As Yahoo! and MSN storm forward in the search wars with various news and product releases, Google volleys back with yet another attempt to "organize the world's information." Google unveiled version two of its desktop search software this morning. Google Desktop 2 featured an updated look and a suite of new tools designed to improve a users' overall search experience.

Not just for searching anymore, the latest version of Google Desktop works to personalize information based on a users' past actions. Information is categorized and can be displayed in a window called the "Sidebar" that slides neatly up against the right side of a users' screen. The new sidebar option features quick access to a variety of bits of information, including:

Email - Users can setup the email section of the bar to display new Gmail messages. A quick click of a subject line sends a user straight to the full text of the message. Filter options allow a user to exclude certain messages from showing up in the panel.

News - The news panel customizes itself over time based on the types of news stories that a user searches for at Google news. It then updates as stories are posted in the Google feed and displays the new headlines in the window. A handy feature for users that already subscribe to Google News Alerts.

Weather - The basics of the forecast for your choice of cities. Displays the city, high and low temps and current conditions for the cities that a user adds to their database. Clicking on a city provides access to a four-day forecast for that location.

Photos - If you're a picture junkie, you can index your photo archives and set them to display in the Sidebar. You can also subscribe to Atom/RSS photo feeds from your favorite sites.

Stocks - The stock ticker on Google Desktop features real-time prices on a users choice of stock symbols. Symbols are added as they are searched for on Google, or a user can manually add their choice of companies to the list.

Web Clips - This feature is actually an automated RSS reader. Rather than having users manually add feeds to an RSS aggregator, Google pulls down feeds for sites that have been visited and automatically adds them to the mix. Users can override these choices and manually add or remove feeds on their own.

Scratch Pad - A handy little notepad style feature that allows users to take notes, type phone numbers and cut and paste data to. It automatically saves the data as a user types, so there's no need to worry about losing an important phone number before you get it added to your contact list.

Quick View - Google's miniature version of bookmarks, this feature makes a list of frequently visited sites and allows for one-click access to them. Users can manually move sites up the list.

Google has opened up the Desktop to innovative programmers by offering an API option so that developers can create their own plug-ins for the Sidebar. A list of already developed plugins including a handy "Todo" list are available at the Google Desktop Site.

Despite all those fun new features, it also still functions as a powerful desktop search tool. When you first download it, it works in the background to index all of the files and documents on your computer. Users can search through Word documents, emails that are stored in a variety of programs, AIM transcripts and media files.

Privacy advocates will appreciate a new feature that allows information to be encrypted for unauthorized users. Google Desktop 2 is available to users running Windows 2000 or Windows XP. No Macintosh or Linux versions are available yet.

Download the new beta version of Google Desktop 2.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.

August 22, 2005

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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