The reasons people look for alternative desktop search tools in the first place tend to be to find content more quickly and to organize content more efficiently than Windows 8.1 does natively, which together hopefully make the person more productive. How effective these tools are comes down to a few different factors
- How effectively the tools indexes file content (index size and performance overhead should be minimal). Not all tools index file contents, which is a deal breaker for me, as I was looking for deep search with a minimum of system overhead and licensing cost.
- The types of content you are interested in searching. There are a lot of Outlook-centric search options, but fewer options that are equally effective at indexing e-mail and other types of file content.
- Value (ratio of cost to performance in fulfilling these needs)
The bottom line is, the solution that suits you best will depend on your criteria. Here are eight options I investigated as solutions for deeper desktop and e-mail search on Windows 8.1.
Candidates and Criteria
In my case, I was looking for a universal solution that would allow quick and easy location of content in e-mail or on the file system and…if I was lucky, maybe even in secure cloud sources like a paid DropBox or SkyDrive account (without the need to sync cloud content to a local drive on my PC). I used two specific e-mail messages and two file content searches to test indexing, and also looked to confirm the tool would allow me to control the when, where and what of content to be indexed. An indexer that consumes all your system resources when you have work to do is of little use to anyone.
Here are the eight contenders I reviewed.
Search Your Cloud
Search Your Cloud is a tool that advertises the capability to search all your cloud-based content, including Office 365 (Outlook), SharePoint, DropBox, Box and Google Drive. While I was at first glance excited, I quickly learned the only way this tool would index any cloud content in DropBox, etc. was with a right click action to re-upload the content to a specific folder, I was disenchanted pretty quickly. To it’s credit, Search Your Cloud did show good results in e-mail searches, and came with a free companion app for iOS and Android.
In short, it looks like a great concept, but the manual indexing process is a deal-breaker for me. However, I am going to keep an eye on this one. More info at https://searchyourcloud.com/features
X1 Unified Search
X1 is an enterprise product for search and e-discovery, which comes in a $50 option for individuals. While it has a nice modern interface and indexes pretty efficiently (overhead was low) and with search results comparable to other solutions, I eliminated this contender through use of a solution I found to be more flexible and intuitive. I will say the search in this tool was really fast. More on X1 at http://www.x1.com
At $20 USD, I really wanted to like NEOFind (and the more complete NEOPro at around $50), but found the interface a bit dated and the search filtering less intuitive and flexible than I was looking for. In all fairness, NEO is e-mail focused, so they were a long shot anyway. In the end, not bad, but missed the mark for my needs. More info at http://caelo.com
Xobni is a long-time player in this space, focused on e-mail, and one many are familiar with. As this product as advertised was a bit off the mark of what I was looking for and came at a recurring monthly cost ($7.99 / mth for Xobni Pro), I didn’t spend a moment on it. While it may be an effective tool, it was more than I was willing to spend. If e-mail and content management is your goal, you can find more info at https://www.xobni.com/learnmore/pro.
Copernic Desktop Search
For me, the winner at $50 USD was Copernic, which I found to efficient and effective in it’s indexing of my content. I also found the Copernic interface to be the most intuitive of the options I explored, with multiple filtering options allowing me to get right to the content I was interested in. It only indexes local content, but I didn’t find any solution that indexed both local and cloud content effectively without a copy on a local disk. I found Copernic to be equally effective in searching e-mail and file content. Info and download at http://www.copernic.com
NOTE: This software does not index 100% of your system drive by default. If you want to index more than profile folders and data drives, you will need to add those directories so they are indexed. I chose not to do this.
I looked a few free options, which quickly exposed why they were free. The primary limitation of all was a lack of content indexing.
Everything is a free Windows desktop search utility that takes up virtually no space, but doesn’t index file contents. Good as free utilities go, but not good enough to meet my needs.
Locate32 is another freebie with an interface that appears dated by modern design standards, and getting a bit dated with no update since August of 2012. Download at http://locate32.cogit.net/
Master Seeker is free tool with some interesting capabilities for the techie, including search filtering using regular expressions (regex). Nice, but no content indexing and not the universal solution with ease of use I was looking for. Download at http://master-seeker.com/
Additional Windows 8 and 8.1 Tips
Here are a few other tips you may find useful:
Windows 8 User Interface
- Introducing the Windows 8 Metro Start Screen
- How to Get the Classic Start Menu Back in Windows 8
- Start Screen – Resize Metro App Tiles Smaller or Larger in Windows 8
- Start Screen – Name or Rename a Group of Apps in Windows 8
- Start Screen Apps – Organize into Groups
- Zoom View – In Start and Apps Screen in Windows 8
- How to see hidden files in Windows 8
- Administrative Tools – Hide or Show on the “Start” Screen in Windows 8
Working with Modern Apps
- How to uninstall a Metro App in Windows 8
- Metro Multitasking – Run Two Metro Apps at the Same Time
- How to resize and move Metro App tiles in Windows 8
- Adding and removing apps and programs from the Windows 8 Metro Start Screen
- Apps – Close in Windows 8
- Apps – Pin or Unpin – Metro “Start” Screen in Windows 8
Dual Boot and Disk Configurations
- Windows 8 VHD – Create at Boot to Dual Boot with Windows 7
- Advanced Boot Options Menu – Boot to in Windows 8
- SFC /SCANNOW Command – Run in Windows 8
- ISO Images – Mount or Unmount
Authentication and Account Management