Here are three new search tools – the last one a knockout.

Google has a free utility that can be used to find most (but not all) files on Windows XP and Windows 2000. Go to www.google.com and click on the button that says “”more.”” The second half of the page that comes up is headed “”Google Tools.””

Click on “”Google Desktop Search.”” It searches Word, Excel PowerPoint, Outlook, Outlook Express and Internet Explorer files. It does not search Web-based e-mail files.

The second search engine is Copernic Desktop Search. This one searches all files on any PC with Win 98 or higher. It’s free from www.copernic.com. In a search of photo files, Copernic showed thumbnails immediately; with Google you have to click on the name to see a thumbnail image. Like Google, you can’t search Web-based e-mail.

Finally, there is X1, a far more powerful than the two above. It can search the major e-mail programs, compressed files, Adobe PDF files and files in over 250 formats, including archives and networks. The search is done as fast as you can type. If a file contains your search word but you don’t have the program that created it, you can still view the contents.

X1 also allows you to search by date, type or subject. You can save frequent searches, and an index of search terms and results is updated in the background. You can use quote marks to define a search for an exact phrase or term. You can do Boolean searches, using “”and,”” “”or”” and “”not.””

The program starts by indexing all the files in your computer; you can keep working while it does this. All this power isn’t free, but it is free to try ($75 to buy) at www.x1.com – a most impressive search utility.

Screen calendar

A little Windows utility with the simple name “”Screen Calendar”” puts a calendar in one corner of your display or can be expanded to fill the whole display. Double-click on any date and a panel opens up with times listed like an appointment book. Double-click on a time and type in your appointment. Hover over a date and you will see what you have written there.

Unlike other calendar programs, including the one built into Windows, this one is up-front and on-screen all the time, so you have an immediate view of events. Screen Calendar also has a selection of attractive wallpaper screens for backgrounds; the makers offer the program for free if you provide them with a new wallpaper picture they like.

Screen Calendar is free to try and $30 to buy from www.screencalendar.com. Not all that cheap, but we must admit, it’s very handy.

The numbers report

An analysis by Trend Micro (a maker of anti-virus software) detected 1,485 different kinds of computer viruses circulating in September, a 600 per cent increase from a year ago. Spyware “”bots”” (software robots that search your computer to see where you’ve gone and what you’ve done there) have increased by 24 times.

Just under half of the new viruses and bots are what are called “”Trojans,”” designed to steal personal information such as bank account numbers, passwords and credit card numbers. Trend Micro also found that virus writers are able to exploit new vulnerabilities discovered in Windows within three days. The time lag between going on the Web until the first cookie or spyware probe has shrunk to about 20 seconds. (We often use Winferno’s Secure IE (www.winferno.com) for defense.)

Low down lasers

Samsung’s new colour laser printer, the CLP 500N, is widely available for under $849 at CDW Canada. We found the Konica Minolta Magicolor 2300W at $524 at www.tigerdirect.ca. These prices are less than original colour inkjet printers of the past; how times change.

Ink cartridges for the CLP 500N cost $93 and are good for roughly 5,000 pages at normal printing coverage. That comes to 2 1/2 cents a page for single-color printing. Both the printer and the cartridges cost a bit less than our Minolta Magicolor 2300W.

Wrapping it up, the CLP 500N doesn’t come up to the quality or print speed of our Okidata C5150N, which is only slightly less expensive: $819 through www.CDW.ca. Colour ink cartridges cost less, however, just $218 from Okidata itself (http://esales.okidata.com), the lowest for any of the printers mentioned here. When you measure the total cost of the printer and replacement cartridges for all three of these printers, there is little difference. So the deciding factor becomes print quality. Okidata looks best, Minolta almost as good, Samsung third.

Books

“”The Rough Guide to iPods, iTunes and Music Online”” by Peter Buckley and Duncan Clark; US$9 from Pocket Books.

It all seems simple, but this business of downloading and storing music from the Web seems to baffle a lot of people. This little book will tell you how to handle Apple’s iPod for music and even use it as an extra hard drive.

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