “no icon” approach to desktop computing: it’s not really distracting.

All in all, like most Google products, this seems to do what the company wants quite well. As for the potential privacy/malicious misuse of GDS, it certainly seems Google is taking precautions to protect personal content.

To learn more, read the FAQ, or you can download GDS here.

Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.

Google Brings Desktop Search Out Of Beta
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