Have you ever forgotten where you saved a file on your computer or network drive? When you’ve tried to locate such a file, have you been completely underwhelmed by the Windows search feature? 

Google Desktop harnesses the power of Google’s indexing and applies it to your documents, music, images, email (Gmail, Outlook, Thunderbird), contacts, web history (IE5+, Mozilla 1.4+, Netscape 7.1+, and Firefox), IMs, and calendar entries.

This very quick (< 1 minute) video provides a basic overview of Google Desktop:

Installation only takes a few moments, but indexing is best performed at night or when you’ll be away from your computer for a while. With my home PC, it required about six hours; your results will vary, based upon the number of files involved.

Google Desktop Search is launched by hitting the Ctrl key twice, or searches can be conducted from a deskbar, a floating deskbar (you set its location), or sidebar widget. The sidebar can be customized with widgets for the weather, news headlines, stock ticker, and so forth.

As I don’t want to lose any desktop real estate to (yet another) distracting time sponge, I’ve opted for the Deskbar option.

As with the latest web version of Google, search results are displayed instantly. I often find the exact item I’m looking for in the small list which pops up above the Deskbar:

Notice a few interesting things above when I entered “pizza” in the Deskbar (above): all manner of files are returned – an email, an image from our trip to Italy, a couple of recipes, and an Excel file; also, I can view all the Desktop results in a browser, or – at the very bottom – I could search the Web if I wanted. When I click on “See all 12 desktop results in a browser,” this is what I see:

If any of this gets you concerned about privacy, none of your data is shared with anyone, and although the search results look like the results of a Web search, that’s not actually the case,- the program is simply searching your local files and displaying the results in a browser. If you look at the above image, you’ll also note that results can be previewed by clicking on the “Preview” button – a nifty feature to let help you confirm you’ve found the correct file.

Google Desktop has a few uses which wouldn’t normally be obvious; here are just a couple:

  • Use it to quickly navigate to your Control Panel – simply enter “Sounds” or “Mouse,” for instance
  • Use it as a shortcut for launching programs – enter “Excel,” for instance

You can get Google Desktop here: Google Desktop. Versions in a variety of languages are available, by the way. One caveat: I understand that Desktop is not compatible with Outlook 2010.

An excellent resource for understanding and tweaking Desktop: Google Desktop Search Tips

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1 Comment on Instantly retrieve files stored anywhere on your computer with Google Desktop

  1. K-eM says:

    On Macs the magnifying glass icon in the upper right corner of your desktop is great for searching for files.

    Also, I use Microsoft Entourage at work and I use the Projects part of it to tag 98% of what I have on my computer. Emails, files, tasks, meetings… When I need to find something I just need to know what project it belongs to and that narrows the search tremendously.

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