Google preps desktop search application

Google Inc. made a much anticipated move toward what many consider the newest frontier in the digital information search sector by announcing Thursday it is offering a test version of an application designed to let users search for information stored on their desktop computers.

Google Desktop Search will let users search for information stored in their PC files, local e-mail inboxes, archived chat sessions and list of Web sites visited, Google said.

Considerable progress has been made in recent years in Internet search, as sites from companies such as Google, Ask Jeeves Inc. and Yahoo Inc. improved their technology to index more content and deliver more relevant results. But finding information in users’ desktop PCs has been a problem, as tools to do this have been scarce and inefficient. Providing better desktop search tools has been identified recently as a priority by a variety of players, including Google and Microsoft Corp.

Google Desktop Search can be downloaded for free. The application can search for information stored in users’ Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail applications from Microsoft, in Microsoft Office files from applications such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, in the list of visited Web sites kept in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and across stored instant message chat sessions from America Online Inc.’s AIM service.

Google Desktop Search is also integrated with the Internet search engine, so that queries run through are also run simultaneously in a user’s Google Desktop Search application. Results from Google Desktop Search are added to the results.

However, for the sake of privacy, the desktop results aren’t made available to without the user’s permission, said Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif. Users can also configure Google Desktop Search to search certain files and not others.

Google Desktop Search has been designed to refresh its index of local desktop files continuously, instead of for example once every day, so that it can search e-mail messages seconds after they are received and files seconds after they are created, Google said.

Google Desktop Search is available now for Windows XP and Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 and above. It is available in English now, and there are plans to support other languages in the future.

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