Google Unveils Updated Desktop Search

Google is releasing Google Desktop 2, the latest version of its desktop search product, increasing the stakes against Yahoo’s personalization features and Microsoft Windows search.

Tagging along is an intelligent RSS (define) reader that automatically adds feeds and learns over time.

When users install Google Desktop Search 2, they also get the Sidebar application, a long skinny box that can be docked to either side of the screen, resized or minimized.

Panels in the sidebar are automatically updated with content from the Web. The News panel delivers news clips, while a Web Clips panel subscribes users to RSS feeds based on the Web sites they’ve visited.

Google RSS-enabled its Google News service earlier this month.

In fact, the Sidebar represents a unified method for accessing content on the desktop and online, offering a new model for handling files.

“We’ve built a platform that lets people sit back and watch the Web come to them,” said Nikhil Bhatla, product manager for Google Desktop. The new release includes a software developer’s toolkit that lets third-party developers write plug-ins to display information.

“Sidebar is automatically personalized based on what you do on the computer,” said Bhatla. “It uses RSS techniques to actually show you articles from Web pages. For example, if you visit a friend’s blog, it will automatically add that RSS feed to the panel.”

While in the short term, this could lead to a 1,000-item subscription list, Bhatla said over time the application would trim them back, eliminating ones that were never clicked on. They can also be deleted manually.

Bhatla said that the Sidebar is designed to introduce novices to Web feeds automatically. In order to automatically personalize the content, it leverages the Google Desktop 2 index, which is why the company delivered them together.

“We wanted to make it work well for all types of people, both novices and advanced users,” Bhatla said. “Novices won’t go in and configure the Sidebar, so automatic personalization was important for them. In order to do that, the Sidebar builds on top of the index that Google Desktop Search makes. That’s why we put the two together.”

Another nod to the blogosphere is the Sidebar’s What’s Hot panel, which delivers the headlines of popular blog posts. Users can click on a headline to read a snippet, then click again to be taken to the post on the Web. There also are panels for photos, which can pull down feeds from Google’s Flickr photo-sharing service, as well as Web sites visited, and current stock prices.

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