The same X1 desktop search software that makes it easy to search your files and your email is now making it just as easy to search your stream of Facebook and Twitter messages.
X1 Technologies made the beta version of X1 Pro 7 available as a free download Wednesday, with the official release scheduled for early next year at a price of $49.95. The Pro 7 release allows you to register your accounts on Facebook and Twitter, as well as webmail from GMail, Yahoo, and AOL.
When X1 was founded in 2003 as a venture of Bill Gross's Idealab, the idea was to address a common frustration of desktop computer users, Kevin Bray, president of X1, said. "The idea was, it shouldn't be easier to search the Web than it is my own computer." Although Google Desktop search was among the products Google scrapped this year, X1 still sees plenty of potential for desktop and enterprise search from a desktop client.
With the advent of social media and software as a service, however, "today's information sprawl is much different," compared to when X1 was founded, said Bray. Finding something you posted to Facebook weeks ago, or the interesting link you saw from a friend on Twitter, is not easy. Facebook lets you search for people and businesses, but gives you no way of doing a topical search. Twitter provides a search engine, but makes it hard to find any but the most recent posts.
Adding Web email services was a small leap, given that X1 has long included Outlook email in the content it searches, Bray said, but figuring out how to address social media was a bigger challenge. X1 purposely limited its ambitions to addressing Facebook and Twitter initially, as the biggest targets, but will be adding additional social networks and Web services, he said. "Anything with an API, we can index and search against."
I found the search for my Facebook and Twitter feeds to be blindingly fast. X1 starts executing the search as soon as you start typing, which means you often find what you're looking for before you finish typing the first keyword. Note that you are not searching all the content on Twitter or Facebook, just posts from your own network. X1 Pro downloads, archives, and indexes your posts and those of your friends, or the people you follow, then makes those available for search. For Twitter, there is a "public timeline" search option, but that's simply a pass-through to the Twitter search service, with the results displayed in the X1 interface.
[ Google has changed its search algorithm once again, this time targeting the freshest content. See Google Delivers Timelier Search Results. ]
As a byproduct, X1 has actually created a pretty nice Twitter client that you also can use to browse the messages. When you select a post that includes a link, X1 Pro displays the content of the target Web page in the preview pane. A snapshot of that Web content is actually included in the search index. That means your searches can find Web content containing a given keyword even if the Twitter post linking to it did not contain that word.
Indexing of your webmail accounts works similarly, providing you with a searchable archive of your webmail content that's available even when your computer is not connected to the Internet. The interface includes a basic email client that you can use to reply to messages, although X1 doesn't try to reproduce the full range of features you would expect in an email program. On the other hand, it does things most email clients don't, like allowing you to browse or search just your email attachments.
I did have some trouble getting Gmail to work with the program, resolved following a troubleshooting session with X1's engineering team, but overall I was impressed with how easy the product was to set up and use.
In addition to social media and webmail integration, X1 Pro 7 includes other, more-basic upgrades, such as 64-bit support for Outlook. "It's as significant a release as we've had in our company's history, that's for sure," Bray said.
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