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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Desktop Search Roundup + First Impression: Ask Jeeves Desktop Search

Here you go folks: What I think of Jeeves' offering, plus, I declare a winner (for now).



So, I got Jeeves Desktop Search to work. How? By shutting down every single program on my computer. And when that didn't work, I closed my internet connection, and then I was in business. After allocating all my system resources to the program and selecting the "Fast" method of indexing, Jeeves started indexing things.

I don't like at all Jeeves' practice of automatically selecting the first search result and previewing it in the right pane. If I want a preview, I'll click on it. If I wanted a preview when I was trying to open a video in Media Player through Jeeves, well, that just wouldn't make a lot of sense, would it? Don't play my music without prompting! Dont' play movies without prompting! If my hard drive was loaded up with pornographic images, I'd be pretty pissed if Jeeves started playing porno flicks and showing naked pictures while anyone could be looking over my shoulder! And the preview window only displays snippets of text documents, not the whole thing. This preview window is a good idea in concept, and only in concept. I hope they offer thumbnails as an alternative in future releases, since I can't stand the thing. There has got to be a way to turn the thing off.

Otherwise, the program seems decent, indexing as expected in about the same amount of time as everybody else. I kind of like that it doesn't use IE, since I found that I was always "losing" my Google Desktop Search when I clicked on things, so I had to memorize its IP address. On the other hand, MSN's interface does a better job acting as a hybrid of IE, Explorer and its own thing, plus it has more options, so I think it wins on the interface.

Who indexes more? Jeeves found 12,920 files, MSN found 13,275, and Google found 3,126 (not including things like email and AIM, which the others didn't index). I was stunned to discover that Google had indexed so few files. As for relevancy, Google actually loses points because of its cache! Most of its results were files I had already deleted, something it should be smart enough to eaither bump from the index or push to the bottom, with a little "Supplemental Result" tag. MSN and Jeeves don't have any relevancy ranking, but at least MSN makes up for it with the ability to sort columns, something Jeeves barely offers, and both of them have an edge on Google by displaying all the results on the same screen. Ultimately, MSN has the most useful search results page, followed by Jeeves and then Google.

Google is faster. MSN has more cutomizable option (Jeeves has basically none). Google has better online functions. MSN has more features (although Google's cache is very useful). MSN displays metadata, but won't index it. Google handles email best. MSN handles Windows best (naturally). Google handles files better. MSN handles previews best, with image thumbnails, followed by Google's cache and Jeeves preview (which is practically a negative).

So, having tested these three early desktop search offerings from the major search engines, who's the winner?

Interface - MSN, Jeeves, Google
Resources & Speed - Google, MSN, Jeeves
Search Results - MSN, Jeeves, Google
Advanced features - MSN, Google, Jeeves
Internet Options - Google, MSN, Jeeves
Ease of Use - Google, Jeeves, MSN
Index depth - MSN & Jeeves (tie), Google
Index detail - MSN, Jeeves, Google
Email - Google, MSN, Jeeves
Communications - Google, MSN, Jeeves
OS Integration - MSN, Google, Jeeves
File types - Google, MSN, Jeeves
File preview - MSN, Google, Jeeves
Security - MSN, Jeeves, Google

The winner (for now)?
In the category of "Desktop Search", Best Overall Product
- MSN Desktop Search
Google takes second place.

While Google's offering is the only one with seemingly no bugs, and the fastest, smoothest interface, it is also the weakest product, with no interface, no options, and no ability to do anything with your results. Google essentially created a powerful engine, and dumped it on you with no product to take advantage of that engine.

MSN's product is polished. It's powerful. It can do a lot of things. I can use it to browse my computer, something I could never do with Google's. It has kinks, and it needs a ranking system, but its tops in my book.

Jeeves is too rushed, too buggy, too weak. It has promise, and I believe it could pull into second place with a few lines of code allowing customization of the interface and more rankable columns, but without those, it's little more than two windows and a search box. It has no vision, no purpose, but it has a chance, if it sees an upgrade soon.

My plan? I'll keep Google and MSN, but turn off indexing my hard drive in Google. I'll use Google for its communication search (email and IM) and MSN for my hard drive. That makes MSN the desktop search tool I find best, and Google the not-as-good-product with some decent features I really like. Jeeves? It kinda annoys me, and I have no reason to keep it over the others. This is one product, unlike the other two, that has earned its "beta" title.

2 Comments:

Blogger Danish Munir said...

this is just to let you know, that MSN Desktop Search, DOES rank your results. in the extreme left column of the main search window, you see little capsules, that are 'filled up', depending on how relevant your result is. Go give it a look my friend ;)

Nice review btw. and i like your blog too. i think ill be visiting often. :)

5:25 AM  
Blogger Nathan Weinberg said...

Hmm... I can see why the bubble is so small. Try as I might, I can't figure out whether its relevancy rating is relevant at all. Still, thanks for letting me know. Welcome to the site, and I hope you do keep reading!

As a bit of advice to yourself (and all first time readers), if you subscribe via RSS, could you please you the Feedburner feed, and not the Atom one? There's no difference in content, but I get a lot of statistics from the Feedburner one that can prove vital in creating content. Thanks.

1:20 PM  

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