Lycos has joined the fightback for the search engine market from Google with a new HotBot desktop app which allows you to search the Web and your browser history as well as e-mail and files.

Coming just a few weeks after Yahoo! launched a revamped search engine to better compete with Google, Lycos' free download works as an Internet browser toolbar. In addition to searching the Web, it supports indexing and searching of Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail and files in Microsoft Office, PDF and most text-based formats. It also includes an RSS browser so news content can be selected and scoured.

Combined desktop and Web search is a unique offering, as major search players like Google have yet to introduce it, according to Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineWatch.com. "I think that many people would like to search their own computer with as much ease as you can search the Web," Sullivan said. "But major search players haven't offered it because searching PCs and the Web is very different."

The search differences were made explicit when AltaVista rolled out a similar product in 1998 called AltaVista Discovery, he said. The product didn't go over very well because in order to search users' computers it had to make a large index file of everything on the PC which took time and hard drive space. These days, however, hard drives have more space and the fact that HotBot Desktop only indexes certain file formats cuts down on the indexing requirements, he said.

While many believe Microsoft will launch a combined desktop and Web-search offering in its next operating system, Sullivan believes that there is room for other Web players to roll out their own offerings before that. "I could easily see Google offer free e-mail with search capabilities," Sullivan said.

For now, however, Lycos is hoping that HotBot Desktop will be the combined search tool that heats things up. You can get the HotBot at Hotbot.com.