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Google's new Desktop toy

Google's new Desktop toy

The options for users to personalize Google Desktop 2.0, launched Monday, are making rivals such as MSN Search Toolbar and Yahoo Toolbar look like one-hit wonders. Google's new tool builds upon Google Desktop Search by stacking tiny portals on your desktop to reveal the latest news, stocks, and weather, along with recent Outlook e-mail and photos you've viewed. Data feeds come both from your hard drive and the Web. You can minimize the Sidebar, opting for a search box to float onscreen or on your Windows menu bar. The Scratch Pad acts as a desktop Post-it note. The Quick Find finds files and launch programs, Outlook gets a search window, and the Google Desktop Beta Web page lets you pick the types of files you seek.

Google Desktop plug-ins so far include a to-do list and a controller for iTunes. Expect DIY hacks to come from savvy users; an API will allow developers to customize the sidebar. If the myriad hacks of Google Maps are any indication, feel free to brainstorm about all sorts of features that could get plugged into the Sidebar. There's seemingly no end to the creative mash-ups of Google Maps, which chart cheap gas, subway journeys, Wi-Fi hot spots, cell phone reception, Craigslist apartment listings, Texas sex offenders' addresses, NYC pizza pit stops, family genealogy, and counting.