Saturday 22 October 2005

Fast, Full-Text Search can be Serendipitous, but Should be Global

The benefit usually touted for indexed (or fast, full-text search) is that it's lightening fast. That's true: compare a vanilla Outlook search for text in the body of thousands of emails with the same search using Google Desktop or the new version of Eudora. The Outlook search will take a minute or two with a large mailbox, wheres the indexed search will take seconds.

However, speed isn't the only benefit. When it's easy and quick to search everything, one can often find lucky results that one wasn't expecting. For example, when I was searching for a message I received from a new client yesterday, I realized that I'd also corresponded with him in a previous job, several years ago. I'd forgotten about that and I suspect he had too. I was also presented with some web pages that mentioned his name, a saved PowerPoint deck authored by him, and his full contact details. All information that I had on my PC, but that I didn't know was there -- that's the point: global, indexed search allows one to find things one didn't know existed.

For the full benefit, the searching should be global -- i.e. the search tool should index everything on your PC, not just your email. Unfortunately, Eudora 7 only searches its own store, and therefore misses out on this serendipitous benefit.

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