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Review: Google Desktop 3

Google Desktop began life as a desktop search product, offering the ability to find E-mail, files, and recently visited Web pages. Version 2, released last fall, introduced the Sidebar, the feature that put news and RSS feeds on your desktop computer--and revealed a Google transforming itself from a simple search vendor to a software developer and content provider. Version 3 Beta refocuses on desktop search, including Search Across Computers.
Google Desktop began life as a desktop search product, offering the ability to find E-mail, files, and recently visited Web pages. Version 2, released last fall, introduced the Sidebar, the feature that put news and RSS feeds on your desktop computer--and revealed a Google transforming itself from a simple search vendor to a software developer and content provider. Version 3 Beta refocuses on desktop search, including Search Across Computers.

In some respects, SAC is similar to Internet-based data backup services such as EVault, InfoSure, and LiveVault InSync. The difference is they make users aware of security and encryption techniques, like using 256-bit AES encryption and transmission using Secure Sockets Layer. Google doesn't share those details. It's possible to encrypt the index Google Desktop creates, but here's what the Features Summary says: "Enabling this feature will reduce the performance of Google Desktop due to the extra work of doing the required encryption and decryption." It makes use of the Windows Encrypted File System feature. But Google doesn't provide enough information to be able to make a well-informed security decision.

Google Desktop does offer several checks to help keep your data safe and private. Search Across Computers is turned off by default. Also, the SAC index is a subset of the full Google Desktop index--it includes only Web history; Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents; and text and PDF files in the My Documents folder. You can make documents and Web history searchable, or just one or the other. You can exclude folders from the search (though not E-mail folders, unlike rivals X1 and Copernic). You can password-protect the search feature. If you want out of SAC, there's a "Clear My Files From Google" button to remove the index from Google's server, though it could take as long as 60 days. And your document index also will be on any computers you've used to search across computers. There's also no mechanism for indicating when data is uploaded to a server, accessed by another computer, or deleted from Google's servers.

Google Desktop on its own is a worthy competitor in desktop search, thanks to the ability to search a range of media types not found in other desktop search programs. And it has added security features, like password protection. But if Google is going to play in the software market, it must take more responsibility for communicating what its software does and doesn't do.

Return to main story, Google Desktop Is A Warning To IT: Get Users Desktop Help