Microsoft unveiled the MSN Toolbar Suite on Monday, its new free program for searching Outlook folders and the contents of your My Documents folder. This follows shortly after the release of Google Desktop. Here’s a news article about the release, and here’s a lengthy description of its features.

There are modest differences between the two.

The Google search tool does not search network folders; the Microsoft toolbar does.

If you’re running Outlook from Exchange Server, Google cannot index other people’s mailboxes or public folders; it appears that Microsoft cannot either.

Neither of those are important for home users or some small businesses, but they are important shortcomings if your business runs Microsoft Small Business Server.

The reaction to the MSN Toolbar Suite is positive; the results window looks more appealing than the Google window. Give it a try!

Yahoo also announced that it would be releasing a search tool in January, but the news was lost in the hubbub about Microsoft’s release a few days later. That’s too bad, because it might be worth waiting for – Yahoo has licensed technology from for its search tool. Here’s an article about Yahoo’s announcement.

X1 is my favorite software for finding things on my network or in Outlook. Its display is far superior to the programs from Microsoft and Google, with an integrated viewer and the ability to show results literally as fast as you can type in a search term. Yahoo will presumably integrate a “lite” version of X1’s software, with Yahoo branding and a subset of features; X1 plans to continue to market a paid version for business users. The free search tools are just great but if you’re serious about finding things to get your work done, X1 is essential. PC Magazine just chose X1 as one of its top 100 products for 2004. Here’s the X1 web site for information and downloads.

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