Google Desktop Does Cross-PC Search

    February 9, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

One new feature in the latest version of Google’s information-laden Desktop product will get a lot of attention from users in the wake of Google’s fight with the Department of Justice over user privacy and trade secrets.

Out of the many new and updated features available on Google Desktop 3 Beta stands out from the rest. The Search Across Computers feature lets users search indexed documents and web pages “across all your computers.”

The feature does exclude viewing of secured (HTTPS) web pages across computers, even if the user permits the Google Desktop to index those pages. Only new items added to the index after enabling Search Across Computers will be visible to other machines.

Only certain files will be searchable from other computers; Google listed them as follows:

•  Web history (from Internet Explorer, Firefox, Netscape, and Mozilla)
•  Microsoft Word documents
•  Microsoft Excel spreadsheets
•  Microsoft PowerPoint presentations
•  PDF files and Text files in My Documents

Anticipating the privacy concerns, Google discussed how it makes Search Across Computers work: by copying those indexed files temporarily to its Google Desktop Servers:

In order to share your indexed files between your computers, we first copy this content to Google Desktop servers located at Google. This is necessary, for example, if one of your computers is turned off or otherwise offline when new or updated items are indexed on another of your machines. We store this data temporarily on Google Desktop servers and automatically delete older flies, and your data is never accessible by anyone doing a Google search. You can learn more by reading the Google Desktop privacy policy.

Users can clear those files manually by clicking a “Clear my Files from Google” button. Also, Desktop users can further restrict certain files or folders from being made available to the cross-PC search in the first place.

Google’s Desktop blog also noted how Sidebar users can click and drag panels from the Sidebar to other places on the desktop. Another feature called Search Lock lets the user prevent anyone from doing a desktop search without unlocking search first with a password. That feature will be welcome by those who want to use Desktop Search but needed some extra security in the product before doing so.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.