dtSearch Desktop Version 7

Mike Riley

October 30, 2009

4 Min Read
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dtSearch Desktop Version 7

 

By Mike Riley

 

What a difference a few years makes in the software toolsmarket. When I reviewed dtSearch for Informant s Microsoft OfficePro (the precursor to asp.netPRO magazine), I was delighted with the efficient indexingand search capabilities dtSearch Version 6 brought to the Windows platform. Sincethat time, however, Google has become the predominant search portal havingbundled their algorithms into a desktop package called Google Desktop(available for free at http://desktop.google.com/?promo=mp-gds-v1-1)and a preconfigured network appliance designed to spider corporate intranet andfile servers. Microsoft has also entered the search market and is directlycompeting with Google for search dominance. Like Google Desktop, Microsoft sMSN Desktop Search, available at http://desktop.msn.com, is also free.Because dtSearch Desktop promotes its primary use as a desktop search utility,its root value proposition has been commoditized and what once seemed wellworth the money has been readjusted by its competitors to what should be a freeutility.

 

That said, dtSearch Desktop does carry several advantagesthat advanced users will appreciate. Search queries can be extremely granularwith multiple features such as stemming, phonic, fuzzy, and synonym searchfilters applied to the request. Indexes can be targeted to specific directoriesor over 40 different supported file types, ranging from Microsoft Accessdatabases to Microsoft Outlook e-mail stores to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint andAdobe Acrobat documents. In addition to local files, dtSearch can also be usedto spider and index entire Web sites, providing extremely fast search resultson unwieldy corporate intranet sites, as well as your favorite Internet sites. dtSearchalso beats Microsoft s WinFS technology to the punch by allowing its indexes tobe shared across a network, thereby providing licensed clients the ability toaggregate desktop contents for distributed client libraries.

 


Figure 1: Indexing time depends onthe volume of data to be analyzed. This example took about an hour to index 4.2gigabytes of data.

 

However, compared to the free desktop-centric alternatives,there are some annoying disadvantages. Unlike the constantly updating searchindexes of Google and MSN clients, dtSearch indexes have to either be manuallyupdated or scheduled via the Windows Scheduler, preventing real-time additionsto the index. There is also no easy interface for non-technical users. Googlebecame the search champion not only because of its relevant search results butalso because of its ridiculously simple, single textbox entry that masksenormous complexity on the back-end. Although one could be programmed fordtSearch, it s nevertheless a feature that should have been included to bringit to parity with its competition. In addition to this problem, the relevanceof the search results compared to Google or Microsoft s desktop utility is alsoa challenge.

 

The days of highly refined search queries with specialkeywords and symbolic syntax are fading. End-users expectations on relevantresults using simple phrases, keywords, or, in the case of commercial Web siteslike AskJeeves and Brainboost that use natural language English queries, havepermanently altered the perceived effort required to construct a meaningfulquery. Given the years of experience dtSearch Corp. has in the Windows (andmore recently, Linux) desktop space, the company could have leapfrogged thealternative free offerings with truly amazing innovations. Lamentably, suchinnovations will have to wait for future versions.

 


Figure 2: Results are displayed as alist of relevant files meeting the search criteria and a representation of theselected file in the viewer pane.

 

Although dtSearch offers a superior API compared to thatof Google or Microsoft, once again these alternatives also offer hooks intotheir technology to leverage and extend for custom purposes. dtSearch doesprovide several examples in languages and platforms ranging from Java to VB6to Delphi to .NET that allow developers to create rich-clientcustom front-ends, but the practical use of this need may be limited to kioskand specialized document management applications. The clincher for Microsoftusers is that many developers are waiting to see what Microsoft s WinFS searchAPIs will offer especially in light of Microsoft s intent to competevigorously with Google by potentially bundling such capabilities into futureversions of Windows.

 


Figure 3: Search queries can rangefrom rudimentary to complex. It takes some time to understand how each of theseparameters can affect return results.

 

I really wanted to replace my reliance on Google Desktopwith dtSearch, and I was excited by the programmatic, targeted search indexesand broad file type support dtSearch offers in their latest release. However,after using both products for several weeks with the intent of uninstalling thelosing search utility from my desktop, the program that lost its place wasdtSearch.

 


Figure 4: The dtSearch API is nowavailable for the .NET platform, with good documentation on the exposedinterfaces and assemblies.

 

Perhaps the next version will regain my confidence andinfuse enough excitement to justify the $200 purchase price. But for now, thefree alternatives offer a majority of features for most desktop customers, savethe more advanced power search users and document management programmers.

 

MikeRiley is anadvanced computing professional specializing in emerging technologies and newdevelopment trends. He also is a contributing editor for asp.netPRO. Readers may contact Mike at mailto:[email protected].

 

Rating:

Web Site: http://www.dtsearch.com

Price: US$199

 

 

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