On Monday, Google updated its perpetually-in-beta Google Desktop Search application to version 2, adding an intriguing and extensible new component called Sidebar. Like the Windows Vista feature it emulates, the Google Sidebar presents discrete panes of information that can be filled with various bits of functionality. The base Sidebar, for example, includes panes dedicated to email, news, photos, weather, and related features.
"It's no question that we're competing with Microsoft today, and with a lot of other people," Nikhil Bhatla, the product manager for Google desktop software, told the Wall Street Journal. Google recently identified both Microsoft and Yahoo as its chief competitors.
The new Sidebar component is optional in Google Desktop Search 2 and can be replaced by a deskbar component, which sits in the Windows taskbar, or a floating deskbar, which hovers over the desktop. Users can optionally choose to use the application's advanced features, which sends information about the Web sites you visit to Google so that the company can provide personalized services. Google Desktop Search and the Sidebar do not, however, display any ads, and Google says that a controversial Web caching feature from previous versions is now disabled by default.
In addition to the Windows Vista-inspired Sidebar component, Google seems to be aping other Microsoft software in this version of its desktop search tool. Google Desktop Search 2 also includes a plug-in toolbar for Microsoft Outlook, allowing you to search for email messages from directly within Outlook. The toolbar appears to work similarly to the Outlook toolbar in MSN Search Toolbar with Windows Desktop Search, a free Windows add-on Microsoft shipped earlier this year.
Google Desktop Search 2 requires Windows 2000 with Service Pack 3 (SP3) or higher or Windows XP. For more information and the free download, please visit the Google Web site.