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The search is on

The latest search engines are aimed at one's desktop, rather than the Web


"WHY DON'T they straighten up the mess that's inside?" asked Henry Higgins in that classic musical, My Fair Lady.

The male chauvinist that he was, the professor was referring to the inside of women's heads, but these days the question can justifiably be asked about the huge amount of information that we tend to store on the hard drives of our desktop or laptop PCs.

Most of us with access to the Internet tend to accumulate a large number of files, pictures, web pages and even bits of music that we hope to use someday.

The problem is, when the need arises, the item can rarely be found in the jungle of information on the hard drive.

But help is at hand. Recently, two software tools to search one's desktops have been released as free downloads, and Microsoft has promised to release its own desktop search product by year-end.

Free tool

A Boston-based company, Copernic, has released a free tool called Copernic Desktop Search (CDS).

The 2.3 MB software can be downloaded from www.copernic.com in less than five minutes.

In the few weeks that it has been available, CDS has been improved and the current version, 1.1, has been judged the best of its breed by the CNET Web resource.

CDS burrows on your hard disk and searches Word, Excel, PowerPoint or Acrobat files, as well as all popular formats of music, picture, video and web page. It works with most flavours of Windows and Internet Explorer 5.0 or later.

In mid-October, Google announced its own desktop search tool, which is currently in beta or trial version and can be downloaded from www.desktop. google.com.

The Google desktop tool scours your computer for all types of files including Outlook e-mail and chat sessions.

In fact, it is so good that within days of Google making available the beta download, privacy and security experts have warned that it can be useful but has to be handled with care.

The reason is, some users found that it is able to bypass user names and passwords on one's own desktop.

As long as you are the only user of your PC, this may not matter, but if you are sharing it with others, this may be cause for concern.

However, Google is sure to close any potential privacy loopholes before the beta version becomes a full-fledged product.

Yahoo at it too

Recently, Yahoo announced it had acquired a company called Stata Labs, whose most compelling product is an e-mail searcher called Boomba.

The acquisition could well mean that Yahoo too will come out with a desktop search product soon.

Also, Microsoft announced that its as yet unnamed desktop search software which it previewed in July at a conference of financial analysts in the U.S., will become available as part of the MSN search technology by 2004 end.

Earlier this year, the company purchased Lookout Software, a small company known for a program which searches Outlook e-mail files and this could well be the name of Microsoft's own desktop search tool; and almost certainly, desktop search will become part and parcel of next version of Windows-Longhorn — expected by 2006.

A. VISHNU

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