Quick Look: Google Desktop 5 Beta - InformationWeek

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IoT
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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
Commentary
3/9/2007
11:03 AM
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Quick Look: Google Desktop 5 Beta

Whenever Google comes out with a new update, people pay attention. So when the company announced Google Desktop 5 Beta, the latest iteration of its desktop search utility, I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Whenever Google comes out with a new update, people pay attention. So when the company announced Google Desktop 5 Beta, the latest iteration of its desktop search utility, I thought I'd give it a whirl.Desktop, which searches both your hard drive and the Web, comes in the form of a desktop sidebar that contains a number of small applets (which Google calls "gadgets"). Available gadgets include news listings, image slide shows, calendars, notepads, to-do lists, RSS feeds, movie listings -- that kind of thing.

How useful is it? Well, I've got it on my personal laptop, but I haven't found myself using it a lot. On the other hand, a close friend considers it an important part of his arsenal of utilities.

The two major points on which Google is pushing the latest version are aesthetics and security (by some strange coincidence, the same features that Microsoft is touting to consumers for Vista). Certainly, I like the new look -- the notebook applet now looks like a notebook (instead of simply a white square); even better, the sidebar's background is now set to blend in with your wallpaper, so that when your other applications are minimized, the sidebar looks as if it's floating on the screen. Considering all the brouhaha about Microsoft's Aero Glass look, I guess as far as PCs are concerned, transparent is the new black.

The new anti-phishing security features are, no doubt, there to offset the bad press that the Desktop got in February concerning a security hole. It uses the StopBadware.org Badware Website Clearinghouse to identify sites to be avoided -- if you try to go to one, you get a large message reading "Warning - visiting this web site may harm your computer!" and the option to either leave or keep going. It strikes me that, since most browsers already include fairly robust anti-phishing features, Google's will probably be redundant to most systems. But a little more security can't hurt.

I did very much like the new preview feature that is now attached to Google Desktop's list of search results. Each listing includes a preview link which allows you drop down an image of the file, so that you can see what the file is before taking the trouble to actually open it. I've always been a fan of preview functions -- they save you from loading the wrong document/application, and as far as I'm concerned, any time saved is a good thing.

My recommendation? Nothing here to cause a non-Desktop-user to switch. But if you've already got it, the new version is well worth the update.

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