Desperately Seeking Desktop Data

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Copernic Desktop Search Corporate, Version 3

Copernic Desktop Search comes in Home (free), Professional ($49.95) and Corporate ($59.95) versions. All three index more than 150 types of files, including MP3, JPG, WAV, and MPEG - along with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, HTML, and ZIP files. They also handle e-mails and attachments from Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, and Mozilla Thunderbird.

(See Related Slideshow: Desperately Seeking Desktop Data)

Best desktop search tools

The Professional package gives you the capability to find Outlook appointments, tasks and notes. It also extends search to network drives. As such, this version may be the better choice for smaller offices that don't have access to dedicated IT support.

The corporate option indexes Lotus Notes content and gives technical staff automated deployment capabilities. These include customizing help messages, limiting indexing to certain sources, and specifying performance settings during setup.

No matter which version you pick, during setup you choose which files and e-mail folders to index. An initial scan on my test system required about 30 minutes. Normally, Copernic automatically updates its index in real time as new e-mails are received and files are edited - and operating in this default mode didn't appear to affect the computer's performance.

Alternately, you can create a custom indexing schedule for each category of files. Interestingly, Copernic is the only product specifically optimized for netbooks; it intelligently suspends indexing while you're doing other work to save battery power. Additional settings let you control how computer resources are allocated during indexing, such as memory and CPU.

This product has a contemporary, streamlined user interface with tabs that identify the asset types that you can search, such as e-mail, contacts, music, images, or all types at once. The plain English labels should be helpful for novice users who may not know the difference between an MP3 audio file and JPG image.

My searches finished in less than a second, and returned a list of matches that can be further sorted and grouped in multiple ways - by file name, date and author. You can preview documents, with the search word highlighted, so there's no need to open them in the originating application. A special navigation area helps you further refine results by picking a specific file type (such as all Word documents).

The ease of searching - simply type words into the search box - might not be adequate for advanced users. For those with more experience, Copernic lets you refine searches by combining your search term and commonly used Boolean operators. For example, the query 'netbook NEAR linux' finds documents with the words 'netbook' and 'linux' at most 10 words apart. But you don't get the variety of advanced searching included with dtSearch or X1.

Copernic lets you name and save searches. Therefore, if you need to look for the same type of documents, you can recall prior query settings and perform a search with one click.

You search the Web from Copernic's main interface, a process that jumps to the firm's own Internet search engine. One limitation is that Web and local results aren't combined (federated), which is a handy capability of Exalead and Google.

Still, Copernic strikes a good balance of usability, features and performance.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

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