When was the last time you've used a search engine? If you are like most Internet users, it was probably less than an hour ago--possibly much less. But what about a local search engine for your own desktop, like X1 Desktop Search ($50, 14-day free trial)?
When Windows 7 first came out, one of its revolutionary new features was the instant-search box at the bottom of the Start menu. You could now hit the Start button and start typing the name of an application or a document, and it would instantly pop up, ready to run. If you've used previous versions of Windows, you might have noticed the boost to productivity that comes with instant search.
Now take that concept of instant search, and expand it across all of your documents -- not just filenames, but content too. That includes PDF files, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, even Outlook tasks and e-mail correspondence in several clients popular for home and business use (Lotus Notes & Domino, Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express, and Mozilla Thunderbird). With X1 Desktop Search, you need to type only a fragment of text, and results appear before you're even done typing. It's significantly faster than Windows 7's built-in search, while going through much more content.
I tested X1 with a database of over 99,000 documents, spread out across more than 12,000 folders and taking up 52.3GB of disk space. This vast collection of documents was placed on an external hard drive, connected via USB 2.0--not a very fast connection. X1 took several hours to index all of the content, and once indexing was done, searches were literally completed as fast as I could type.
Since searches can often return numerous matches, X1's result list can be filtered according to filename, document type, date/time (">2010" for all files newer than 2010), size ("<1MB" for files smaller than one megabyte) or path. As you might expect, the filtering is instant. The expressions are slightly picky: for examples, "<1mb" did not work--it had to be all-caps.
X1 Desktop Search supports several search operators such as NEAR to search for adjacent words and OR to search for files containing either one of two strings. The included documentation is quite comprehensive and easy to understand, although the manual's built-in index function did not work.
I let Copernic Desktop Search v3.4.0 index the same content on the same system. CDS took slightly longer to display search results and lacked X1's powerful list filtering abilities.
X1 has a built-in instant preview feature. I tested it with both Doc files and PDF documents. When I clicked a 15MB PDF file, it took about 3 seconds to deal with it, and then correctly displayed it in the instant preview pane, with the search text highlighted. Smaller documents were much faster, of course. When I tried to use instant-preview for a 46MB PDF, X1 took over a minute, but did not freeze while trying to load it--I was still able to refine my search or double-click the PDF to load it using my PDF reader.
One thing that did not work right was instant preview for files with Hebrew text. The text was displayed, but right-to-left encoding was handled incorrectly so that lines containing words in English were rendered illegible.
Minor quirks aside, X1 Desktop Search is an incredibly powerful engine. If you find yourself having to navigate a large collection of documents on a routine basis, X1 is a great choice at a reasonable price.