Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Google Desktop 2 (Beta) Preliminary Review

So..I went and installed GDS2, and after monkeying about with it for a while, here are my thoughts.
  • News
    Not too bad; it apparently pulls news feeds from a variety of newspaper websites to give you relatively up-to-date reports on what's happening in the big out there. My main gripe is that the user has no control (that I can see) over where the news is pulled from; it just motors on by itself. Now, I'm not sure if the app molds itself to your surfing habits or not, but it would be nice to have a slight touch of control, even something as simple as specifying your location and the type of news you're interested in.
  • Web Clips
    Google's version of a feed reader. It allows you to add and remove feeds and even has a nifty function that, when checked, automatically adds feeds from pages you frequent. Only problem I have with it is you can't sort feeds into categories/folders.
  • Email
    This panel displays any new email you have, both from Outlook as well as Gmail. Convenient, though you have to have Outlook open for GDS to check it, which kind of defeats the purpose...?
  • Scratch Pad
    This is a little notepad where the user can quickly type little notes or copy-and-paste details etc. It's like OneNote or PostIt for the desktop. I suppose it potentially has its uses, mainly adding convenience for the user.
  • What's Hot
    This little panel is updated with the latest hot topics being discussed from who-knows-where on the web. Useful if you want to keep in the know, but I personally feel that if that's you, you probably already know what's hot, and if you're like me, you couldn't care less. So it's probably useful for those not in the know, but want to be. ;)
  • Quick View
    This is something like the section of the Start menu which lists the programs that have been accessed recently, only it shows individual files. Something like "Recent Documents". Useful if you're lazy, or forgot where you opened a file from, but I wasn't particularly impressed.
  • Photos
    This displays a little random slideshow of the images GDS has found on your PC. Ok, seriously, why would most users want something like this? Maybe if I were really bored, but even then, I don't know. Seems a little too gimicky for me.
  • Stocks
    Since I don't dabble in stocks at all, I have no idea how well/poorly this works compared to normal stock aggregators.
  • Weather
    This is admittedly a useful feature, but only if you're currently in the US. For some reason, it shows Honolulu for me. Hopefully an international version will be up and running by launch. Another point is that it only shows very basic information like highs and lows, and a little image representing weather conditions. It also only shows the forecast for today and tomorrow. A little too basic for practical use, I reckon. If you're using Firefox, you're probably better off using the ForecastFox plug-in.
Overall, GDS2 adds convenience by trading in power and control; they're basic, stripped-down versions of more advanced apps you probably already have, just located conveniently together in a bunch. A few other things about the program overall:
  • I did notice a slight performance hit while using GDS2, which means power users who're anal about maximising every little bit of power available might want to give it a miss.
  • I like the fact that it swaps quickly between sidebar and deskbar modes with the click of a button. The panels are also easily rearranged to your liking, and each panel utilises a sliding drawer system to provide additional information.
  • There are more plug-ins available located at the plug-ins page. I like System Monitor, which presents your CPU and memory usage and so on, although, once again, it's pretty basic.

    Also, if you're using an email client other than Outlook (I use Thunderbird), you migt want to download the MIME indexer, which indexes .eml files and allows the email panel to display emails from any client.
At the end of the day, I guess I'll keep the sidebar around for a while and see how it works out. If anyone else gives it go, let me know what you think. :)


Scott said...

Also forgot to mention that Web Clips automatically adds the Atom feed from any blogspot blogs you visit. That's pretty cool, since most blogspot users don't even realise they have atom/know anything about it, and hence don't provide a tag for it. (Mine's at the bottom of my sidebar, btw.)

Janz said...

Yah, I agree with all your points....eekz, i can't choose wad kindda news feed i wld like to have..and the pics thingy is really an extra....