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Desktop Search Tools: Like Google for Your Computer

By | Feb.06.12 | Daily Dispatch, Legal Technology, Productivity

You know you saved it—that file that you spent hours working on a few weeks ago. That file you’re now desperate to retrieve but can’t locate. But it’s not in your Recent Documents (because you weren’t working on it recently), and it’s not pinned to a Jump List (Windows 7 users, you are pinning, right?). You’ve clicked and clicked through the usual suspect folders, all to no avail—you just can’t find it. Well, this is why you don’t look, you let your computer search for you. Why should you spend precious time on the hunt for saved files when the computer can do it better and faster?

Using Tools to Make Searching Easier

Searching your computer (or network) doesn’t have to be as tedious as searching through your paper files. Here are a handful of ways you can make it easier on yourself.

  • Windows 7 Search is a huge improvement over the time-sucking search in Windows XP (and a good reason on its own to upgrade). Click on the Windows 7 Start button—your cursor is automatically placed in its Search box, ready for you to search programs and files (including Outlook emails). The top results are nicely sorted by clickable category for more complete results. If you prefer to search from an Explorer window, look at the top right-hand corner of Explorer and you’ll see the Search box there. The results are returned fairly quickly and accurately (with an additional click, you can search document contents, too). Who cares where the file is stored when Search will quickly conjure it up for you? For a great round-up on Windows 7 Search, see Windows Search from Microsoft.
  • Copernic Desktop Search has been around for a long time and is a well-respected search product. It indexes all computer files and returns lightning fast search results.  With the Professional version it includes network files as well. The user interface is uncomplicated and easily understandable. Basic searches of files, emails and websites are easy to compose and carry out. Copernic also has a remote app (IOS, BlackBerry and smartphones) that provides remote access to all your files back at the office—very handy.
  • dtSearch Desktop and the entire line of dtSearch products are full-featured indexers providing lightning fast search results. The product line is expensive ($199. U.S. for a single seat) and geared toward larger installs and forensic searching. The latter function is very helpful for those with a need to search thirdparty storage media that hasn’t already been indexed by dtSearch, because it can do that too.
  • Everything has a great name and is a good program for learning desktop search—plus, it’s a free (donationware) small download and a light install. But it doesn’t search network drives, only local, and it doesn’t have a file viewer. It only searches file names, not file contents. Locate 32 is a similar product, with the added advantage of portability. Also along the same lines is Agent Ransack (a free version of File Locator Pro).
  • X1 Professional Client. I’ve saved my favorite desktop search for last. I’ve been using this affordable ($49.95 U.S.) product for many years. It provides instant searches, once the local and network drives have been indexed; provides a file viewer for search results so you can view files without opening them; along with the ability to take action on files without opening them (such as emailing directly from the viewer). X1 also has an app allowing for remote access to files, X1 Mobile Search

Desktop search has ended my clicking, and I no longer bury files in layers of folders. File organization is still important, but too much organization often wastes time rather than saves it. Recent studies have begun to show spending time on electronic organization may be a hindrance rather than a help when search tools are available: How Much Time Should You Spend Getting Organized? None.

Over-organization is an easy trap to fall into. Desktop search can help you dig yourself out.

Vivian Manning is the IT Manager at Barriston Law LLP in Barrie, Bracebridge and Cookstown, Ontario. Prior to moving into IT, Vivian practiced law primarily in the area of Municipal Land Development, with a total of 17 years in private practice before switching to the IT side of the law office. She currently indulges her love of teaching tech through her blog Small City Law Firm Tech, where she provides “tips of the day.”

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