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Evaluating Microsoft Desktop Search November 14, 2007

Posted by Steven in In-Media, Work-related.
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Search LogoI must admit that Windows Vista never really appealed to me. But being objective about and stepping back a little bit most people will come to the conclusion that: Windows Vista introduces just a couple of new features. Let’s evaluate the most advertised new features:

  • Windows Aero Well, well, who really needs glas-like window frames if they make the system notably slower? Monitors only have a limited resolution and physical space. So why is every buttonbar (especially on top of the explorer windows with back and force buttons) now much bigger? Even Window frames are bigger thus taking up more monitor space while not adding extra information. Windows Vista does display loads of info in explorer screens as well and does not waste so much space.
  • Updated Windows Explorer You can stack things. You can edit meta-information in explorer views. You can scale icons up to 256×256 pixels. You can enjoy instant previews (nothing like Apples Quick Look though) and that’s about it. I am very disappointed. I have been using Vista since 10 month now. These innovations are not really helping me in my everyday life! It is nothing that truly sets Vista apart from XP. The XP explorer also offered a variety of display modes, allowed me to browse through my files and to get organized. Where is the killer function that truly impresses?
  • Windows Sidebar Oh no! I turned that off right away. It was nice the first three days but how is this application really helping you during your daily work? It displays a big clock, some pictures, news, stock symbols (if you’re lucky – it does not work with my DAX sources). I browsed through the Windows Live Portfolio of Gadgets but even there.. there is not much interesting stuff. I would rather open firefox and use a god website to get that type of stuff (checking time, checking stock) done. Besides: Again it wastes so much space from your screen! Also: this is not a true innovation. Download Google desktop on your god old Windows XP and you were able to use gadgets even before Vista was launched.
  • Windows Photo Gallery (and Applications) Well Photo Gallery is nice. but nothing like iPhoto. It is a very simple gallery application with nice stacking and searching functions. No true innovation. Download Picasa or irfanView on Windows XP and again you do not need Vista. Some other nice little applications have also been added. Improved Windows Mail (well nice but I need more for my hundreds of mails every day), Windows Calendar (well nice but I also want more, get Palm Desktop or the big Outlook then you can deal with appointments but not with that small rip-off).
  • Search Well now that is interesting. I did not know that from reading about Vista and from actually flipping through it the first couple of days. The indexing service and the nice instantaneous search really makes life easier. The service doesn’t take up so many resources and it runs for a couple of seconds every hour. Then you can use one of the little search boxes (in explorer etc. – They are not innovative and are looking as usual). Start typing and windows finds stuff right away. It works reliable and nicely. BUT: This is also nothing new! Keep your nice stable XP and download Microsoft Windows Desktop Search and you have exactly the same thing!
  • SUMMARY: Really let’s be honest.. There are a couple more “innovations” (image based install, all new scripting possibilities, new driver model, bit by bit partition backup (only in business and ultimate editions) and so on). These things are nice from a technology perspective. But as a user I do not notice these things much. Besides: Windows XP was running stable and reliable (after SP2 to be fair) – so why do I need a new installation method and a new driver model? The stuff that the user really does notice is not so innovative and you can have it all on XP! That is why I stick to XP on my elderly notebooks and: I did install Windows Search 3.01 to use the nice indexer with instant search results.

A couple of things regarding my evaluation of Windows Search on Windows XP. It seems like it needs Administrator privileges for the first index run. It made the first reboot quite slow but now after a few hours it runs smoothly.

With plugins (they are sometimes called IFilters) the search service can index other files then the usual stuff. Even MindManager file indexing and Lotus Notes indexing is possible. There is a nice overview site which shows you all the available IFilters. Unfortunately the options of the indexer are not very extensive. You cannot see which filetypes and stored elements are actually being indexed. So Microsoft explains a quite complex method on MSDN how to find out what kind of IFilters are installed.

UPDATE:
The trial was a failure. The indexing service slowed down the PC so much that I had to uninstall the product. Search results were okay but overall usability of the new feature was poor.

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