Searching for files on your computer was something that was once a tedious process, but in the last few years it has been one of the most talked about features in new operating systems. Sure you could always search for files on your computer, but do you remember when you’d have to sit there for several minutes while the computer scavenged everything on the hard drive looking for files and folders matching your search.
The benefit that search applications have these days is that they can index files on your computer so that search results are retrieved nearly instantaneously. Mac OS X 10.4 started doing this back in 2005 when Tiger it was released, and Vista followed it up with its own indexed search capabilities. Making search a strong focus of the operating system is a smart thing to do as it becomes harder and harder for users to find the files they are looking for. Without being able to search it can almost be like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
What about the other operating systems like XP? Many of you have probably turned to Google Desktop or Copernic to do your searching, but I believe both of those programs use more resources than they need to. They’re constantly monitoring and indexing results on your computer, and Google Desktop even comes bundled with their own gadget/widget system.
Today we’re going to take a look at two excellent applications that focus on quickly searching for files on your computer without the unnecessary bloat. Both of them are free, use very little memory, and aren’t constantly indexing files on your computer… although they do use an index/database for retrieving results. Sound nice?
This is one of my favorite search applications for Windows XP, and it is always getting better. Locate32 is capable of indexing all of the files on your computer in no time at all, and after it’s done you can use the intuitive interface for searching and viewing results. It’s not the most snazzy-looking application, but functionality is more important than appearance when it comes to searching.
What does Locate32 have to offer? Take a look at some of my favorite features:
- Search the contents of files (takes longer since the content is not indexed)
- Save frequent searches as presets
- Long list of customizable keyboard shortcuts
- Pressing the Windows Key + F while in Windows Explorer brings up the search dialog, and sets it to search the current directory you were viewing
- Huge list of options
- and more…
The developers of Locate32 are currently on the homestretch to releasing version 3.1, and with it comes a lot of bug fixes and features. Things like find-as-you-type are automatically enabled making searches even faster and more natural.
Interface (Click to Enlarge):
Options (Click to Enlarge):
Finder, not to be confused with Mac OS X’s Finder, is a program that accomplishes the same goal as Locate32, but with a different interface. It will index your files and put search results on your screen in the blink of an eye.
There are some things that I like better about Finder, such as the wider interface, but generally speaking it’s not as powerful as Locate32. The more unique aspect of the program would be the things you can do with the search results:
- Perform operations on files and folders (copy, move, etc…)
- Designate default applications for specific extensions. You can customize what program is used to execute, view, and edit a particular type of file.
- Copy path(s) or name(s) to the clipboard
- and more…
A new version of Finder is in the works, but the developer is shooting for a November 2008 release. I can’t wait to see what good stuff is in store for Finder 3.
Options (Click to Enlarge):
There’s one thing that I didn’t cover yet, and that is the performance of the two applications. Both of them are nearly identical coming in under 6MB of memory usage when they are active. That is significantly lower than most desktop search applications, and a large part of that is thanks to the on-demand indexing rather than trying to monitor your computer for new files. Both offer an option to only index the files that have changed since the last time the database was updated, which means the first indexing operation will be significantly longer than the others.
Let us know in the comments how you go about searching for files and folders on your computer. We are always interested in trying out new software!