Google Desktop Beta Review

Today Google unveiled its latest beta of the Google Desktop. This is a pretty neat product! They did a nice job of incorporating a few of their already published tools (including Google Desktop Search and Google Deskbar), but they also added a lot of other neat stuff, like the Google Sidebar and Outlook Integration.

Sidebar
The sidebar is a nice idea. The concept is taken utilities such as from Desktop Sidebar, which has been around for a while. But it integrates very well with the Google properties, including email search, web search, web history, picasa, and weather.

So far, I’m liking it quite a lot, and not minding the screen real-estate it consumes. I do plan to remove it, however, because I must remain loyal to my own team :-)

Outlook Integration
Always interesting to me is Outlook Integration. For the first time, they’ve introduced an Outlook addin for email search! The good news is that its there, and that it even opens up search results in a UI for Outlook with a simple Lookout-like window! The bad news is that its so primitive, you probably would rather stick with MSN Desktop Search or Lookout. Google’s interface doesn’t have the ability to drag&drop, right-click for actions, filter results, select columns other than the 3 they’ve selected for you, view types of results, etc.

But this does show promise! Google finally understands that not everything is best suited in a web UI.

Word-wheeling
Another cool feature to their search is that they’ve added what we call “word-wheeling” to their deskbar. This is a blatant steal from MSN’s product. As you type, it instantly searches the local index for matches on what you’ve typed so far. This gives the user great feedback to visualize results quickly. Great!

On the improvement side, though, I think the feature has UI trouble. First, the window opens in a variable-size. So with each keystroke, the window bounces up and down making it difficult to follow. A fixed sized window would be better, even if there were whitespace. Further, the results in the window are desktop search results. But as soon as you press enter, the desktop search results disappear, and you now see web results, with a new single link to try to find the desktop results.

As we’d expect, Google is anxious to push the user into the web. But when the data is on the hard disk, this creates a few extra clicks.

Spyware
One thing that really bugs me when I install software is when the software changes my desktop settings without asking me. Google’s product automatically changed my default search engine to Google, so that in IE, the “Search” bar now goes to their site. I did not ask for them to do this.

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