Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Google Desktop Search: good, but limited

Google’s enterprise desktop search (available here at no cost) is a useful tool. It does pretty much what you’d expect: it reads through your docs and e-mail and gives you an instant search capability. It has saved me several long searches for docs I knew were lying around but I couldn’t remember exactly where.

For all its benefits, however, the technology does have some distinct limitations:

  • it only searches the first 5,000 words of any document
  • you cannot remove or add items to the search database. (You can prevent it from looking in certain directories, but once its sucked up a document, you can’t remove it from its database.) The software crawls how and when it wants to. If you want it to perform a new crawl, you have only one option: uninstall it and reinstall it. No kidding!
  • There’s no concept of security. You cannot password-protect access to the search engine.
  • The engine does not search Eudora mailboxes.
  • The display does not highlight the searched-for keyword in the document.
  • For these reasons, true enterprise search tools such as IBM’s Information Integrator OmniFind do not have much to fear yet from this free offering. “Yet” is the operative word. Obviously, all these limitations are intentional, as Google has demonstrated it has the technology to get around them in its other products. So, at any time it could fold these features into its free offering.

    If you can live with these limitations, you’ll definitely find the search engine useful.

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