Desktop search is the name for the field of search tools which search the contents of a user's own computer files, rather than searching the Internet. These tools are designed to find information on the user's PC, including web browser histories, e-mail archives, text documents, sound files, images and video.
One of the main advantages of desktop search programs is that search results arrive within a few seconds or less; Windows search companion "can be some help, but it searches through Windows files and folders only, not e-mail or contact databases, and unless you enable the Indexing Service (in Windows 2000 or XP), the Windows search tool is extremely slow." Windows Vista enables the indexing service by default.
A variety of desktop search programs are now available; see this list for examples.
Desktop search is emerging as a concern for large firms for two main reasons: untapped productivity and security. On the one hand, users needs to be able to quickly find relevant files, but on the other hand, they shouldn't have access to restricted files. A commonly cited statistic states that 80% of a company's data is locked up inside unstructured data — the information stored on an end user's PC, the directories (folders) and files they've created on a network, documents stored in repositories such as corporate intranets and a multitude of other locations. Moreover, many companies have structured or unstructured information stored in older file formats to which they don't have ready access.
Companies doing business in the United States are frequently required under regulatory mandates like Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA and FERPA to make sure that access to sensitive information is 100% controlled. This creates a challenge for IT organizations, which may not have a desktop search standard, or lack strict central control over end users downloading tools from the Internet. Some consumer-oriented desktop search tools make it possible to generate indexes outside the corporate firewall and share those indexes with unauthorized users. In some cases, end users are able to index — but not preview — items they should not even know exist.
Historically, full desktop search comes from the work of Apple Computer's Advanced Technology Group, resulting in the underlying AppleSearch technology in the early 1990s. It was used to build the Sherlock search engine and then developed into Spotlight, which brought automated, non-timer-based full indexing into the operating system.
Read more about Desktop Search: Technologies
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“His life itself passes deeper in nature than the studies of the naturalist penetrate; himself a subject for the naturalist. The latter raises the moss and bark gently with his knife in search of insects; the former lays open logs to their core with his axe, and moss and bark fly far and wide. He gets his living by barking trees. Such a man has some right to fish, and I love to see nature carried out in him.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)