When I search the web, I’m looking for knowledge. When I search my computer, I’m looking for documents.

Those two sentences explain why I uninstalled Google Desktop Search after only two days. After the uninstall, I was taken to a Google page asking why I’d removed their program. Since they asked, I answered:

Searching the web and searching my desktop are fundamentally different.

When I search the web using Google, I’m trying to GAIN KNOWLEDGE about a TOPIC.

When I search my desktop, I’m trying to FIND something I’ve LOST. I usually have an idea where and what it is.

For example, I recently wanted to find a list of coding tasks for a client. I knew it was a) an email, b) recent, and c) contained a text string.

I’d already narrowed my search, so the fasted tool was to use my email program’s search to pull up the emails and then visually scan for the email.

Using Google Desktop was harder, because I could only narrow my search via the text string, which would show me 50 times the number of documents, and I didn’t remember enough of the email text to narrow the search.

Do you see? On my desktop, I’m not learning ABOUT a subject. I’m locating documents. I must narrow by type and time.


On the web: I’m in a library trying to learn about Ford cars, using the card catalog and librarians to narrow my search. Even if I’m looking for a picture of a particular model (don’t know the model name), I don’t care what kind of document it’s in.

On my desktop: I’m in my home trying to find that book I bought a month ago with that particular picture of a Ford car (don’t remember which model). But imagine if I collect car and Ford items.

I may explore this more in a future post. For now, my question is:

Does your experience in searching your computer and the web agree with mine?