Google Releases Desktop 2

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Google has released a new version of its desktop search product, now called Google Desktop 2, and now back in beta. The big difference in this new version is a sidebar which goes on the side of your desktop and gives you access to your Gmail, news, weather, photos (not from Picasa, but folders and RSS feeds), stock quotes, RSS headlines (or Web Clips), a Scratch Pad (for quick note-taking) and a Quick View list for web pages and files you use often.

Google Releases Desktop 2
Google’s Robust Desktop Search Update

There’s also a Sidebar API, which already has a few plugins, like ones for iTunes, a todo list and a clock.

Google Desktop now adds a toolbar to Outlook (or so I assume, since I’ve only recently begun using Outlook). It also now indexes natively PDFs, images, audio and video.

I’ll have a little more after I install it, since it insists on closing my browser.

Screenshots from Google

UPDATE: Apparently, the news in the sidebar may be self personalizing. From the privacy warning:

For example, Google Desktop sends Google information about the news pages you visit in order to personalize the news you see in Sidebar. We use other non-personal usage data, including crash reports, to help improve Desktop’s performance. Please note that none of this data actually tells us who you are; we use it merely to improve Desktop’s ability to give you the information that’s most relevant to you.

UPDATE 2: The sidebar is now loaded. Its got a “What’s Hot” portion, that is probably determined from Zeitgeist records. Now, I like “The Island”, but few others did, so why is it #1?

Google Desktop What’s Hot Plug-in
(c) 2005 Google

View what’s popular on the web.

Learn about the current trends and what’s hot on the web. What’s Hot is automatically generated based on what’s currently popular on the web. It automatically combines different sources of information to determine what people are talking about online. You can remove headlines by right-clicking on them and selecting Remove.

UPDATE 3: Okay, it is getting a bit scary how this program somehow knows a lot about me. Despite that I received this computer from the factory 9 days ago and never previously installed any Google product on it, it has indexed something on my system to determine some websites I’ve been to recently and added their RSS feeds.

Of course, it isn’t using my most popular pages, because it added the old InsideMicrosoft blog, the Inside AdSense blog and the new Microsoft blog (called Microsoft Blog).

L.A. Times has a good quote about Sidebar:

Sidebar is “not an operating system, it’s not a browser,” said Greg Sterling, an analyst with Kelsey Group. “But it has elements of both in a certain way.”

Why do I get the same people who bemoaned Microsoft’s Longhorn sidebar (that may never make it into Vista) will call this a great innovation. In all honesty, sidebars have been around for a while, and while Google’s has a lot of good stuff in it, most users will not find the memory hit beneficial enough. At its worst, the full Desktop 2 suite eats as much as 35 megabytes of memory.

Desktop 2 runs into the same problem programs like Konfabulator (or my fav, Sphere XP). While useful, bogging down your system with utilities has never been a good idea. If you have a gig or two of memory, and don’t mind shutting these down every time you run a game or Photoshop, I guess you can leave them open.

I’m a firm believer that there are two types of computers: Those that have a lot of horsepower and those that don’t. Those that do, can easily run full-size programs without issue, and don’t need widgets (why run an iTunes widget if iTunes is super-fast?). Those that don’t can’t afford the performance hit of the widget.

I like full-featured programs and hardware. Its why I bought a simple phone and tote around a heavy super-powered laptop. I don’t like sacrificing power for portability. The sidebar, while useful and tiny, simply can’t compete with the full featured clients that do everything it does.

Why do I need Gmail indexed, when I can open Gmail? Why do I need Google News headlines when Google News is better? Why do I need “Web Clips” when I love Bloglines? Why do I need a scratch pad when I have Outlook’s Notes feature? Why do I need to display photos at all?

Why do I need shortcuts to what’s hot or browser favorites or stock quotes or weather, when I put in all that effort anyway? I guess what I’m saying is that, as a power user, Desktop 2’s Sidebar has too little. Some people might find it handy (and after a few days, I might as well), but the immediate verdict is: “Eh”.

UPDATE 4: Desktop 2 also has a timeline, viewing all the pages you’ve been to and emails and chats you’ve received, in order. It even digs into the past nicely. You can add networked drives to be indexed. On the other hand, it is telling me it will take another 10.8 idle hours to index my 160 gigabytes of data. Super.

Reader Comments…

Nathan Weinberg writes the popular InsideGoogle blog, offering the latest news and insights about Google and search engines.

Visit the InsideGoogle blog.

Google Releases Desktop 2
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  • Guest

    i want to subscribe this plugin.I love this product.

  • http://www.seethrureviews.com/Sit-Stay-Fetch-Book-Reviews.html SitStayFetch Review

    Thanks for the review. I’ll make sure to download it and test it out. BTW, 10 hours to index your huge 160 gig hard drive doesn’t seem that bad.

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