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4/4/2007
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Google Desktop Goes Mac

The software is based on the Windows version of search software, but Google says it spent considerable time rewriting the code for the Macintosh.

Some 2-1/2 years after launching Google Desktop for Windows, Google on Wednesday released its desktop search software for the Macintosh.

Google Desktop for Mac is a beta program that indexes the text in local files and allows the user to search that index for files containing the specified keywords. It returns results in the user's Web browser, just like Google.com does. It can also index specific online files, such as the e-mail messages in the user's Gmail account, and make them searchable and accessible, even when offline.

Google Desktop is based on the Windows version of search software, but Google says it spent considerable time rewriting the code for the Mac.

"We know that simply 'porting' to the Mac is not a good idea," said Mike Pinkerton, a Google software engineer, on the Google Mac blog. "So we took the time to develop a product that deeply integrates into Mac OS X and maintains its high standards of usability. This is a Mac product through and through, from the bezel on our search box down to correctly (and securely) handling multiple users and FileVault."

Although Mac OS X comes with its own capable search software called Spotlight, Google Desktop offers features that complement Apple's native search technology. Google Desktop can be used as a file backup utility, for example. Some corporate IT managers may see this as a security threat. Even so, it's quite useful to be able to restore an accidentally deleted file from the Google Desktop index.

Google Desktop also allows users to conduct an integrated search, querying the Web and local drives for documents through the familiar browser interface. The software's reach, however, isn't (yet) complete. According to Ars Technica, Google Desktop does not index disks shared using Apple's new AirPort Extreme Wireless Base Station. A Google spokesperson was not immediately available to confirm this.

Google maintains that it respects the privacy of its users and does not see or record Google Desktop results, or make search data accessible, without the user's explicit permission.

The desktop search software also comes with a revised Google Updater, which helps keep all of Google's Mac software up to date.

Google Desktop is available only in English at the moment. It runs on both PowerPC and Intel machines with Mac OS X 10.4+ and is compatible with the Safari, Firefox, and Camino browsers.

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