With a theoretical limit on the amount of information we can possibly consume, finding the information both on the internet and on your own computers can be a daunting task. Recently, there’s been a lot of attention on search. Of course, there was the Google IPO, Amazon’s A9, Ask Jeeve’s redesign etc.
Beyond the online searching, a crop of desktop tools have been released. Mac users have LaunchBar and QuickSilver while Windows users have their answer with AppRocket. Microsoft purchased the uber fast search plug-in for Outlook, aptly dubbed Lookout. In Wired, Steve Jobs claimed that searching rather than sorting is the way of the future when unveiling their Spotlight search tool. Not to be outdone in anything that involves the word “Search”, Google now has a beta version of desktop search which scours most Microsoft Office files, text files, web cache, e-mail and AIM chat transcripts.
With all this fuss, one would think search was the be all and end all. Sadly, even with all these options on the market, I’m left feeling that there’s still a lot more work to be done. Why?
When one does a Google search for the ‘War of 1812′, it doesn’t really matter much which site the answer comes from. Users poke around the first couple and results if they find what they need, they are done. Excellent. The pages and pages of other results may not get visited, but still serve a valuable purpose since they provide information about the size and shape of the data space for the subject.
Now what happens when we try to move search to the desktop? Searching your own files turns out to be a considerably different task because most of the time there really is only *one* correct result. An extensive result list actually puts you farther from the desired information and requires a lot of post-search list scanning.
There are other important differences which make searching a desktop machine a harder problem. Let’s examine a few: