[Published in the OSALL newsletter of May 2007]
With the ever-expanding and seemingly infinite amount of electronic information at our disposal it is no wonder that search technology occupies a large part of the developmental sector.
Although the Internet search forum is largely dominated by one company at present, the market is more evenly distributed in the field of localised, or desktop, searching. A few names have appeared consistently since March 2004 and the time is ripe for users to benefit from the developers’ learning curve during this period.
Yahoo, Google and Microsoft are still, unsurprisingly, among the leaders in this field. However, based on experience gained while undertaking research for an earlier comparative review (http://www.pacc.org.za/talks/mb2-2-05index.pps) and personal experience of the earlier version, these are the reasons I have now installed Copernic Desktop Search 2.0 which was released in March 2007.
The factor that has remained top of my list of criteria is the impact on the hard-drive in terms of time taken to create the initial index and the space it occupies in the longterm. CDS2 requires a minimum of 20MB free diskspace for installation and the developers recommend 250MB for the index. System requirements include Windows 98/Me/NT4/2000/2000 Server/XP/2003 Server ; Pentium 120 or higher ; recommended 256 MB.
After installation, CDS2 makes use of any idle time that it identifies by monitoring mouse and keyboard activity, to index almost every file on one’s computer. By default, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, HTML, WordPerfect, text, zip and email (Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora and Thunderbird) files will be indexed and users can customise the settings to include an additional 150 filetypes (details at www.copernic.com/en/products/desktop-search/faq.html). Network drives may also be indexed. An unlimited number of files may be indexed but obviously this will affect the size of the index and the subsequent response time to queries. Personally I have had absolutely no problem with this ‘restriction’ as results are returned within seconds and I have an admittedly huge wodge of documentation on my hard-drive.
The installation process on this occasion was subjected to an unintentional baptism of fire as another application froze my computer completely about four times yesterday morning. Despite the interruptions, the machine being switched off last night and that I worked through lunch which took another hour off potential indexing-time, a query run a few minutes ago on “OSALL” identified 1 611 items, including Emails, Files, Images and Favourites. Not bad for a program that hasn’t yet been able to complete the indexing phase.
CDS2 manages to appear in three easily-accessible locations while remaining relatively inconspicuous : as an icon on the Desktop, a search window in the Deskbar (bottom of the screen, righthand-ish side) and as a tiny icon in the Systems Tray (bottom of the screen, very righthand side) from where the full application may be opened.
Possibly the biggest drawcard offered by the latest version is the new improved interface ; the layout is very similar to email packages and RSS readers in that the folders are displayed on the lefthand side, contents within the highlighted category in the top righthand column and details of the highlighted item below. Files are opened in the relevant application simply by double-clicking on the appropriate filename.
The graphic below is a bit small for all but Unnaturally Advanced Pixel-Discerning ScreenWatchers and Fiercely-Determined Fortuitous Fluke Finders so you may wish to open the real McCoy simultaneously to reading this column (http://www.copernic.com/en/products/desktop-search/screenshots/screen1.html).
The categories under which items are indexed (see the lefthand column and user-friendly toolbar at the top) are Emails, Files, Music, Pictures, Videos, Contacts, Favourites and History.
Results may be ordered alphabetically or chronologically.
Search terms make allowance for the use of wildcards, the once-popular but no longer often-seen NEAR facilitator, and one can now save search terms that are regularly used.
Tools/Options opens a whole array of customisable settings in the form of tickboxes. These include the useful Perform Last Query When Changing Category ; Enable Query Correction (Did You Mean), familiar to Google users ; inclusion of additional filetypes to be indexed ; indexing schedule . . .
Picture results are returned in the form of thumbnails, a feature that should be a default in searches of this nature : nothing else identifies a picture as quickly and accurately.
CDS2 also offers web search (http://find.copernic.com/copernic.html) as four variants (see button in top toolbar) : general, News, Images and Health.
This is one application I cannot recommend enough, regardless of how careful one is in managing one’s electronic documents. The number of related items that are identified in any search is way beyond human memory and the problem of saving documents that fall into multiple categories is also resolved.
Little wonder that the product has been received the CNet “Editor’s Choice” award and, historically, the PC World 2005 World Class Award.
Other popular Desktop Search options include :
- Google Desktop – http://desktop.google.com/
- Windows Desktop Search 3.01 – http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=738fc2de-49b9-4e69-9227-2206277ab7c9
- Yahoo Desktop Search – http://desktop.yahoo.com/
You may also wish to read the brief comparative review of five options at http://www.pcpro.co.uk/reviews/102276/copernic-desktop-search-2.html.
Opinions expressed in this column are my own and not necessarily those of my employer