google desktop, a review

I’ve been using an older version of Google desktop (not the current beta) for a while now and there’s definitely some interesting stuff in there. It works through your browser, which makes sense for a Google application doesn’t it, by simply running on your system as a mini-webserver.
A good idea, as ussual. Using a simple oldskool iframe they can even integrate your local search results into a normal web-google search, without having to send any data over to their webservers first. They still ain’t evil apparently.

The first thing I noticed that it’s sorta scary in a way. It indexes basically everything you browse on the internet. Yup. Just clearing your history won’t clear all the pr0n if you have this installed…

You can get a detailed log of what sites you visited by simply searching for http://. This can be cool, and useful (those little cached screenshots are wicked for instance) if you just can’t remember the URL to that awesome site you visited a few days ago, but it’s also kinda scary knowing everything gets logged in that much detail (time, site, picture…). No problem of course if you’re sure no one else will be snooping your personal Google archive, but if there is a chance other people will be possibly searching your machine (at work for instance) you might want to disabled the indexing of web pages using the GD options.

stencil grafitti art by CUM
The advantages?

Super fast searching of all you documents of course. Windows search can’t compete with that, no sirree, and if you allow it to search your Outlook inbox, it even beats the search tools in Outlook plus it returns a link to all emails related to the found emails in your search results. It’s almost as good as the GMail conversation view, which I miss big time in Outlook.
Screw filing every email in separate folders in Outlook from now on. Use GD to find em when you need em.

Recently I came across an interesting little side effect I didn’t expect in Google desktop as well. Just as it’s online daddy, cached copies of the search results are stored, in case the original (file) gets moved or deleted.
The cool part is that Google desktop stores multiple cached copies at different times, which sort of turns it into a version control system. Of course it’s not a replacement of CVS, Subversion or any real source control versioning system, but if you’ve accidentally deleted a file, or screwed it up, there’s a big chance you’ll be able to retrieve a previous version from the Google desktop cache.
This kind of stuff should be build into NTFS, but it’s cool to know GD can save you a lot of work when you accidentally delete some files on a Monday morning…

It’s pretty smart when it comes to handling files btw. When you move or rename a file, GD knows exactly what happened and maintains previously cached items for the “new” file. Pretty phat stuff.

grafitti on a white wall saying 'loading, please wait...'
It uses a hook in Windows that monitors every file manipulation on your system as far as I can see, so this impacts performance as you might have guessed. If you’re a developer and you check in/out or build on your system, or you are doing whatever that causes heavy file manipulation, it’s a good idea to exclude your working folders from being indexed, so you don’t waste any performance there.
Excluding your temp folders is also a good idea, as indexed temporary copies of Office documents or whatever are a waste of disk space as well.
It’s best to do these excludes before you have GD index your complete system, so that the results don’t end up in the index at all, which saves your some diskspace, and allows faster searches.

I’ll have to give the new beta version a try as well I guess, it can only get better, but it clashes with the virus scanning software we have at work. At home my disk is acting up, so I’ll have to wait until that gets sorted out before I let it index that.

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