Google Upgrades its Desktop to 2.0

Microsoft may be afraid to show its sidebar, but Google apparently has no such qualms. The company on Thursday rolled out the final version of Google Desktop 2.0, its venerable search utility that has morphed into a full-fledged desktop application with scriptable plug-ins.

The free Google Desktop combines search with the Google Sidebar, which can be custom tailored with news, weather, stocks and more. Users can add their own content via RSS feeds and create a photo slideshow using local images or those from a Web site.

An e-mail panel checks for new messages based on a user-defined filter and a Personalized Maps panel, new to version 2.0, loads up maps based on the content of the Web site you are visiting. "It can show you interesting places around the world, or you can directly navigate to your favorite spots," Google says.

But the real power behind Google Desktop 2.0 lies in its extensibility. With the beta release in August, Google opened the door to developers by providing a rich API upon which to build third-party plug-ins. iTunes and Winamp controls, a dictionary and system monitor are some of the dozens of user-created panels available for download.

The final release of version 2.0 now supports scripting languages such as JavaScript and VBScript, which can be packaged using a new automatic plug-in installer. Samples and documentation are available to help guide the way for developers.

Google Desktop isn't just for home users, however. The company has released a free edition for businesses that features increased security and administration capabilities.

"We've tested the Enterprise version in a number of medium and large businesses to verify the administration, integration and security features that are important within business environments," said Google software engineer Mihai Ionescu.

More information can be found on the new Google Desktop blog. Google Desktop 2.0 is available for download from FileForum.

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