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Last Updated: Monday, 22 August 2005, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Google tool watches as you work
Yahoo HQ, AFP
Google is going head-to-head with rival Yahoo
Google's desktop search software is being overhauled to become a digital helper that reacts to what users do.

The move is likely to intensify competition between Google and rivals Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL.

The revamped software will suggest web links, personal documents and images that might be relevant to whatever someone is doing with their computer.

The tool also automatically subscribes to feeds from weblogs and news sites that a user visits.

Competition time

The update expands the abilities of Google's desktop search system that was first released in October 2004.

The first version let people search through all kinds of documents and e-mail messages they had stored on their home computer just like they did on the web.

The revamped desktop search system is much more active and keeps an eye on what users do and instantly displays relevant webpages, blog entries, documents, messages and photos in a hovering, on-screen panel.

Google: 36.5%
Yahoo: 30.5%
Microsoft: 15.5%
Time Warner (AOL): 9.9%
Ask Jeeves: 6.1%
Infospace: 0.9%
Others: 0.9%
Source: ComScore
Included in the revamped product are a series of applications that expand the abilities of the panel. One can automatically sign a user up to the RSS feeds on webpages to let them keep up with favourite sites.

The panel can also monitor different e-mail accounts and show incoming messages as they appear. It also lets users generate a list of the most-used documents and files so they can launch them as soon as they are needed.

The update brings Google into line with rivals.

Some of the abilities of the panel, such as presenting information about local documents as a user types, have been available in programs such as Blinkx for more than a year. Yahoo's desktop search system and Apple's Spotlight also returns real time results in the same way.

Others, such as the ability to get at frequently used files and newly arrived e-mail messages, pitch Google into more direct competition with Microsoft as it directly replaces some of the features of the Windows operating system.

Toolbar battle

Desktop and toolbar search software have been heavily pushed by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Ask Jeeves and many others over the last year as these rivals look for an edge in the battle for users.

Yahoo is currently winning the battle to make people convert to its toolbar according to audience monitoring outfit ComScore Media Metrix.

In its latest audience figures, ComScore reveals that in July 2005 11% of all US searches were carried out via toolbars and 51% of all those queries were launched from users of Yahoo's toolbar.

But Google still rules when it comes to searching via browser. ComScore found that 36.5% of all US searches were conducted via Google in July 2005. Yahoo had a 30.5% share and MSN a 15.5% slice.

The new test or beta version of Google desktop is available to download and works with Windows XP and 2000.

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