Windows Desktop Search review

Windows has had a built-in indexing service for many years, but the poor interface has meant it’s used by few and praised by fewer. However, the underlying search-indexing technology is mature enough to let Microsoft hit the ground running with Windows Desktop Search (WDS).

Windows Desktop Search review

The initial indexing was quick at two hours, 34 minutes, and other than the 500MB hard disk space requirement it had little impact upon system resources. By tapping into the power of the IFilter component of the Windows Indexing Service, WDS can search more than 200 file types, including all Microsoft Office documents and Outlook/Outlook Express by default. That there’s no Eudora or Thunderbird client support isn’t surprising, but a shame nonetheless.

However, the Outlook/Outlook Express support is exceptional and optionally goes beyond indexing just messages and attachments to include calendar entries, notes and task items. WDS also excels when it comes to toolbar options: there’s a taskbar-resident deskbar, plus a search toolbar for Outlook, Windows Explorer and another for Internet Explorer. You can even specify where to store the search index and choose a non-MSN engine as the web-search default.

Our test search resulted in 482 hits and took only 3.14 seconds to complete. Automatic indexing of new content means your search will return even the most recent documents without delay, including your web browser cache, so you’ll need to make sure sensitive encrypted pages aren’t saved there. Results can be filtered by type using toolbar buttons, which are intelligent in that the more file types in the results, the more buttons you get. Further filtering is available through the other button, which has a drop-down menu that breaks ‘documents’ down into categories such as text, notes, spreadsheets and presentations. The usual date, folder, title and size sorting is just a column header click away, although there’s no advanced capability for date-range sorting.

There’s no doubt that WDS is full of surprises, but some are unhappy ones. It installs only as part of the IE-integrated MSN Toolbar and brings a pop-up stopper, web form filler and MSN navigation buttons with it (you can disable much of this once installed). Lastly, the integrated file viewer is highly competent, but slow to render anything other than plain text. However, if OS-level integration and flexibility are important, WDS is the only choice.

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