I had written a somewhat detailed review on Desktop Search clients and put it up on my (now non-existent) blog. Copernic even linked to it in the User Reviews section, probably coz I picked their product over others. I don't think the Desktop Search scene has changed very much since then. Here's the full review:
I have compared the following Desktop Search programs for the purpose of this article: Copernic Desktop Search 2, Google Desktop Search, X1, Yahoo Desktop Search, Microsoft Windows Desktop Search and even the somewhat lesser known but reputed ISYS: desktop.
All of these, with the exception of ISYS, are free. All have strengths and weaknesses - there is unfortunately no one program that "does it all" at this point of time. The best app for you will depend on your specific requirements and what ultimately feels right for you, so trying out more than one app would be a good idea. I'll point out some of the main pros and cons of these apps and close by declaring and briefly reviewing my personal favorite from this lot.
ISYS: desktop is more for corporates and its price tag is none too light either. I did not find anything exceptional about its performance on my machine and I hated the fact that its interface (like so many others, that try too hard) is non-intuitive. The last thing a user needs is a larger than necessary learning curve for what should be a relatively straight forward utility. But then ISYS doesn't claim to be for the average home user so I guess they can be excused. For the purpose of this article though, ISYS is eliminated.
Microsoft Windows Desktop Search
Let's face it - nobody knows Windows better than Microsoft. WDS is quite possibly the fastest app of the lot. What is not so good about it, is that it's very bare bones and has got a relatively ugly, non-customizable interface. If speed matters and speed is all that matters you should definitely give WDS a try.
Google Desktop Search
People have come to expect good things from Google. Google Desktop Search however, seems to be the most misguided utility of the lot. They have gone over-the-top in their quest for desktop search glory and it has misfired badly. First off it pisses me off that Google decided to bundle stuff like Google chat and a couple of other worthless utilities (a note taker? a "web clips" utility?) with their search app. All this junk, including their chat app get downloaded, installed and start off on their own. Shouldn't those tactics be left to Microsoft? Not only does GDS not have previews for picture or sound files, if your search brings back more than a handful results and you would like to see them all it'll open them in a window in your web browser rather than a window of its own. Was the design team at Google on crack when they thought out this travesty? Would you like to change your GDS settings? No problem - it'll just open another browser window and keep you on hold till the settings page loads from Google! It's so stupid, it actually makes you laugh! I still can't get over its infuriating reliance on web pages opening up in a browser when this is a client app running right from my desktop. The text file previews had a good look about them (just the right size font, number of lines) but that's ALL it seems to have going for it. Sometimes trying to be different can turn out to be a bad thing and this is a prime example. If you download GDS you get a half-assed desktop search app and a lot of other crap you didn't ask for. This app is a disgrace and the only reason you would use it is coz you didn't know any better.
Yahoo Desktop Search and X1 are quite similar, probably because a lot of what goes on under the hood is handled by the same code. X1 recently went free but in my experience, though the free version is more recent, their paid version works faster and feels lighter. X1 was my choice until a month back. It was not too heavy on resources and did a good job overall. The one drawback I found was, it didn't remember my column settings for different views but that was something one could live with. Yahoo Desktop Search will let you index 300+ file types if you install an optional (free) 4MB expansion pack. If you prefer to index the maximum possible file types for metadata then Yahoo Desktop Search is for you, needless to say you should install the expansion pack too.
Copernic Desktop Search 2
My choice, above all others at the time of this writing is Copernic Desktop Search 2 (currently in pre-release). It supports indexing over 150 file types on last count. Here are some of the most types of data it can index, mind you it can handle several more types than what you see below
Video: avi, mpg, 3gp, wmv
Music: mp3, wav, ogg, ra, rm, cda, wma, aac, au
Images: gif, jpg, bmp, png, psd, tif
Documents: txt, doc, xls, ppt, pdf, html, rtf, hlp
Email: Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Outlook Express Data, including contact information
Browser History & Favorites: Internet explorer, Firefox, Mozilla, Netscape
One big drawback that could be a show stopper for some people is that Copernic is unable to list or index files inside compressed archives like zip or rar. It will index these file types (and any other file types for that matter) by their names but it will not be able to see and index the files that lie inside the archive. If you cannot do without indexing archived files, I'd recommend X1. I switched to Copernic for one really simple feature more than any other. Copernic shows you a page full of thumbnails in the picture search category and this makes a HUGE difference if you've got lots of pictures on your hard disk. It can even categorize and group the thumbnails by date, folder (as shown in the screenshot below), size, filetype and a few other criteria. When it comes to picture search CDS2 simply blows the competition away! Add to that its stylish looks, customizable interface and decent speed and CDS2 is quite a contender, easily my first choice.For DC Fans: Bring DC Forum to your Desktop for searching/browsing/etc.
CDS2 lets you index networked computers and shows you the number of hits for each category in the toolbar no matter what category you searched in. Its interface is highly customizable, I don't archive emails or contacts and as you can see from the screenshot above, it let me completely remove those categories from the toolbar. Less is more!
There's nothing less about CDS2 when it comes to options and features, though. Besides having all the options that one expects (like an option to remember or not remember previous searches) it also adds new features like query completion or query correction. It's completely flexible and lets you selectively archive (or not) any folder for distinct filetypes. You can select which files are simply to be archived for filenames and which should be scanned for their content, letting you add your own custom extensions to be indexed for content too.
Indexing utilities, as a rule, consume a lot of system resources and if badly configured CDS 2 could easily bring the rest of the PC to a virtual standstill. Configure it correctly and you'll hardly notice it's there till you actually use it. Here are some tips on using it efficiently.
- Disable the "Display all item when no keyword is entered" option. It's a waste of resources and also compromises your privacy.
- The query completion and query correction options are always running but hardly used. If after a few uses, you realise you're not really utilizing these options, turn them off completely.
- Take a little time to figure out which folders you don't need to index. This can result in a huge saving of system resources and the app will function way more efficiently in all respects if you index in a smart manner and avoid redundancy.
- The same rule applies when it comes to choosing the file types for indexing metadata. Copernic starts with indexing enabled for all supported file types. Disable extensions for those file types you know you'll never need to search inside. Your indexing will get done a lot faster.
- Add the extension .* to the list of files to be indexed. This will make sure Copernic indexes filenames for every file on the PC. You can minimize using Windows inbuilt file search this way, CDS2 will find your files way faster, provided they're indexed, of course.
- Indexing is the most important activity and must be configured right - make use of realtime indexing but let it run in passive mode. Make sure you leave the suspend indexing settings enabled! You can reduce the "Suspend indexing while I use my computer" setting to around 10 seconds without any adverse effect.For DC Fans: Bring DC Forum to your Desktop for searching/browsing/etc.