Coming to a PC Near You: Copernic Desktop Search 2.0

By Joseph Moran | Posted September 07, 2006

Of the many desktop search utilities that have hit the market over the past couple of years, Copernic Desktop Search is generally regarded as the most powerful — and arguably the best — among them.

After almost two years and several incremental updates, there's now a major update of CDS waiting in the wings. The Preview Release of Copernic Desktop Search 2.0 is now available for download, and while the company hasn't announced a formal release date, the current preview version is set to expire on 10/31/06, which gives a pretty good indication of a likely launch time frame.

Before we delve into the new version, an important caveat: Copernic has indicated that it will continue to provide a free version of CDS, but it also plans to offer a paid version of the search utility that will include certain "advanced" features. The wording of the CDS 2.0's license agreement leaves one with the distinct impression that some aspects of the preview version may fall into this category (though which ones are anyone's guess at this point). As a result, you may not want to get too attached to a feature lest you find the need to pay for it once the software officially ships.

As with the current official version (1.7) of CDS, 2.0 runs on Windows XP, 2000, Me, and 98, and integrates with Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Outlook and Outlook Express, as well as with Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird.

2.0's New Interface
The current generation of CDS sports a user interface that's competent, if basic and a bit bland. In CDS 2.0, however, the user interface gets a fairly major overhaul. Copernic claims the new UI is "lighter," and while we don't know about that, it is more attractive and user-friendly than before, and we find it better organized and more informative as well.

CDS 2.0 has a cleaner two-pane design than its predecessor, with the category icons (e-mails, music, pictures, etc.) shifted rightward. When you perform a search, those icons display the number of hits found in each category. There's also a new menu bar that provides easier access to various configuration options, like the ability to show or hide the preview pane, which can now also be displayed on the right as well as the bottom (the bottom is the only option with 1.x).

To help make repetitive queries quicker, CDS 2.0 lets you save them with a My Searches feature that is accessible from the menu bar. As you use the feature, previously performed searches are also made available in the lower-left corner of the application window.

My Searches comes with a dozen pre-defined searches like today's e-mails or pictures from the last 30 days, and it essentially functions like bookmarks do in a browser. You can organize your My Searches entries, but only by reordering them — you can't organize them into folders as you can with bookmarks.

Search and Ye Shall Find
CDS 2.0 still lets you search across a variety of file and information categories such as documents, music, photos and videos (Copernic claims support for over 150 different file types), as well as e-mails, contacts, browser history, and bookmarks/favorites. (For browser history and bookmarks, CDS 2.0 supports Mozilla and Netscape in addition to IE and Firefox). There's also a Web link to automatically search the Internet for your term at Copernic.com without having to re-type the term when the page appears.

New to CDS 2.0 is the ability to choose "All" as your search category to search through all categories at once. Although CDS already cross references search terms across other categories, 2.0 doesn't limit you to viewing the results one category at a time or require you to arbitrarily pick a category to initiate your search.

If you're prone to typos or spelling errors, you'll appreciate CDS 2.0's query correction feature. When you type in a search term that CDS thinks you may have misspelled, it will offer you a suggested alternate spelling. It does this as you type, and offers the correction off to the side instead of obtrusively overwriting what you've entered (helpful, for example, when you really were searching for "magick" rather than magic).

When you're refining your searches by specifying additional parameters (i.e. the subject line of an e-mail), CDS will display a drop-down menu containing various choices to complete the entry culled from the search index. CDS 2.0 also gives you more ways to refine your search terms — for many categories, you can now narrow down your results by specifying a file name (or limiting your search to a specific folder) after you've initiated a search with a keyword.

CDS has always allowed the use of search operators like "and", "or", and "not", but v2.0 has also added support for "near," so you can now search for terms that are in close proximity to other terms (in this case, within ten words).

Performance in CDS 2.0

Copernic says CDS 2.0 is designed to maintain a high level of computer responsiveness by being conservative in the use of system resources like CPU, memory and disk space. On-the-fly features,like the aforementioned spelling correction and query completion, were nearly instantaneous, though we never had much to complain about in that regard with CDS 1.7 either.

CDS 2.0's default indexing schedule dictates that most items are indexed daily at midnight, but you can customize that schedule as well as other aspects of indexing behavior. For example, CDS won't index when a system is in use or under significant load from other applications, or when your laptop is running on battery power.

Integration
CDS offers a couple of ways to conduct searches without having to open the application first. In addition to IE and Firefox toolbars, one of the most handy features of Copernic Desktop Search is its Deskbar, which sits on the Windows Taskbar just left of the tray. Always a convenient feature, CDS 2.0 manages to make the Deskbar even more so with a redesign.

In the current version of CDS, before performing a Deskbar search you have to pick a category, and then the results appear via the full CDS application window. By contrast, when you type a search term into the CDS 2.0 Deskbar the first few results pertaining to that term for each category are immediately displayed in a pop-up window.

Clicking on a category button will display results just for that category, and since the Deskbar's results window is scrollable, you can see all the results without having to launch CDS. Although clicking on an item in the Deskbar is supposed to launch it in its host application, it didn't work for us — a glitch we assume won't find its way into the final product.

Conclusion
With Copernic Desktop Search 2.0, the company has managed to make a strong product even stronger. While it lacks the frills of some competitors (think Google Gadgets) it does what it's meant to do — provide an easy and powerful way to search through the morass of e-mails, documents, media files and other detritus on your computer.

Pros: New and improved, easier-to-use interface in v2.0; lets you easily save searches for reuse; spelling correction feature and auto-completion of search terms; support for non-IE browsers and mail clients (Firefox, Netscape, Thunderbird, Eudora); capably searches network drives; extensive list of file types supported (including PDF support)

Cons: Once the product officially ships some of the features may be available only in paid version (pricing not yet determined for commercial version); preview pane doesn't display many files natively; doesn't integrate desktop and Web search capabilities; doesn't integrate with Copernic's Web search tool Copernic Agent

Adapted from winplanet.com.

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