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GoogleDesktop

Google Desktop - Info when you want it, right on your desktop

Website - Freeware

review by BillWebb on 19 Nov 2005

 

Notes from Clif

Two weeks ago, Bill mentioned that he really liked Google Desktop. I don't know much about it other than it made a big splash on the internet when it was introduced. Bill often writes columns for Lockergnome so if you like this review, you can see more of his stuff here.

 

Review by Bill Webb

Clif has asked me to do a review of Google Desktop, so here it is. It may be a bit different from the usual review, because I don't use the best-known feature of the software -- its local search feature. That's not because I have security concerns, as so many folks seem to. (If you're connected to the Internet and think you have privacy, just Google "nsa+email+internet" and see what you get.) It's merely that I haven't had that much use for it, because I know where most of my stuff is. One of these days I'll need to search for a particular item by reference to something that's in it, and then I'll no doubt be tickled pink with the convenience.

 

But if you're not as organized as (ahem) some of us, you can find stuff you'd forgotten existed with Desktop. It will search (with your permission) email, chats, web history, all media files, all text and other files, .doc (Word), Excel and Powerpoint documents, contacts, and -- if you want -- password-protected Word and Excel documents and secure (https) pages in your web history. If you use Gmail, it will continuously index and store the information on your hard drive so you can search for it locally.

 

You can specify what drives and files (ahem) you wish to have searched, and also specifically exclude certain items and web sites. Desktop will even encrypt the search index, at the cost of some performance. As you can see, Google has taken some care to give you control over your privacy. Still, there's no getting around the fact that Google's raison d'ĂȘtre is gathering information, and you'll have to decide for yourself whether you're willing to take whatever risks you perceive might exist.

 

My reasons for liking the program are unrelated to search on my machine, however. I run it because I love the "sidebar" feature -- more or less the equivalent of a bunch of gizmos, but all organized in one place. Rather than telling you about all the possibilities, I'll just list the stuff on my (auto-hiding) sidebar, and note that there are dozens of additional applets available through Google's own efforts and that of some very active ehthusiast groups.

 

My sidebar includes:

 

  • To do list, with check-offs;
  • Scratchpad (auto-saving);
  • Dictionary gizmo, that automatically looks up anything I copy to the clipboard, and saves the definitions in case I want them later;
  • NTimer, an add-on that provides me a simple countdown of any length I like, and sounds a tone when the countdown is done;
  • News panel that updates periodically from Google News, lets me read a short excerpt, and will connect me to the article if I want;
  • Weather panel with basic info on several cities I like to monitor*;
  • System monitor that displays graphs of RAM use, CPU use and the condition of the page file;
  • Hard drive temperature monitor.

 

*Ref. weather: I use Weather Watcher's free edition (no spyware) but it will only monitor one location at a time. For business reasons I like to have information on some other locations around the world. Google's service, (through Weather.com) is handy for that.

 

If you have a slow machine, (less than 1 GB,) or limited RAM, (less than 256 MB,) you might find Google Desktop's resource use a bit extreme for what you get. It uses about 36 MB of RAM, and can consume considerable processing power when it's indexing. Likewise, you'll find its appeal limited if you use dialup, in which case it will do a great indexing job, but the remote services will suffer and the updates will tie up your connection big time!

 

So, there it is. Go and look it over. Download it and play. The price is right, i.e., zip. Enjoy. Then make up your own mind.

 

Screenshot

click to expand