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New Google desktop tool offers customization

Free software seems to move the search giant further into Microsoft and Yahoo territory. Images: Google moves onto the desktop

Google has rolled out a beta version of its desktop software, adding such features as "Sidebar," which offers a personalized panel of information such as e-mail, stock quotes and news.

The software, unveiled on Monday, also includes a scratch pad style tool for taking notes and tools for searching one's desktop and Microsoft Outlook inbox. Called Desktop 2, the software can be downloaded for free from Google's Web site.

Google search bar
Credit: Google
Google's Floating Deskbar.

With this move, Google is stepping deeper into territory held by Microsoft--which has its own notepad and search features--and Yahoo, with its My Yahoo personalization efforts.

The Google software contains three major components: a toolbar that runs in Outlook; Sidebar, which shows up as a vertical panel; and "Quick Find," which is designed to let users find files on their hard drives and launch applications.

Quick Find, which shows up as part of Sidebar or as a more compact "Deskbar," can also be used to search the Web.

People who opt for the compact view can have the Deskbar sit in the Windows taskbar, or they can choose a "Floating Deskbar" that can be dragged anywhere on the desktop. A button on the right end of the Deskbar lets the user expand Desktop to the full Sidebar view.

The Sidebar pane is designed to automatically update itself based on users' interests, as expressed by the Web sites they visit, with little or no manual configuration. Among its many windows, Sidebar offers the scratch pad tool, weather data, news, RSS and Atom feeds from the Web, links to open browser windows and an e-mail preview.

The Outlook toolbar, meanwhile, purports to let people search through their e-mail from an embedded toolbar, without leaving Outlook.

"Google Desktop is a new, easier way to get information--even without searching," Marissa Mayer, product management director for Google's consumer products, said in a statement.

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