Fitting neatly between the businesslike Yahoo X1 and the more whimsical style of Google, Windows Desktop Search combines some of the best aspects of both products. It installs search boxes everywhere, from a toolbar in Internet Explorer to the taskbar, as well as in your Outlook client. You can even float a search box on the desktop. The idea is to put full-system search capabilities wherever you may be on the PC.
Like Google, Microsoft uses a familiar interface, in this case Windows Explorer. Type in a search term and the results pop up in a file-folder window with hits in the left pane. The results looked a little disordered, but you can apply filters for various file types, including instant-messaging exchanges, to narrow the results. Unlike Google, WDS has a multiformat preview window that handles most file formats, even video thumbnails.
WDS' indexing process took a little longer than Yahoo's or Google's, and it pauses itself when other intensive CPU tasks are running in the foreground. Searches delivered results very quickly, however. The preview pane not only glimpses the highlighted file but even lets you copy items from it, which is handy when you need to extract just a small bit of text. While not as robust as X1, WDS can apply a range of actions to a file, from forwarding via e-mail to exporting into Excel.
Our favorite part of WDS is its integration with Outlook. It delivers results within Outlook itself, with a preview pane as well, which is much more versatile than the client's own search box and more integrated than Yahoo or Google's solutions. WDS is a good balance between X1 and Google's Desktop Search. If you rely on Outlook as your repository of all important contact and communications information, then Microsoft's option may be the best.
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