Ask Jeeves to unveil desktop search tool

Ask Jeeves Inc. will launch a test version of its desktop search tool on Wednesday, following the launch of similar tools by rivals Microsoft Corp. on Monday and Google Inc. in October, and ahead of expected entries from America Online Inc. (AOL) and Yahoo Inc.

Ask Jeeves' application, called Ask Jeeves Desktop Search, is small at 750K bytes and can be downloaded for free at http://download.ask.com/desktop, according to a statement from the Emeryville, California, company.

Designed to let users find files and information stored in their PCs, Ask Jeeves Desktop Search indexes and retrieves a variety of files, such as Microsoft Office documents, Microsoft Outlook e-mail messages, multimedia files and applications.

The tool lets users narrow queries through a variety of parameters, such as searching only Microsoft Office documents or image files, and lets users sort the results in multiple ways. Users can also determine the parts of their hard drive they want indexed.

Ask Jeeves Desktop Search features a two-panel user interface that shows results on one side and previews on the other side.

During this test period, often referred to in the industry as a beta period, Ask Jeeves will gather feedback from users to improve the product.

A final version of the product is slated for next year, and it will feature more support for Outlook, an integration of PC and Web results and support for Adobe Systems Inc.'s PDF files.

The tool runs on computers using either the Windows 2000 or Windows XP operating systems, Microsoft Office 2000 or later versions and Outlook 2003.

In an interview last week, an Ask Jeeves executive told IDG News Service that the Ask Jeeves Desktop Search tool will eventually be tightly integrated with the company's personal search service MyJeeves, which lets users store, categorize and retrieve queries and results.

According to the company executive, Ask Jeeves envisions MyJeeves as a repository for all of a user's personal files, including Web pages, audio files and photos, so that MyJeeves eventually becomes a platform for a user to share information with family members, co-workers and other acquaintances.

Giving users the ability to find information in their often cluttered and disorganized hard drives has become a hot area, attracting large vendors, such as Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL and Google, and smaller vendors, such as Blinkx, Copernic Technologies Inc. and X1 Technologies Inc. X1, which has a desktop search tool in the market, has been tapped by Yahoo for the latter's product, which is expected to go into beta mode in the coming weeks.

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