I had initially dabbled with (as it was called at that time) Google Desktop Search in 2004 and had found it to be a resource hog and a little bit too intrusive for my liking and had uninstalled it after giving it a go for a couple of weeks, and had even forgotten all about it. I had instead turned to Launchy, but found it to be even more of a resource hog and my CPU usage was always in the high to low 90s especially if Launchy was asked to index anything more than the Start Menu. It was with a feeling of déjà vu that I set out to test Google Desktop Search rechristened as Google Desktop (Google Desktop Search has progressed from being a mere search and indexing tool), to try and see for myself the improvements made.
The basic idea behind Google Desktop is to enable its users to search their PCs much as one would use Google Search or any other search engine for information on the internet, but in Google Desktop users would search for information located on their systems and this information could be a file, a song (i.e. mp3, wma, ogg), an e-book, pictures or just about anything. This will even include browsing history! Before you can start searching for items on your PC Google Desktop will need to index your entire PC. Indexing is always done while the PC is idle so it may be a good idea to give Google Desktop a couple of hours alone with your PC while it finishes indexing or better still leave the system running during the night so Google Desktop can go about its job and do thorough indexing of your system. Also, provided is an option to manually start indexing, but this will slow your system to a crawling snail’s pace and make it impossible for you to work on so I would not recommend manual indexing. It is a much better idea to leave your PC alone for a couple of hours after installation of Google Desktop or better still leave it running overnight. One thing for sure is that Google Desktop does not hog all the system resources while you are working on it and will index your system only when it is idle unless specified otherwise by you.
Google Desktop improves on Google Desktop Search by bringing more of the internet to your desktop especially with the sidebar enabled wherein you can see your Gmail, news, RSS feeds, weather information, pictures located on your system or online in a user specified slideshow, stocks, a scratch pad to replace Windows notepad, quick view and then some more. More options to the sidebar are available with Google Desktop Gadgets and you can customize the sidebar according to your specifications. A good place to start will be http://desktop.google.com/plugins/.
One issue with Google Desktop is that it only works with Internet Explorer and Firefox and this was not acceptable to me with Opera being by favorite and main browser. If you too feel the same way then you too can overcome this problem by setting Opera to identify itself as Internet Explorer or Firefox to Google Desktop and this will do the trick!
Also, with an inbuilt program launcher Google Desktop minimizes your dependency on the Start Menu and Quick Launch Toolbar. Hit the Ctrl key twice and a small window will popup and you can search the internet, search your PC, and even launch programs or songs or just about anything with just a few keystrokes. I have come to rely so much on this feature that hitting the control key twice is my default action when I want to search for something on the internet. Just hitting the control key twice will bring up a small window into which I type in my query and hit enter and presto Google Desktop will open a new tab in my browser redirected to Google Search with the results page.
Google Desktop also customizes the news in the sidebar and shows news based on your browsing pattern and history. It will also scan and store all your e-mail from Gmail and also from a mail application like Outlook, Thunderbird, etc. Google Desktop sidebar also has web clips thrown in which should act as a diversion for a while at least. Google Desktop is also built around and organized with other Google products like Google Talk. I just selected a web clip to send to a buddy and Google Desktop offered to install Google Talk in the sidebar widget. In a matter of seconds Google Talk integrated into Google Desktop was up and running for me to send the link to my buddy. Google Desktop sidebar also integrates with Google Maps, but Google Maps is something I don’t use, at least not yet. You can also track your AdSense statistics right from the Google Desktop sidebar and this should make it a lot easier for many with AdSense on their websites.
All in all Google Desktop warrants a download to at least try it out. How long will it occupy prime space on the desktop will differ from person to person, but the popup window to Google Search the internet, search the PC, and even launch programs is definitely going to be staying for a long time on my system. I got rid of the sidebar widget after playing with it for a couple of days.
As a desktop search utility Google Desktop definitely has many competitors and some would be on the same level too. I can think of Yahoo with X1 being very good at one time, but sadly it has lost its way as with Yahoo. Google Desktop with the overall integration of the sidebar with mail, news, RSS feeds, Google maps, stocks, personal photos from the system and online, and just about everything else thrown in is surely impressive and also along with Google’s powerful search and indexing of your system, well it just blows the competition away.