Monday, 22 November 2004

Google Desktop Search

I am impressed. I installed Google Desktop Search on my work laptop this afternoon, just to try it out. The installation took about 2 minutes. Then it took a few hours to index the whole hard disk but it was doing that in the background without any noticeable effect on the system, apart from the disk activity LED blinking. And then, even with a partial index, it was already returning amazing results and making my job easier. But rather than expect you to believe me at face value, here is what I tested it with:

Code search

While writing code, I needed to use a class that is part of our standard library so I entered the name in the search box. In a fraction of a second (not enough time to blink), I had the list of all Java source files that contained a reference to that class, giving me the original code as well as usage examples; the related Javadoc pages, giving me the documentation for it; all without having to trawl through dozens of directories. Clicking on a Java source file opened it in my preferred editor and clicking on a Javadoc page opened it in the browser. 5 seconds to find more than what I would have found in 5 minutes before: fantastic.

Random search

Just for the sake of it, I entered the name of one of our customers in the search box next. Still less time than you need to blink later, I had my results, about 400 files and 300 emails. Google Desktop Search not only indexes text files and their content but also emails if you use Microsoft Outlook, as well as Microsoft Office files, web pages cached by Internet Explorer and AOL instant messages. The sweet thing with email is that they've obviously re-used some of the code they developed for Gmail because the search engine is able to recognise message threads and will group them as such, providing you with links to navigate from one message to another within the same thread. You can then open each individual message in your browser or in Microsoft Outlook: very, very nice.

That's it, I'm sold. No salesman, no marketing, just a very good piece of code that has been painless to install and has proved useful in less time than a Starbucks barista would need to serve a cappuccino.

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