Tools to Find PC Data FasterForget Windows' Search: New tools can find keywords on PCs in seconds.
Illustration by Joe Zeff
Solution: Several applications now promise to rapidly search your PC for the file, e-mail message, or attachment that you need.
X1 Technologies' $99 X1 Search and DTSearch's $199 DTSearch Desktop both index your entire hard drive, and then let you essentially Google its contents. Stata Labs' more limited and, at $60, less expensive Bloomba is a stand-alone e-mail client that indexes messages and attachments so you can search them far more quickly than in other e-mail software like Outlook or Outlook Express.
Run It As You Sleep
With X1 or DTSearch, creating the initial index of your PC's contents can be time-consuming; a McMansion hard drive will take overnight. Either program will index most popular file formats, along with Outlook and Outlook Express messages. X1 also supports Eudora and Netscape mail, and will index Outlook and Eudora attachments and Outlook contacts.
Once the index is complete, however, searches become virtually instantaneous. By the time you've finished typing a search term in X1, the list of results is already done.
The biggest difference between X1 and DTSearch is in their search options. X1 is designed to be simple. If you enter two search terms, the program will, by default, look for files that contain both terms. But you can have it flag files with one term and not the other, and you can specify where it should look--in the file name, for instance.
DTSearch is more sophisticated: It lets you use Boolean operators like and, or, and not. It can seek out words that sound like the one you want, or find misspelled versions of the search word.
Click on a result, and both X1 and DTSearch will show its contents in a file viewer window that's part of the interface. X1's previews tend to be closer to the real thing--for instance, its previews of spreadsheets include the lines separating cells, while previews in DTSearch do not.
Both of the programs let you launch a file in your results with just a click or two. Both also allow you to reply to, forward, print, or move an e-mail message without launching the full version of Outlook.
But if your main concern is searching e-mail, consider Bloomba. It lets you search for a word anywhere in a message or attachment, or narrow down a search based on the sender, the recipients, or the subject. You can save a search so that with one click you can find, say, any message having to do with Linux.
These programs won't end all your data-location troubles: Even on my puny 30GB hard drive, a search for Longhorn and search yielded 18 hits I had to sort through. But these new tools are certainly far superior to Windows' pathetically slow Search utility, and X1's simple interface and reasonable price make it an especially appealing choice.