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Google Desktop Turns 5.0

The first two versions of Google Desktop were enough of a big deal to earn prominent spots in my column, but the pace of innovation has slowed down with recent releases.

Version 5, released in beta-test form in March, provides a convincing recreation of Windows Vista's Sidebar, but otherwise doesn't feel that different from its predecessors.

Google Desktop 5's gadgets, like the gadgets of Vista's Sidebar, use transparency effects to minimize their appearance on the screen: A strip of the screen that features a few miniature programs floating over the usual desktop background looks much less cluttered than a solid column of these applets.

Some of Google Desktop's gadgets have been revised with this release--the new scratch-pad, weather and calendar applets nicely use transparency effects. But others look the same as ever. (Can somebody at Google please fix the calendar so it recognizes my typing when I click on it, instead of making me first click on one of its buttons?)

Some desktop-search results can now be previewed right in your browser, which can save time otherwise spent waiting to launch your e-mail program or word processor.

I wish I could say that Google Desktop 5 takes less memory and starts faster than GD4, but it seems to be slightly worse in both respects.

Google also now offers a Mac version of Google Desktop, but I have yet to try it out. The primary benefits it offers over the Spotlight searching built into OS X are Web-history indexing (which would be helpful) and Gmail indexing (sorry, don't use Gmail enough to need that), and neither seem worth having all this program's offstage components active on my Mac.

Are you a Google Desktop user--on Windows or in Mac OS X? If so, what would you like the next release to offer?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  June 6, 2007; 9:13 AM ET
Categories:  Windows  
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I stopped using Google Desktop when I downloaded the free version of x1. The search capability of x1 blows GD away.

Posted by: Falls Church | June 6, 2007 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Do you know how many people have MSN _AND_ Google Desktop search installed and running simultaneously, without realising they had either? They've installed them with the browser toolbars, and brought their systems to a grinding halt.

It seems like every other home PC I look at these days has this problem.

Posted by: Mike | June 6, 2007 6:19 PM | Report abuse

What I would really like is knowing what version I currently have of Google Desktop or at least a manner in which I can determine the version. Every time an app I use gets updated, I have to search for the current version numbers so that I can make sure (in my "senior moment" of forgetfulness, baby boomer that I am) I have the most updated one. I still haven't found one on the Desktop! I know mine does have that floaty look about it unlike the previous version I had but I also know I've had this version for several months. And yes, I know there's probably a way to keep all my updates together but my road to computer hell is paved with those good organizational intentions, so could Google please, please, make our current version number readily accessible????

Posted by: Kfarmingville | June 7, 2007 10:15 AM | Report abuse

I've used GD for years and love it, and I often suggest it to friends of mine who are constantly trying to find things in their Outlook folders or on their hard drives. It revolutionized my wife's job performance, and numerous coworkers have jumped on the GD bandwagon. Regarding its gadgets, I'm a big fan of Google Talk, Google Stocks, Google Weather, and Google Web Clips (man, do those feeds distract me). I've gotta say, though, that the memory footprint stinks, and every once in a blue moon Google Talk locks up my machine for a few minutes. Otherwise, it's a terrific tool.

Posted by: PK | June 7, 2007 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Finding your version #'s canbe done with Belarc advisor.It gives a reprt of everything on your computer and it's free.

Posted by: Andrew Knutson | June 8, 2007 11:14 PM | Report abuse

I use GD every day. Every few days I use the timeline view to jog my memory on what was done each day in order to make sure I've captured everything for billing purposes. It's amazing how many small billable tasks would otherwise slip by. I am only looking for a few specific filetypes -- Outlook e-mails, MS Word, Acrobat and WordPerfect documents -- and web history. The timeline view displays all of these together with a slew of other results, such as other programs doing their daily updates. Timeline would be much better if you could specify the filetypes to display, both documents and e-mails, in a single timeline view (not separate ones for documents and e-mails). It would also be better if it could return a complete single day -- midnight to midnight -- on a single screen in chronological order instead of a limited number of results in reverse chronological order. I'm always having to go to the bottom of the screen, read up to get things in chronological order, and click "newer" several times to move through each day.

I would also like to be able to define the screen location of where the quicksearch box (ctrl+ctrl) opens. It opens in the middle of the screen. I use an expanded taskbar at the bottom of the screen. The bottom of the quicksearch box, if it returns a full set of hits, slips under the top of the taskbar. I can't drag the quicksearch box up or set it to open by default at the top of the screen instead of in the middle of the screen. It's frustrating because the "display in browser" link is at the bottom of the quicksearch box, not the top.

Posted by: JAM | June 10, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Kfarmingville, You can see the version # in the about screen just before the footer search box. I know the pain of using a software without knowing the version #.

Posted by: Zaw | June 11, 2007 6:20 AM | Report abuse

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