Google Desktop

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Google Desktop
File:GoogleSidebar Vista.png
The GDS Sidebar sits on the user's desktop and displays relevant information. (Google Desktop on Vista)
Developer(s) Google
Stable release 5.9.911.3589 (Microsoft Windows), (Linux) / December 14, 2008
Operating system Cross-platform
Type Desktop search
License closed source

Google Desktop is desktop search software made by Google for Mac OS X, Linux, and Microsoft Windows. The program allows text searches of a user's e-mails, computer files, music, photos, chats, Web pages viewed, and other "Google Gadgets".



As of January 2008, Google Desktop features the following functionality:

File indexing

After initially installing Google Desktop, the software completes an indexing of all the files in the computer. After the initial indexing is completed, the software continues to index files as needed. Users can start searching for files immediately after installing the program. After performing searches, results can also be returned in an Internet browser on the Google Desktop Home Page much like the results for Google Web searches.

Google Desktop can index several different types of data, including email, web browsing history from Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, office documents in the OpenDocument and Microsoft Office formats, instant messenger transcripts from AOL, Google, MSN, Skype, Tencent QQ, and several multimedia file types. Additional file types can be indexed through the use of plug-ins.[1] Google Desktop allows the user to control which types of data are indexed by the program.

Google Desktop only indexes 100,000 files per drive during the initial indexing period. If users have more than 100,000 files in a particular drive, Google Desktop won't index all of them during this initial period. However, Google Desktop adds files to the index during real-time indexing when users move or open them.[2]


A prominent feature of Google Desktop is the Sidebar, which holds several common Gadgets and resides off to one side of the desktop. The Sidebar is available with the Microsoft Windows and Linux versions of Google Desktop. The Sidebar comes pre-installed with the following gadgets:

  • Email - a panel which lets one view one's Gmail messages.
  • Scratch Pad - here one can store notes; they are saved automatically
  • Photos - displays a slideshow of photos from the "My Pictures" folder (address can be changed)
  • News - shows the latest headlines from Google News, and how long ago they were written. The News panel is personalized depending on the type of news you read.
  • Weather - shows the current weather for a location specified by the user.
  • Web Clips - shows recent posts from RSS news feeds.
  • Google Talk - If Google Talk is installed, double clicking the window title will dock it to one's sidebar.

Like the Windows Taskbar, the Google Desktop sidebar can be set to Auto-Hide mode, where it will only appear once the user moves the mouse cursor towards the side where it resides. If not on auto-hide, by default the sidebar will always take up about 1/6 - 1/9 of the screen (depending on the screen resolution), and other windows are forced to resize. However, the sidebar can be resized to take less space, and users can disable the "always on top" feature in the options. With the auto-hide feature on, the sidebar temporarily overlaps maximized windows.

Another feature that comes with the Sidebar is alerts. When the Sidebar is minimized, new e-mail and news can be displayed on a pop-up window above the Windows Taskbar.

Quick Find

When searching in the sidebar, deskbar or floating deskbar, Google Desktop displays a "Quick Find" window. This window is filled with 6 (by default) of the most relevant results from the user's computer. These results update as the user types, and allows use without having to open another browser window.


Deskbars are boxes which enable searching directly from the desktop. Web results will open in a browser window, and selected computer results will be displayed in the "Quick Find" box (see above). A Deskbar can either be a fixed deskbar, which sits in the Windows Taskbar, or a Floating Deskbar, which may be positioned anywhere on the desktop.

Email indexing

Google Desktop includes plugins that allow indexing and searching the contents of local Microsoft Outlook, IBM Lotus Notes, and Mozilla Thunderbird email databases, outside of the client applications' built-in search functions. For Lotus Notes, only local databases are indexed for searching. Google Desktop's email indexing feature is also integrated with Google's web-based email service, Gmail; it can index and search the email messages in Gmail accounts.

Gadgets & plug-ins

Desktop gadgets are interactive mini-applications that can be placed anywhere on the user's desktop – or docked in the Sidebar – to show new email, weather, photos, and personalized news. Google offers a gallery of pre-built gadgets for download on the official website. For developers, Google offers an SDK and an official blog for anyone who wants to write gadgets or plug-ins for Google Desktop. An automated system creates a developer hierarchy called the "Google Desktop Hall of Fame", where programmers can advance based on their gadgets' number and popularity.

The SDK also allows third-party applications to make use of the search facilities provided by Google Desktop Search. For example, the file manager Directory Opus offers integrated Google Desktop Search support.

Release history

File:Desktop scrshotmac.jpg
Google Desktop running on Mac OS X.
File:Desktop scrshotlinux.jpg
Google Desktop running on Red Hat Linux.

Google Desktop was originally developed to bring Google search technology to the desktop. Google Desktop received much attention because it may allow reverse engineering of Google's proprietary search algorithm.

A centrally administered version[3], which integrates the user experience with the vendor's appliance, exists too.

Microsoft Windows
  • The first release of Google Desktop Search was released as a beta version on October 14, 2004.[4]
  • Version 2 was released as a beta version on August 22, 2005. The new feature that distinguishes Desktop 2 from Desktop is the addition of Sidebar, a panel that displays personalized information, which can be placed on either side of the Windows desktop and can display real-time news, e-mail, photos, stocks, and weather, among others. Sidebar includes a search box that can search just the PC or Google's other search types (like Web, Images, News, Groups.) Google Desktop 2 graduated from beta on November 3, 2005. New features include a sidebar plug-in for Google Maps and more plug-in developer support.[5]
  • Google Desktop 3 Beta was released on February 9, 2006. It includes support for searching multiple computers on a network.[6] Google Desktop 3 graduated from beta on March 14, 2006. Notable in this version is the quick search box, which appears anywhere on your desktop after pressing "control" twice.[7]
  • Google Desktop 4 Beta was released on May 10, 2006. It features Google Gadgets, modules that can deliver an array of information. It also introduces option to automatically remove deleted files from search results.[8] Google Desktop 4 graduated from beta on June 27, 2006.
  • Google Desktop v4.5 was released on November 14, 2006, adding a transparency aesthetic to the sidebar and "floating" gadgets. The graphic interface of the sidebar was also enhanced with more stylized icons for news, stocks, weather, photos, etc. Release 4.5 also added support for Windows Vista.
  • Google Desktop 5 Beta was released on March 6, 2007.
  • Google Desktop v5.1 (the first post-Desktop 5 Beta release) is made available for download on 27 April 2007.[9]
  • Google released Desktop v5.5 on 2 October 2007.[9]
  • Google Desktop v 5.7 as of 22 August 2008 [9]
  • Google Desktop v 5.8.0809.23506 as of 30 January 2009 [9].
  • Google Desktop v 5.9.0906.04286 as of 8 July 2009 [9].
  • On April 2007, Google released Desktop 1.0 for Mac OS X, which can function alongside the Spotlight search tool in Mac OS X v10.4.[10]
  • On November 29, 2007, Google released Desktop v1.4.0.826 beta for Mac OS X[11], which plugs into Dashboard for Gadgets support.
  • Version 1.6 of the Mac version of Google Desktop does not function under Snow Leopard. As of November 25, 2009, Google is yet to release an update for Snow Leopard support.
  • Google released Desktop 1.0 for Linux on June 27, 2007.[12] It currently features the basic functionality of the Windows version but not the sidebar functionality.
  • Google added 64-bit support to the Google Desktop for Linux with version, which was made available for download on 18 December 2007.[13]



In February 2007, Yair Amit, of Watchfire, found a series of vulnerabilities[14] in Google Desktop that could allow a malicious individual to achieve not only remote, persistent access to sensitive data, but in some cases full system control as well. The significant impact and the ease of exploitation forced Google to change some of Google Desktop's logic in Google Desktop version 5.


Template:Seealso Many privacy and civil liberties groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have concerns that personal information on people's computers could readily be copied from users' hard drives.[15]

Google Desktop version 3 contains certain features that raise serious security and privacy concerns. Specifically, the share across computers feature that introduces the ability to search content from desktop to desktop greatly increases the risk to users' privacy. If Google Desktop V.3 is set to allow Search Across Computers, files on an indexed computer are copied to Google's servers. The potential for information stored on their computers to be accessed by others if they enable this feature of Google Desktop v. 3 on their computers should be seriously considered. The EFF advises against using this feature.[15] Also, those who have confidential data on their work or home computers should not enable this feature. There are privacy laws and company policies that could be violated through the installation of this feature, specifically, SB 1386, HIPAA, FERPA, GLBA and Sarbanes-Oxley.[16]

Other more far reaching concerns arise around the packaging and end user license agreement - specifically the level of intrusion on the local machine and the disclaimers that users implicitly agree to future changes in the license agreement without actually being able to see them immediately.[17][18]

Private navigation indexing

In 2009, Internet Explorer and Firefox both introduced private browsing; however, this feature is not yet supported by Google Desktop, which results in indexing pages visited in the browser's private mode.[19]

Resource use

Although there have been known problems with the GoogleDesktopCrawl.exe process,[20] lately the presence of smart indexing has improved the use of resources so this is less of a problem now.[citation needed] As a default setting, after the user installs the application, files, emails and other data will be indexed at once, in a one-time process. It occurs only when the user's computer is idle for more than 30 seconds and it will usually be complete in several hours. After the one-time indexing, the index is kept up-to-date based on user actions and preferences.


Besides the key combination advertised on the preferences page (hitting Ctrl twice) Google Desktop's Quick Search Box can be launched with a shortcut Alt Gr + g, Alt Gr, however, is the standard key to input diacriticized letters on a QWERTY keyboard, e.g. Ģ/ģ in the Latvian language. Even though it can't be disabled on the preferences page, it can be done through editing the Windows Registry.[21]

Outlook indexing

There had been some issues with Microsoft Outlook indexing.[22] Deleted email listings were not removed and required re-installing Google Desktop for any new archived mail to be listed. Several versions have been released to patch the Outlook indexing.[23] During the first half of 2009, a large number of Google Desktop users reported that the product stopped indexing suddenly, when the index file reached approximately 4GB in size. A full uninstall (including manually deleting the indexes) and then reinstall would fix the problem temporarily, but the problem would recur when the index file reached 4GB again. The problem has been resolved as of Google Desktop Search version 5.9.[24]

Issues with Chrome

When the shortcut key for Quick Find i.e. 'press ctrl twice' is used to access Google Desktop inside an active Google Chrome Browser window, the search box appears once and disappears. A large number of users have confirmed this bug and are awaiting a bug fix for this issue. In newer versions of Google Desktop, this problem is now fixed so it shouldn't cause anymore problems with users using this feature [25]

See also


  1. "All Indexing Plugins". Retrieved 2007-10-22. 
  2. I can't find : Files - Desktop for Windows Help - Google
  3. Enterprise Edition Features
  4. Google Press Center: Press Release
  5. Official Google Blog: Desktop grows up
  6. Official Google Blog: New on your Desktop
  7. Official Google Blog: Stay in Ctrl Ctrl
  8. Official Google Blog: Yes, we are still all about search
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 "Latest Updates for Google Desktop". 
  10. Mike Pinkerton (2007-04-04). "Google Desktop for Mac". Official Google Mac Blog. Retrieved 2007-04-19. 
  11. Google (November 28, 2007). ""Where can I obtain a list of known issues or release notes?" - "Current Version"". Desktop for Mac Help Center. Retrieved 2007-11-29. 
  12. Google (2007-06-27). "Google Desktop for Linux". Google Desktop for Linux. Retrieved 2007-07-27. 
  13. "Where can I obtain a list of known issues or release notes?". Google Inc.. 
  14. Overtaking Google Desktop (alternative link)
  15. 15.0 15.1 Press Releases: February, 2006 | Electronic Frontier Foundation
  16. More worries about Google Desktop 3 - Internet - News - ZDNet Asia
  17.,00.shtml Google Desktop Tracked: Terms of Service (Welcome to Google)
  18.,05.shtml Google Desktop Tracked: The Aftermath
  20. Google Desktop is using up 100% of my CPU. What can I do?
  21. What shortcut keys are available with Google Desktop?
  22. Outlook Index and Search
  23. Latest Known Issues for Google Desktop
  24. Google Desktop support thread
  25. Google Code Chromium: 'Google desktop Quick Search box...' Retrieved 2009-09-14

External links

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