Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Google Desktop vs. Copernic

The basic idea: What if I could search my own computer as easily as I can search the web? Then I could find an email or a Word document, even a PDF document, or a previously-viewed web page, or all of those on my own computer in an instant, just by entering a few words of text that I think might be in the document or in its name.

Enter Google Desktop (GD). I discovered this a year or two ago, when I was running Windows XP, and thought it was slicker than sliced bread. Well, almost, and certainly better than anything that Microsoft offered. It didn't work exactly right - sometimes I would click on a result and nothing would come up - but at least it did seem to find everything.

Except WordPerfect documents. I use WordPerfect and certainly prefer it to Microsoft Word, but the documents apparently have a unique format and are not correctly indexed by GD or by Microsoft's Vista indexing software. No surprise that Microsoft would deliberately omit WordPerfect, because they have been trying to bury it with Word for years (with obvious success), but we expect better from Google. There is a contributed Google Desktop plugin called Larry's WordPerfect Indexer, and it seemed to work when installed, but Google Desktop kept uninstalling it for some reason; I never solved that problem.

Enter Windows Vista; I have the 64-bit version. It supposedly has its own indexing, but I find that awkward and obtuse; I still haven't entirely figured what IS and what IS NOT indexed. Google Desktop was better.

However, if you Google "google desktop" and "vista" you will find complaints about Google Desktop slowing down Vista, and you will find that Google and Microsoft are having a legal hassle. Nevertheless a few days ago I downloaded GD and installed it. To my surprise, GD did not offer ANY indexing commands. I could not make it re-index, and there was no pause-indexing command. When I did a GD search it DID come up with results though, without ever doing an indexing search. From this I assume that it uses Vista's built-in index, and no longer builds its own index. I "installed" Larry's WordPerfect Indexer, but of course a search still did not bring up any WordPerfect documents. Conclusion: At least for now, Google Desktop is broken - no better than Vista's search, which itself is very clumsy and which will apparently never be able to search WordPerfect documents.

Enter Copernic. I downloaded this desktop searcher and couldn't be more pleased. It runs exactly the same on both XP (my laptop) and Vista 64 (my new desktop computer). In both cases it built its index in almost no time at all. Here are some of the features:
  • It automatically indexes WordPerfect documents - important to me if not to you;
  • You can select the types of files it will index, including PDF documents and ZIP folders, by type extension;
  • You choose whether the indexing function pauses while you use the computer, and if so, for how long;
  • You choose which folders you index and which you do not. For example, I have files that are encrypted and certainly don't want them in the index!;
  • Regardless how the index is built, you can limit a search to any particular file type, to avoid getting too many results;
  • For any specific class of files you can limit the search by date, partial file name, folder, and other attributes;
  • There is a quick and easy way to check for updates to Copernic;
  • I haven't even discovered all of the features yet.
Copernic does NOT seem to offer complex (advanced) searches. It seems to require that ALL of the words in the search box must appear in the document, with no "ANY" option or "DOES NOT HAVE" option. But I can live with that. Many of the features in the list above are also available in Google Desktop and Vista Search, but not all of them are.

I've only had Copernic for a couple of days now, but it sure seems far more robust than the competition, and yet easier to use. Unlike those, it's a completed, working product. If I continue to like it, I may just turn off Vista indexing altogether.

Please let me know if you agree, or disagree, or want more information.

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