Google takes another swing at desktop search

After taking a beating from analysts Gartner for poor corporate security features first time around, Google hopes that its latest desktop software will fit the bill

Google launched a new beta version of its desktop search tool on Monday that features updated Web navigation software and an innovative tool-bar.

The move puts Google in direct competition with Yahoo, Lycos and AOL, as well as Microsoft's new search engine.

The search giant may be hoping that the beta version of Google Desktop Version 2 will be better received than the first version, which was criticised by analysts at Gartner who advised firms to steer clear of it.

The most striking feature of Google Desktop version 2 is a pop-up sidebar that shows at a glance the range of features that Google now offers. These include integration with Gmail — Google's Web-email system — and Microsoft Outlook, news headlines, Web clips — data from RSS feeds — photo archiving and information from other data sources such as a stock ticker, weather reports and the latest movies.

While the sidebar, which can remain in view all the time, is an obvious feature of Google Desktop 2 it also fits in with other new capabilities which help the user search for and retrieve information from their desktop. These include a range of plug-ins including one that integrates with Apple's iTunes.

Other new features in Google Desktop 2 include Quickfind, which allows the user to launch an application by typing in the first few letters of its name.

A first look at Google Desktop 2 indicated that it was adept at gathering information from the user’s system and choosing to display information that it thought would be most useful. For example, after a quick check of the test PC it picked out the two best sites for the 'Quick View' section of the writer's system with accuracy — both sites were frequently visited by the user.

While it took some time for the system to index all of the email on the system it again accurately defaulted to displaying the Outlook mailbox, instead of Gmail, as this one is the most often used on the PC.

The new features have, in the main, been designed to load and work automatically. For example, the Web Clips feature automatically analyses the users most commonly used sites that offer RSS feeds and automatically downloads the latest headlines from the feeds. Like most of the features in Google Desktop 2 it is entirely user-configurable.

The first beta version of Google Desktop Search was launched in October 2004. Two months later, Gartner published a research note warning IT managers to discourage users from adopting the Google software and said instead that they should opt for a more business-ready and secure search tool.