Software

Five speedy Windows desktop search apps

Introduction

NOTE: If you'd prefer to view this information as a blog post, check out this entry in our Five Apps blog.

Over the years I have accumulated a lot of file data. Even though I keep it well organized, there are times when I have to use a search utility to find what it is that I am looking for. Since I'm sure that there are others who are in the same boat, I thought that it might be helpful to talk about some desktop search utilities.

Before I get started, I want to clarify my definition of a desktop search utility. For the purpose of this article, I am defining a desktop search utility as any utility that is used locally to help find specific data on either the desktop or on an on-premise server. In other words, I'm not talking about Internet search utilities, but everything else is fair game.

34 comments
jcuddeback
jcuddeback

I have many years' worth of files and email archives, and X1 searches them all, instantly. It integrates with Outlook (also Lotus Notes) and indexes full text in more than 200 proprietary file formats, plus calendar items and contacts. You can search by field (e.g., email display name or address/domain, date/time, or the file names and contents of all attachments), specify word proximity and sequence, and use Boolean operators. It's easy to sort search results and use the preview window to go through files quickly, without opening them. X1 indexes local and network files efficiently (optionally in near real time), and the indexes take surprisingly little disk space. Limitations: Currently works only with 32-bit Outlook, searches only on word boundaries (search for "boat" won't find "sailboat," so you may want to include spaces or punctuation in filenames). Current version is quite stable, but I did need tech support a couple of versions ago, and the response was outstanding.

delaage.pierre
delaage.pierre

As a programmer your files are just ascii text files, where sometimes you want to find some string, in a subset of files from a specific folder or modified at specific times. No painful background hardrive indexing, just fast text searching, nothing to deal with binary files. Perfect for Vista or Seven, where the search tool is just un-usable, and unable to find anything simple. Agent rantsack gives at least the XP or w98 simple text search: enough for any programmer.

TrueDinosaur
TrueDinosaur

I miss it! It indexed PST (open and not open ones).

ejmfoley
ejmfoley

Everything. Instant search for the desktop.

Peter_Pan_7
Peter_Pan_7

I have used a lot including Windows (Desktop) Search and Google Desktop Search. I would say I tested all of them but Everything as I never heard about this utility before reading this article. So thanks to Fireboss :) I would consider Search and Replace 98 and Duplicate File Finder as complementary utilities rather than indexing and search utilities. Copernic Destop Search was quite good but I gave up using it a few years ago as the indexing engine has remained buggy over years and next coming versions. Google Search is pretty good but it is (was) not a standalone program with its own GUI but it uses your Web browser (IE or firefox, discontinued before Chrome was launched). Another annoying point: it would be tricky not to store your Web surf and Search History on your local drive instead of Google servers (by default!). That made me worried about their privacy rules (as usual). Windows Search is as good as Google Desktop Search in my opinion, each of them having some pros and cons against the other. X1 Professional Client has the best following features: indexing engine, files previewer, customization, extensibility, efficiency for indexing and retrieving data, search operators and filters. The only missing feature, always requested by users over years but never implemented, is indexing Web Surfing History. Indexing your Web browser cache is a poor workaround but it works. I have been using Seruku IE Toolbar while surfing with Internet Explorer but this really good utility has been discontinued and was never implemented for firefox. One day I will give a try to addons ScrapBook, ScrapBook Plus or even Evernote. Everything would not do the trick as it does not idex file contents but filenames only :( And my purpose is to have index and search results on my PC, not on any server of any ads seller! Cheers from France

m-olson
m-olson

Everything will search at least some files. Just two days ago I asked it to find a person's name which I knew was in a .docx file and it immediately popped up with the filename, which is really what I wanted. Everything does not actually search your hard drive every time you use it; it searches its database, so searches appear to be nearly instantaneous. It updates its database regularly. It has saved my butt on many occasions. Its primary purpose is to find files but it appears to include text file content in its database. If you search for a unique term or phrase in a file (perhaps a name or a date), it will list every file with that name or date in it. Realistically, you may need several different kinds of search programs, depending on the kinds of tasks you want to perform. In any event, Everything is one of the most indispensable tools I've seen in my 40 yrs. of working with computers.

m-olson
m-olson

Everything will search at least some files. Just two days ago I asked it to find a person's name which I knew was in a .docx file and it immediately popped up with the filename, which is really what I wanted. Everything does not actually search your hard drive every time you use it; it searches its database, so searches appear to be nearly instantaneous. It updates its database regularly. It has saved my butt on many occasions. Its primary purpose is to find files but it appears to include text file content in its database. If you search for a unique term or phrase in a file (perhaps a name or a date), it will list every file with that name or date in it. Realistically, you may need several different kinds of search programs, depending on the kinds of tasks you want to perform. In any event, Everything is one of the most indispensable tools I've seen in my 40 yrs. of working with computers.

rschoonh
rschoonh

A similar roundup of search utilities that could ideally handle both desktop and NAS (without having to map drives) would be useful. I know of several already, but a roundup would be great.

richa60
richa60

Consider this before buying the professional version of Copernic: I used to like Copernic. Their free home version was excellent. Then they did a major upgrade a couple of years ago which caused their home version to stop indexing Thunderbird on my network drive. I sprang for the Professional version which was supposed to support network drives but it still didn't work. I contacted them about it and they said this on 12/17/10: We have been able to reproduce your issue and it will be considered as a known problem for now. We unfortunately do not have a solution to offer you at the moment. We also cannot tell you whether this problem will be fixed or not since the list of enhancements or bug fixes to be included in future versions hasn't been defined yet. They finally did offer to refund my purchase price but never did so. New releases since then have not fixed it. I have been in touch with them several times since then - mostly without response. My most recent correspondence was three weeks ago, asking about the status of this known problem and whether or not the issue has made it onto their list of enhancements and bug fixes yet. So far, no reply.

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

How about posting actual useful info with the useless pictures as a second choice?

EzeXpl01t
EzeXpl01t

I really like the TechRepublic website and find it very informative, but I really can't stand these thumbnail slideshow articles. I always follow the link to the blog post, but it's rare that anyone comments under those.

annemarie
annemarie

I am happy with Everything, it searches my hard drive and external hard drives quickly. Has been really useful on endless occasions

ggeo99
ggeo99

It's not only speed during search, but how it affects overall system performance (cpu, memory, hd activity) during indexing. I have to vote on Everything from voidtools which is striking fast and amazingly light.

phyrun
phyrun

I love Locate32 ..better than Everything since Locate32 can index mapped network drives.

semalpatil
semalpatil

I just can not believe that you omitted Everything from this list. It might be a really good idea in future to check out what all tools Ninite.com is offering to download. That will give you a decent idea about some of the best tools out there. -S

ctsanders
ctsanders

1. Notepad++ (my one I use th the most) 2. Tool Commander 7 3. Krusader

dwakerley
dwakerley

I've been using X1 since it came out and I can't survive without it. I've lost count of the times it's helped me find things of which I had only the vaguest memory - a single word or phrase. Worth mentioning that it searches EVERYTHING: files, archives, emails, pst files, attachments, across desktop and networks. I don't really bother with structured folders anymore - I can find what I want in a matter of seconds without structuring my data. The only negative thing I have to say about it is that it seems to have become a little bloated in recent years and hence not quite as responsive, although that may be the amount of data I now have indexed.

steve
steve

While it is more of a "grep" like tool Agent Ransack is really fast at finding files with a some text you are looking for . It also can be used to search for files as well using filename fragments , date ranges or size.

etronm
etronm

this is also for me the best tool... really fast, light, and the only cons is sometimes it broke or when it has to reconstruct it's db is slow... but for me also is the best...

drakebm
drakebm

Hard to believe you omitted SEARCH EVERYTHING from Void Tools. I've used it for two years, and don't know how I survived without it. It's instantaneous, intuitive, and unobtrusive. Start it, and enter any word/letters contained in the file name. It immediately shows every file on the computer containing that word or letter combination. From the window listing those files, you may open copy, delete or do almost anything else possible to a file. It does NOT search file contents, but that's rarely been an issue. X1 is a search tool that used to be included in Eudora email program (from Qualcomm). It's good too, but SEARCH EVERYTHING is quicker.

fishcad
fishcad

Agent Ransack is free and finds files that Windows Explorer does not and does it faster.

cdbob18
cdbob18

@ fireboss...i agree it does take its time creating its database each time you boot your pc, but if you add it to your start menu, you can search every file and folder quickly

ramercer
ramercer

I agree with Fireboss wholeheartily. Everything is virtually instantaneous once the data base is updated. The update process is pretty fast. It scans 4 disks totaling over 3gb in less than 5 mins.

Fireboss
Fireboss

I've been happy with Everything from http://www.voidtools.com/ as a search assistant. It's fee and works across the network. I tried the Auslogics dup finder but couldn't get it to recognize mapped drives or network locations, but maybe I'm not holding my tongue right.

JJFitz
JJFitz

Of the search utilities listed, I have used Copernic and X1. My users had a recurring problem with corrupt indexes when using Copernic so I switched to X1. I use X1 in Win XP and Win 7 64-bit. One great feature is the ability to search .pst's. The pst archives can be located anywhere. That means the .pst's don't have to be open in an Outlook client. This saves Outlook from getting too big and slow. Warning: X1 is a bit of an enabler. It does such a good job finding files that you might not feel the need to organize your files and folders as much as you used to. ;) I am wondering if X1 will be as useful in Win 8. Win 8 does a great job finding files without adding a third party application. hmmm

sammy.mah
sammy.mah

I use Locate32 - awesome. Haven't tried any others yet.

JJFitz
JJFitz

it does not search file contents. I am always looking for file contents because people often do not name files consistently. X1 will let me search file contents on a very granular level. For example, I can search all pst's across mapped drives for an email with an attachment that contains the word "discover".

wwgorman
wwgorman

You are correct. Too bad they didn't list it and it is difficult to tell if anything matches it with the lousy presentation format. When will the authors and editors learn?

megamanx
megamanx

I have been using that for years, best ever.

333239
333239

I've been using "Everything" for years now to search for files across my many drives and it's become an indispensible tool. Initially it takes a while to scan the drives but then searches are instantaneous.

JJFitz
JJFitz

X1 indexes mapped drives and networked resources too. As a network admin, I would caution you from allowing all of your users to index shared network drives as it can slow down the network. I tell them it's OK to index their private network drive but not the shared stuff. X1 also has a add on to index files on SharePoint but I have not used it. It would be helpful as we have been storing quite a bit on SharePoint.

hleveque
hleveque

I have used X1 for many years, and I have never had any problem, it finds more than I want for sure and faster than I can type. There is extensive control over which files and extensions it will index. I have tried others but they all fall short compared to X1. Also X1 is a mature product, and the company typically offers no-cost updates a couple of times a year, and they have done this for many years. And I have never had a computer problem traceable to X1. Thumbs up!