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Google Moves Toward a Direct Confrontation With Microsoft
Code name Puffin : search tool for locating information stored on PCs

 8:55 am on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Edging closer to a direct confrontation with Microsoft, Google, the Web search engine, is preparing to introduce a powerful file and text software search tool for locating information stored on personal computers.
More [nytimes.com]



 9:19 am on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

cant wait. built in windows search sucks.


 10:33 am on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

What percentage of a hard drive is filled with text files?(html, rtf, doc, etc.)

For most users, the answer is probably less than 0.1%

Most users have no need of this technology. Those that do need it know how to use standard windows tools. However, it is worth saying that MS stuffed up searching on XP - in some cases, apart from being mind-bogglingly slow, it misses things. I'm guessing this was deliberate so that when they release some new search technology it looks better than it would otherwise.



 10:52 am on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Kaled, as a full-time software developer, I would love to have better search tools on my PC. As you said, XP botched search badly.

As for the percentage of data that is Google-searchable, it's not the raw percentage that matters so much as the percentage that I need to search. I may need to search a folder of 200 MB of code and specs for the files containing a particular string. Those 200 MB are a small percentage of my total drive space, but I need to search them well -- all those .cpp, .h, .bas, .doc, .html, .vbs, .asm, etc.

I recently tried searching for something that way using XP's search. Though I had one file containing the string open in Notepad, Search found none of them. So I tried Windows GREP. Same result.

That makes me wonder if MS somehow trips up other search software besides its own .... Is Google's search going to work or will the MS OS mess it up?


 12:05 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

I agree, a new search tool for text files and files details that is better than the windows nonsense is a great idea. Particularly if you could scale it across a whole local network.

How many businesses out there share documents across multiple computers and then lose the documents because they can't find them 5 months down the line?

And what about the possibility of reading mail files, etc.


 12:12 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

What percentage of a hard drive is filled with text files?(html, rtf, doc, etc.)
For most users, the answer is probably less than 0.1%

Yes, but that 0.1% is probably what the average user is searching within 90% of the time.



 12:21 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Perhaps I should dust off my own search program that I wrote to test some other code. It uses the same string search core as I use in another project, and that does work under XP.

A Google-like search program that worked across a local area network sounds like a good idea, it also sounds like a hacker's dream come true.

It's also worth noting that any such program (even on stand-alone PCs) would instantly become a target for hackers and spyware writers.



 12:57 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Its all about market perception.

Microsoft keeps saying "Longhorn will revolutionise search" - so Google counters with "The internet king of search is coming to your desktop real soon now".

FUD - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. Pioneered by IBM, perfected to an art form by Microsoft. One of the most powerful technology marketing tools on the planet... good to see someone throw it right back at Bill!



 1:19 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

whoa, Chris_D said it all ;)
Google apparently seems set to dominate the web and PCs as well. Everytime someone talks about Google's distributed computing, it gets intense.


 1:46 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Give it away for free, but add:

"Found what you were looking for? Want Puffin to look in the internet for you?"


 2:48 pm on May 19, 2004 (gmt 0)

Hope it will not embed a Adwords/AdSense in it ;-)
Are the name will be Googlin?


 7:41 pm on May 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google is reportedly working on a downloadable file and text software search tool, code-named Puffin, that will attack a weak spot in Windows — which runs on more than 90 percent of the world’s personal computers — by making it easier for users to find information stored on their desktops.



 7:53 pm on May 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

code name "Puffin" (bcolflesh - 2003 ;))



 5:49 am on May 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Industry observers believe Google will offer a free, ad-supported desktop product, which could spawn a whole new set of privacy issues.

Dust off those tin-foil hats boys!


 9:35 am on May 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Seriously, there must be security implications in this. Think of the outcry about GMail. If you give a commercial company full access to your hard drive they could probably make a good guess at your life story. For example it would be a dawdle to determine where your broad interests lie from the applications you have installed.

I think that this once again this could be viewed as seedy and unethical. If Google are going to launch this they better make a better job of it than they did with GMail or the **** will really hit the fan this time. Just watch the media take this one on.

michael heraghty

 11:40 am on May 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Desktop shmesktop. The real value of Puffin will like in its ability to allow peer-to-peer search, Google style.


 12:40 pm on May 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

It's also worth noting that any such program (even on stand-alone PCs) would instantly become a target for hackers and spyware writers.

This was my immediate reaction. Seems pretty obvious, too!


 2:17 pm on May 25, 2004 (gmt 0)

Just as an FYI, in XP Microsoft decided to speed up the "containing text" search by only having it search certain file extentions. This way it wouldn't search through executables and other files that likely would not be relevant for most people. In doing so, it did not include many file types that would be relevant.

Here's an article on more on this, and how to fix it:


It looks like there was a patch released on October 25, 2001 that adds a bunch more file types to the "good" list.


 6:54 am on May 27, 2004 (gmt 0)

This may seem like a self-serving reply, as I write software that already does desktop search!

A lot of people talk about being able to search the files on your desktop. Even in this thread - some people say "useless", whereas others say, "I need it!". One of the interesting things about filing and searching is that every user does it a bit differently. As such, there is no doubt that filesystem search is a real need; and I'm sure puffin will do a great job of it when it ships.

From my experience, however, the big ticket item is not filesystem search, but email search. We all have thousands of emails on our system, and we don't like to spend a lot of time categorizing them. So, we need tools to be able to dig us out of the email mess. For most people, I think this is a much bigger problem than filesystem search.

Utilities for filesystem search have existed for a long time - some very good ones, in fact. But they've never been able to get much traction. This is for a number of reasons, but the predominant reason is that most people don't have enough of a problem finding stuff on their harddisk to warrant installing and learning a new utility which they otherwise wouldn't run. The slow windows filesystem search, for as lame as it is (and without full-text search!), is "good enough" for most.

However, email is a different story. How many of us sit in Outlook, or Eudora, or <pick your mail reader> all day long? How many of us have thousands of emails each month and have sometimes spent hours searching for that one that was important? Its obvious to all of us now that we need email search - why didn't we think of this before?! :-)

So to me, email search is the center of the desktop search game. If puffin has filesystem search without email search, I think it will be only slightly interesting. But, as soon as email search is integrated - whoa - lookout! Gmail does solve this for some users, but I don't think gmail is good enough for the large. Gmail is like yahoo mail. Everyone needs a free email account to catch their spam. But most of us have company email that we store elsewhere, and gmail is not an option for that.

Also keep in mind, that outside of the techie arena, most users aren't willing to run an external program to host search. They don't have time to learn something new, or struggle with a separate app and UI. To really hit the big market, it needs to be embedded in the mail client.

Oh yeah - and if you want software that searches your outlook *today*, let me know, I'll point you to my download site :-)

Anyway, thats my biased 2 cents. Despite being somewhat a competitor to Google, I love that company... I hope they really push the envelope in this area. We all need it!



 8:45 pm on May 30, 2004 (gmt 0)

Mike, Welcome to WebmasterWorld.

Things that will search any file for text matches would be very useful. And e-mail would be high on the list of needs. (Where is that e-mail where I told somebody that their ideas suck? Was it sent to the person who is my new boss?) Really, I do alot of searching through old e-mail. I also do alot of searching through old doc and pdf files.

Back in the early 90's I bought a utility for my Mac (which I was using at the time) that would search through any file, MS Word, MacDraw, text, and anything for a match to some text. You could even search executable programs for text like "this job stinks" and find some hits. It was one of the most useful utilities I ever had. I have never seen anything like that for Windows.

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