ISYS Personal Edition, Version 9.6

Complex interface, high-end capabilities

Designed for individual power users, ISYS Personal Edition lives up to its name. The $99 application (for a 12-month license) has the most complex interface and operation of the products tested.

Best desktop search tools

For the price, you can crawl 50,000 documents per index, and search a maximum of 50,000 documents per query. This solution supports 200 file formats and recognizes 60 languages for indexing and searching. If you need more capacity, the company offers ISYS Workgroup and a high-end enterprise server that federates results from content repositories, including Documentum, Interwoven and Microsoft SharePoint.

For testing the personal edition, I indexed e-mail from Microsoft Outlook 2007, public folders on an Exchange server, and Lotus Notes 7. To evaluate how well ISYS found files, I indexed a mix of Microsoft Office 2007 (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), MP3 audio files and JPEG graphics.

During setup, ISYS gives you the option to index documents and e-mails – or folders and Web sites. However, it's not immediately clear what to do next. Hidden within a menu, you then need to activate the index. Once you figure out indexing, the user interface is rich in information, though there's a longer learning curve compared with the other programs to make sense of it all.

Basic queries are simple enough. Type the term, select the index, and ISYS returns a list of likely documents ranked by relevance. Results appear quickly, in about one-half second, which matches the performance of the other products tested. Further, you can schedule how often an index is updated – from real-time to a particular day and time.

Beyond a list of documents, the user interface provides a novel timeline that shows dates when documents that match your search were created or modified. One oversight is that you only see results from one index at a time. That is, if you search e-mails and find a message, you then need to select the 'My Documents' index and rerun the search to find relevant documents. Other programs generally let you federate search results from all repositories.

ISYS Personal Edition's preview pane shows an approximation of the selected document and highlights the search term. In addition, there are many ways to refine results. During indexing, the program automatically creates categories based on documents' content. It also detects entities, such as people, places and e-mail addresses. This lets you quickly filter results by those categories.

Once you find what you're looking for, ISYS enables you to tag the file, send it to a colleague or extract it to the clipboard.

More advanced procedures and queries require a trip to the toolbar. For example, the filter command lets you really hone results – perhaps by a folder or when it was modified. There are four different search options, such as command-based queries and menu assisted searches. Here, ISYS does shield you from the hard work. For instance, the menu-assisted search form takes you step-by-step through constructing intricate Boolean queries.

In the end, ISYS Personal Edition searches accurately and quickly. It's a shame that the company didn't adapt the more modern interface and faceted navigation included with their enterprise product. That would help users jump over the usability hurdle.

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