Google Desktop Search Review

News just in- Google has released its long awaited Desktop Search product today. I’ve been very eager to see this product, so its exciting that its finally here!!

Here are a few notes for Lookout fans.

What’s Cool about it:

Indexes your files (including word, excel, powerpoint, and text), your browser history, email (outlook or outlook express), chat logs (AOL).

Integrated with Web User Interface
The interface to Google’s Desktop Search is exactly the same as their existing interface at Further, search results from your desktop look identical to those on the web, and are integrated into your existing web queries. Much the same way that Google “news results” show at the top of the search result list, desktop search results also now show at the top of the list. (See screenshot)

Once again, Google did a great job creating a small and lightweight product. The download is less than 500KB, installed its about 1.5MB. Once installed, the indexer runs in the background, and is not noticible. The installation is quick and easy – almost no effort at all.

What’s Not Cool about it:

Web Integration
The web-integrated user interface falls short for me for email searching. For example, say you are an Outlook user, and you want to do a search. First, you need to switch from Outlook over to the web browser. Search results are displayed only 10 results at a time (like a web page), and can only be sorted by date or by relevance (can’t sort by sender, recipient, subject, type, etc). When you do find what you are looking for, you can open it, which shows you the mail item rendered in the browser as HTML. To really use the item, you now have to click again.

Also somewhat limiting is that search results are not very actionable. Once you’ve viewed the item in HTML, you can reply, reply all, forward, or view it in Outlook. You cannot move the item, copy it, or delete it.

One interesting good feature is the “View entire thread” action which surfaces when a message is part of a larger thread. Clicking this view, allows you to see a summary of all other messages with the same subject. Its a very primitive threading UI today, but hopefully they will expand on this in the future.

Summary: email users are left with disappointing navigation through search results, and a ‘two click’ requirement to get to an email.

Advanced Search is AWOL
Unfortunately, the product has no advanced searching capabilities. What if you want to search for “emails from Bob”, “subjects containing ‘deadline'”, or for messages with attachments? Wildcard searching is also not available.

Summary: Its surprising that Google, the King of Searching, missed out on this capability.

Can’t search contacts or calendar
Unfortunately, while they did integrate email searching, you still can’t search for calendar or contact entries in your mailbox.

How does it differ from Lookout?

Google and Lookout take a fundamentally different approach to how we find content.

Google’s belief is that the Web is the killer app. All users will start with Web Searching, and then they use their strength in that area to show a little bit of Desktop search. For this reason, the Google user interface is the same interface as their web interface. If you believe the web search interface is the right one for your email, then Google’s product is great. As you do your web searching, you’ll now have your searches augmented with desktop results as well.

Lookout’s belief is that Email is the killer app, and that email searching and web searching have fundamental differences. As such, Lookout integrates tightly into Outlook for easy access (just click on the toolbar inside outlook), allows email-specific searches (like searching for senders, recipients, etc), allows users to act on search results in email-centric ways (such as reply, forward, move, delete, print, etc), and allows users to sort results in email-centric ways (sort by sender, recipient, subject, folder, etc)


Good entry-level product for Google. Great web-integration. I believe this product will change the way users use the web, and I look forward to seeing future products! I’m disappointed that it didn’t do more to really search your desktop. Its too web centric.

The biggest strength for Google is that it is so lightweight. Because it seems to run without interfering at all, users will not mind running it in conjunction with other products. Even if Google doesn’t yet offer all the features that a user needs, users may be perfectly satisfied to run two products – leveraging Google’s web integration strengths and also strengths from competing products.