The free download, which Yahoo first promised in December can be found at http://desktop.yahoo.com/. Like its competing products, it is designed to help users find information stored in their PC hard drives, a task that utilities included with the Windows operating systems have traditionally performed poorly.
Based on technology Yahoo has licensed from desktop search specialist X1 Technologies, Yahoo Desktop Search can index over 200 different types of files, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint, PDF and PhotoShop. The tool can also index the content of Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express e-mail messages and their attachments.
Yahoo Desktop Search allows users to preview the content of the files it finds, so that they don't have to launch the files in their native applications in order to view them. It also plays audio and video files without the need to launch them in a separate media player. Users can sort, delete, print and share files it finds right from its interface.
Letting users perform a variety of actions on the list of desktop search results reflects Yahoo's "holistic view of search," said Bradley Horowitz, Yahoo's director of multimedia and desktop search. The search activity doesn't end with the delivery of a list of results but rather when the user has completed the task that prompted the search, he said.
Yahoo Desktop Search will also search for files as the user types the query, as opposed to waiting for the user to hit a search button. It allows users to specify which files they want and don't want indexed, and to refine searches based on a variety of parameters.
Yahoo isn't trying to replicate the functionality of X1's desktop search product, Horowitz said. For one, Yahoo's tool is being designed with consumers in mind, while X1's product is aimed at business users, he said. Moreover, Yahoo plans to tightly integrate its desktop search tool with its online services, such as its Web mail service and online address book. That integration will not be part of X1's product. A final and significant difference between the two products is that Yahoo has no plans to charge for Yahoo Desktop Search, while X1 charges for its application, he said.
Yahoo Desktop Search currently only works with computers running Internet Explorer on Windows XP and 2000.