dtSearch Desktop, Version 7.64

Powerful, enterprise-level search tool

DtSearch combines impressive searching power with an easy-to-manage interface. The software handles more than a terabyte of text in a single index – and can simultaneously search an unlimited number of indexes. For this reason, the product is worth the $199 single-user price ($60 per seat in quantity for the corporate network version), especially when you're handling special projects such as forensic or legal investigations.

Best desktop search tools

But does this package provide the same value to typical business users? Possibly – particularly if you need to index information that ranges from databases to binary files.

Getting started with dtSearch is simple. You create an index file and decide which folders or Web sites to index. The software automatically recognizes popular file types, including word processor files, databases, spreadsheets, PDFs, XML and HTML. The only serious downside is that creating the initial index can be time consuming. In my testing, 50GB of data and files required six hours to crawl. However, indexing individual document folders consumed less than three minutes. And there's a 64-bit indexer that cut indexing time by about half.

For corporate settings, dtSearch is designed for wide-scale deployment using Active Directory or Microsoft SMS. As part of this setup, IT administrators can include a policy that specifies the index of shared network drives, which eliminates each user having to crawl those repositories.

You search from the interface's simple button bar or open the search dialog box. Here the software's sophistication is quickly apparent. To start, your search request can include common syntax, such as quote marks around phrases or a plus sign in front of any word or phrase that's required.

Interesting, dtSearch lets you search files that it hasn't indexed. This feature could prove to be a real time saver, say, when you're handed a removable hard disk and have little time to sift through the documents it contains. You can also perform a "combination" search – one that queries both indexed and non-indexed folders. There are many other advanced settings, including phonetic searches and synonyms. In all you get more than 24 indexed, unindexed, and full text search options.

Combining these features as needed, I always found the document I wanted, in less than one second.

Yet even without the advanced selections, dtSearch's natural language algorithms did a very good job on "plain English" search requests. Here, the software automatically weights terms by their frequency and position in documents.

Like other products in this review, dtSearch highlights hits in native HTML, XML and PDF files in the large preview pane. The software does the same for word processor, database, spreadsheet and e-mail – but it must first convert them to HTML format for display.

Indexing Microsoft Exchange and Outlook e-mail worked well, but there's a caveat with large PST files. First, dtSearch will index live context in your Outlook profile (it also indexes Outlook Express DBX files). However, the company recommends that you use a command-line tool to extract messages from a PST file to individual message files, which seems a bit onerous for everyday use. Also, you need a third-party e-mail conversion tools to index GroupWise, Lotus Notes, and other message archive formats.

DtSearch has a few options to sort results – by relevance, date or number of hits. You can also filter results to match, for example, all DOC files. However, this is all done using different tabs of the main search dialog box. Other programs provide more convenient ways to navigate results from their main interface.

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