Is the 2-year wait for Longhorn frustrating you? Well, one key Longhorn feature--instant desktop searching--arrived this week in the form of a free download from search and information-management firm Copernic. The company bills its new Copernic Desktop Search (CDS) as "the search engine for your PC." And if the company's success with its Web search technology is any indication, this product might be one to watch.


"Google understands search," said Copernic CEO David M. Burns. "Microsoft understands software. Copernic understands both and has 8 years of experience in building extremely powerful yet incredibly easy-to-use search software. Desktop search can be complex, but we took the time to analyze the trade-offs and get it right. We've created a clean, friendly, well-tested product that won't intimidate or confuse new users and that doesn't contain extraneous bells and whistles. By focusing on the core search experience, Copernic has produced a product, CDS, that will quickly become the desktop search standard against which all others are judged."


Instant desktop searching first came to the forefront last year when Microsoft announced that the feature would be included in Longhorn. (Despite the recent decision to remove WinFS from Longhorn, instant desktop search will still happen, Microsoft told me recently.) "Why is it that you can find anything on the Internet with Google in a few seconds, but when you want to search your hard drive for a file you know exists, it takes so long?" various Microsoft executives have asked in public events over the past year. Also, this summer, Apple Computer announced that the next version of Mac OS X, due next year, would include a similar feature called Spotlight.


CDS uses indexing technology and an integrated user experience to bring instant desktop search to the PC today. Copernic notes that CDS can instantly search files (including Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files; Adobe Acrobat PDF files; all popular music, picture, and video formats; contacts; browser history; and favorites), email messages, and email attachments stored anywhere on your PC hard disk. The searches occur in "subseconds," the company says, and yet barely uses the system's CPU, memory, or disk space.


I'm still testing CDS, but my initial results are so favorable, I thought I'd recommend it now. You can grab the free CDS download from the Copernic Web site.