Thursday, January 13, 2005

Yahoo! Desktop (X1) is the new champion

Yahoo! Desktop Search Beta [updated 1/18/05]

Until recently AOL/Copernic was my choice on the XP platform for file search (not Outlook, for that I use Lookout). Copernic isn't ideal however.

Now X1 freebie, better known as Yahoo Desktop Search (YDS) has taken over. Roughly following the same format as my previous Copernic review, here are my comments. Bottom line: it smokes everything else.

Some key features with some caveats :
  1. You can configure location of the indices. I store them in a folder that I exclude from backup. You really don't want to backup search indices. All my various search indices tools store files in this folder. The X1 index is 400 MB for a 14GB dataset, but much of my data are in large non-indexed databases.
  2. You can control readily what folders are indexed. I turned off Outlook search since I use Lookout. NOTE: X1 does NOT appear to index Outlook Task or Note folders.
  3. It indexes PDF and a wide variety of data types. You can preview files within X1. Big feature. It even includes viewers for obscure applications, like MindManager.
  4. You constrain your search results by additional quick filters such as data, result type, substring on file name. You can readily sort search results by the usual metadata (file name, date, etc) and by file PATH.
  5. You can tell it not to index files over a certain size (I used 10MB).
  6. You can control when it builds the indices. However, control is limited. Indexing is not all that smart, since my machine is often active (backup, maintenance, etc) the index wasn't getting built. I had to turn off the default option of waiting for an inactive machine. The index did get built and it wasn't a big performance hit. You can't specify a time range for index building.
  7. You can't index network shares with Yahoo's licensed free version. The commercial version of X1 does this. I may buy the commercial version for my home.
  8. It indexes folder names and it treats folders as first class searchable items. You can constrain a search to limit it to folders. This is a HUGE advantage over Copernic.
  9. When you find an item, you can right-click to open it in the enclosing folder.
Some defects:
  1. No fundamental defects for file search so far. Big advantage over Copernic!
  2. Toolbar is kind of dumb. I don't care about Outlook searching (I use Lookout for that) but those items still appear on the toolbar. They also appear on the desktop toolbar and take up a lot of room. However you can specify "Files" as the default to search (RMB, properties) on the desktop toolbar then hide everything but the data entry field.
  3. YECH (Update 1/18/05). You can't get rid of the Yahoo toolbar in Outlook. Sure you can remove it, but it returns the next time you restart Outlook. This is very annoying, because (see next point) X1 is a crummy tool for searching Outlook. I have a longstanding problem with toolbars in XP that show up unwanted -- I'm still fighting an idiotic Adobe Acrobat 4.0 toolbar that's infested my OS for years. I think I have to figure out where these damned things live -- problem is I think they can live in many places in the OS.
  4. NOT a good choice for Outlook search. I use Lookout for that, but this would be a huge problem if I dependend on X1. It doesn't index notes and tasks! I didn't notice if it indexed Outlook attachments, didn't care enough.
  5. Minor defect: it doesn't seem to understand abstract entities, like "desktop" or "documents" -- only physical directories.
  6. It doesn't "smart rank" search results (ie. explicity metadata > directory match > file name match > etc), though in practice the rapid sorting of results and subsearch capabilities mean I don't miss this too much.
  7. It doesn't, apparently, search Eudora mail archives. For that you need the non-Yahoo version of this.
  8. It doesn't search mounted drives. Again, the non-Yahoo X1 version of the app does this.
  9. Update 6/30: It ignores basic windows metadata (subject, author, keyword) entered via document properties dialogs. It ignores PDF metada entered within Acrobat. It doesn't index text comments on Acrobat documents. All of these things make YDS a poor choice for indexing scanned documents. Quite disappointing, actually.
    My configuration
    1. Limited search to the folder that contains my data and the desktop folder. (Removed all other folders, for non-removables set to ignore via "modify" button.)
    2. Moved indices to my "Cache" folder (no backup of this folder).
    3. Max file size to index 10MB.

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