Friday, July 28, 2006

Google Desktop Saves the Day

Ever make a mistake and lose the version of a document or file that you REALLY wanted to keep? Google Desktop <http://desktop.google.com/> can save us!

I was reminded of this last Saturday afternoon when I was about to begin my opening presentation for the NCAD2006 Conference and discovered that Internet access had disappeared. I had built a Web page both to outline my main points and to provide links to resources I might want to display – including audio clips. I had NOT set my browser to make that Web page available offline.

But I use Google Desktop and it creates cache copies of lots of things… including Web pages I’ve recently visited. So I used Google Desktop to find and display a recent copy on my own laptop of that Web page www.tltgroup.org/ncad2006.htm and a copy of one of the audio files I needed. That wasn’t as good as having real access to that Web page and all the items that can be reached through it, but it was good enough to avoid disaster. And it provided an excuse for telling the audience about Google Desktop and how it can bail you out when you’re working too late or too long and accidentally delete the file that contains all your most recent changes.

I strongly recommend Google Desktop. It has enabled me to find documents and files – including email messages – much more easily and quickly than I ever could without it. And it’s available as a free download.
If you know any reason for NOT using Google Desktop, or other benefits, I hope you will add a comment to this posting.

Basically, Google Desktop indexes files on your own computer somewhat the same way Google indexes files on the Web, and then it permits you to do Google-style searches entirely limited to files stored on your own computer. It creates “cache” copies of files on your computer much the same way Google creates cache copies of Web pages. For more info about Google’s cache copies, see:

http://www.google.com/help/features.html#cached

Here’s an excerpt from that Web page as of 7-28-2006:

“Google takes a snapshot of each page examined as it crawls the web and caches these as a back-up in case the original page is unavailable. If you click on the "Cached" link, you will see the web page as it looked when we indexed it. The cached content is the content Google uses to judge whether this page is a relevant match for your query.

“When the cached page is displayed, it will have a header at the top which serves as a reminder that this is not necessarily the most recent version of the page. Terms that match your query are highlighted on the cached version to make it easier for you to see why your page is relevant.
“The "Cached" link will be missing for sites that have not been indexed, as well as for sites whose owners have requested we not cache their content.”

Also, see: http://www.googleguide.com/cached_pages.html

And if you want to look for copies of material on the Web even further back in time, see what you can do with the Internet Archive “Wayback Machine” at:
http://www.archive.org/web/web.php

WARNING: When you put something on the Web, even if you delete it, it is probably not entirely gone! If you decide that something on one of your Web pages is offensive or out of date and you delete, update or replace it, you have NOT succeeded in making the old version disappear forever from everyone… [Is there a way to delete Google caches of one’s own Web page?]

REQUEST: Can anyone find or compile a COMPLETE list of postings from AAHESGIT and TLT-SWG? You can start with the most recent items at
http://listserv.nd.edu/archives/tlt-swg.html - but that only begins Feb. 2003. AAHESGIT began in 1994!

2 comments:

  1. SteveG: The real lesson here may be one about making offline backups of web content for presentations - for those times when connectivity fails - but that's a topic for another discussion. But I agree that G-Desktop can save the day. I've used it more than a few times to find emails that confirm actions taken or agreed upon when both parties had already deleted all the "evidence" from their email systems. G-Desktop can't retreive attachments if those attachments are already deleted - but if not it can find documents that you sent or received as attachments even though they can't be found elsewhere. I don't know for sure, but I think I've read in some of the previews of Windows Vista (the next MS operating system) is that its search function will be much improved - and may do more of what G-Desktop now does.

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  2. I agree that Google desktop is superb. I no longer use the Windows find function. But if you are a user of Horizon Wimba's Live Classroom it won't run in Internet Explorer until you close Google Desktop. A minor point I realise, but one worth knowing if you use HW's Live Classroom!

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