Editor's Blog: Leslie Wonders Where the There Is in Google Desktop for the Mac

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Editor's Blog: Leslie Wonders Where the There Is in Google Desktop for the Mac

I know I'm a bit "late" weighing in with my opinion of Google Desktop for Mac. I mean, it's been available for a full 38 hours or so. What have I been waiting for???


Nothing. Well, except maybe some sort of flood of enthusiasm to hit me - unrestrained excitement about Google Desktop's availability for the Mac. I mean, Windows users have had it forever, right?


Well, that rush of excitement still hasn't hit me, but I installed the beta version of Google Desktop anyway (it's free!). I figured I'd listened to people complain about Spotlight long enough that I'd find out for myself whether Google can do a better job than Apple at designing search functionality.


The key complaints about Spotlight are:


1. It's slow.


2. It doesn't display editable file paths in the results list. What I mean by editable is that you can't select the file path and paste it into an email message, say, when you're trying to let a co-worker know that a certain file is saved in a certain location on the company server. You can view a file path in Spotlight, of course, by letting your mouse cursor hover over the file name in the results list.


3. You can't search for specific phrases using quote marks or Boolean operators. It takes multi-word searches, of course, but your results will feature both words out of sequence, in addition to the words as a phrase, making results less accurate and harder to find if it's a common phrase.


I can search for easter bunny in Spotlight, but not "easter bunny" (in quotes) which would tell it that I wanted only files that include that specific phrase.


I imagine all of these problems will be addressed in Leopard. But until then, Google Desktop is a great free alternative. Gmail users will have all the more incentive, since it can index your Gmail email, too.


Here are my top three most fave features of Google Desktop, with a couple of complaints thrown in:


1. It's fast. It indexes the files on your Mac in short order, and you can still work while it's doing its thang after you first install it. And it returns results fast, too. We do wish, however, that it would not do that annoying thing that Spotlight also does: starting to search before you're done entering the full search phrase. Argh!


Google Desktop's speed is, I suspect, probably partially due to the fact that it starts searching before you're done typing your full search phrase. Spotlight does the same thing, though, and it's annoying.


2. It can search (and then call up) results from deleted documents. That's right - all is not lost! Even if you accidentally or even intentionally trashed something then emptied the trash.


3. You can search for files on your Mac exactly as you would on Google, using quotes to enclose exact phrases, plus and minus signs to note inclusion and exclusions, and so on.


For a free app, there's really not much to knock about it, although some privacy wonks/Mac system purists have registered suspicion about how and where Google Desktop installs the various pieces and parts that make it work. I figure everything I do is being spied on by someone - Hi, Rod! (Rod works in our IT department here at Mac|Life) - so I don't worry about that kind of thing. I leave that up to Rik and Eugene.


Lemme know in the comments what you love (or hate) about Google Desktop. Or why you, too, had a hard time getting out the pom-pons when it launched yesterday.




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Yeah. I also was underwhelmed by Google Desktop.

I wasn't going to install it, but then I figured that Google was already taking over everything, and it was only a matter of time before they owned my desktop, anyway. Best to just get it over with.

Soon all of our desktop searches will appear on YouTube and the phishers will have a field day with it.

I was surprised that they did that "Start searching before you hit enter" thing. I always thought that was universally reviled? I guess not, but God help you if you make a typo, then you end up with a hojillion results of something stupid. Curses!

Oh well, such is (Mac) life...



I immediately foudn myself frustrated by the lack of Boolean support in Spotlight, which Google addresses. But I share some concern, and some paranoia about how the Google applet installs... and more importantly UNinstalls.

Just becasue a developer uses the Apple Toolkit, that doesn't guarantee it will act 100% Mac-like. A Case in point: EarthDesk, a VERY cool app that Mac|Life also promotes in its vault. This real-time satellite wallpaper is great... until you try to uninstall it. I trashed the app and plist but remnants remained long after I trashed that app (and yes, emptied the trash).

It only went away when I wiped and reinstalled OS X. The Google tool strikes me as similarly, potentially troublesome.


Leslie Ayers

The Daring Fireball link included above goes into the uninstall, and seems to give Google Desktop a positive rating for a "clean uninstall." If that helps...


Also, thanks for the reminder about Quicksilver! I'd say there's no reason to add Google Desktop if you're already used to (and love) Quicksilver.







I have Quicksilver already. It indexes and searches, plus lets me create custom keyboard shortcuts for nearly anything I can do on my computer, control iTunes from within any app, as well as give me action options for whatever item for which I've searched (ie: email it, delete it, print it, edit it from within the QS search window), do math, convert units of measurement and run terminal commands.

I don't see myself needing Spotlight, Quicksilver and Google Desktop, so I'm really not that excited over it.

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