5 Freeware Apps for Searching Thy Desktop Awesomely

TheMurph

This week’s Freeware Files come courtesy of podcast aficionado (and mother of the epic dream date winner from podcast #36 ) R. Ellen Ferare. Or, rather, you can thank her for the idea. We got to talking this past weekend and she noted that she’s been having trouble finding a legitimate way to search through her desktop for this, that, and the other. Obviously, Windows’ built-in search functionality just isn’t cutting it—and I don’t blame her for thinking so. It’s slow, it’s bloated, and I’ve personally found that it just doesn’t quite get the job done compared to other applications out there.

“Other applications,” of course, is just a code phrase for what’s really on everyone’s minds: Google Desktop. But it would sure be boring to just write 75 words saying, “Don’t use Windows Search; Use Google Desktop. Eat a cupcake.” There’s more to life than what Google bestows. And, in fact, you might have legitimate privacy or performance concerns when using Google’s great—but not deal-breaking—search utility. For example I hate that the service only indexes your drive when your system is idle. That doesn’t do me a lot of good if I need to quickly search through new contents I’ve added to a particular location.

So, grievances aside, what does one do if one doesn’t want to use Windows built-in search tools or Google Desktop to sift through one’s computer for information? Solution: Try out one of the five freeware apps buried below the jump. They vary in format and features, but all are designed to fix some aspect of system searching that, right now, just isn’t being fulfilled by the two big aforementioned apps.

Let’s begin.

DocFetcher

Google Documents has a fun little quirk whereby one can actively search through the contents of files—I’m talking about that-which-is-displayed in either a Word or Excel document—instead of just searching your drive for a particular file name (which, to be fair, it also does). But if you don’t want to deal with Google, or a mass-index of your entire computer, or any of that nonsense, then DocFetcher is the super-trimmed-down application you’ll want to use for your searches. It does create an index on a destination folder prior to your search, but you can specify this—and the exact kinds of files you’ll be looking for—prior to your entry into Searchland. After that, finding contents within your files is as easy as typing your desires into the search box and hitting enter.

Download it here !

FileSeek

I mentioned the indexing process above. In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s what I’m talking about: applications like Google Desktop run throughout the entirety of your system to build a working repository of information related to its contents—the index. Using the index to perform searches is much, much faster than running through your whole drive with each and every query. On the flip side, perhaps your one-shot search item doesn’t really need a full index—building one from the ground up does take time, after all. And what if you can use parameters to better restrict the search, which could ultimately increase the list of files that your app doesn’t even have to consider?

Enter FileSeek: This non-indexing search tool comes with a plethora of options for defining your search in the most explicit terms possible (that’s “detailed,” not “naughty”). Better still, it integrates directly into your right-click context menu in Windows; you’ll never need to use the boring ol’ Windows Search ever again, trust me.

Download it here !

Everything

Well, it’s named appropriately, that’s for sure. The beauty of Everything is that it dumps the power of a desktop search into a completely portable application. That’s right—slap this little one on a USB key to bring real-time search results of a given system (or specified folder) to any system you want. The super-speedy tool allows you to drill down your search for files by filtering the results using specific letter cases, words, or file location. And, as mentioned, it’s super-easy to include or exclude locations you don’t need to look through.

And did I mention it’s portable?

Download it here !

Index Your Files

While it’s easy to boast about this app’s useful, Windows Explorer-like interface, and filtering capabilities for your searches, and things like that… these features aren’t all that different from those found in the applications I’ve already discussed. At some baseline level, a good search tool has a pretty standard set of functions: Index Your Files is no exception.

Where the app differs, however, is in its use of multiple indices to speed up the searching process. That’s right—you can index more than one location at a given time, which is an especially helpful feature if you’re looking to quickly search a specific folder on your system and, say, the contents of a single drive elsewhere on your network. Specificity, specificity, specificity! That’s how this app rolls.

Download it here !

File Name Tag Explorer

So, I’ve covered a number of different ways you can go about performing a real-time search across your system or networked contents. Now, let’s flip the equation around a bit and consider things from an entirely different angle. File Name Tag Explorer presents just such a paradigm shift (yes, I hate that phrase too). Instead of searching for the contents of files, or file names, this app allows you to slap Flickr-style tags on as many files as you want. You’re searching by topic now—click on the “freeware” tag, for example, and you’ll be given a list of those files with which you’ve previously bestowed this identifier.

Now, I get a headache just thinking of having to tag all the files on my drive before being able to reap the benefits of this application. For what it’s worth, File Name Tag Explorer does assist you in auto-tagging files—it’s not perfect, but it’s not like you have to manually enter every tag, eh?

Download it here !

David Murphy is a technology journalist and former Maximum PC editor. He writes weekly columns about the wide world of open-source as well as weekly roundups of awesome, freebie software. He enjoys searching for files as much as he enjoys searching for buried treasure. Yarrrr.

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