In the spirit of transparency I’m telling you right up front, the following piece of advice may not be super popular with your IT friends and/or administrators so if your computer is on a network, if you have sensitive information stored on your machine, or have anything on the computer one user has access to and others don’t, be sure to check with your resident network administrator/IT geek before proceeding.
That having been said, I love the desktop search function of Google Desktop*. This program searches your computer the same way Google searches the web. All you do is type what you remember about the document (title, phrase, etc.) into the search box and desktop search returns the results. You can sort the responses by the date the file was updated or the file’s relevance to the quarry. You can also filter the results based on the type of file or who sent the e-mail to whom.
Thanks to desktop search I’ve found documents on my work computer that were created by my predecessor and saved in folders I’d never seen–based on a hard copy pulled out of a dusty binder. I’ve found e-mail messages sent over a year ago with key information that didn’t get saved anywhere else. I’ve even found information in documents I didn’t know existed–though a process I have dubbed “wishful searching”. It’s like a miracle for the disorganized.
If you religiously create directories and folders on your computer and actually file each and every document and e-mail message correctly you probably don’t need this program–but if your filing system is somewhere between incomplete and non-existent, try Google Desktop search.
*Google Desktop also comes with a tool bar with some other gadgets and such. I can really take or leave that functionality so I’m (mostly) ignoring it.