Dec 21 2007

Addicted to search

Tags: , , , , , Rajiv @ 11:39 am GMT-0700

For as long as I can remember, I have been too lazy to use: my fingers to type and my brain to remember things. When I used to work on linux, I used to rely heavily on the locate command to search and open files vi `locate math.h`. This was something I missed a lot in windows. Finally I started using Launchy as a replacement for locate.
Locating sources files using launchy

Searching through mails also worked pretty well when was using Evolution on Linux. But search in Outlook sucks, especially if you are using IMAP. The amazing Lookout plugin for Outlook was my saviour. Unfortunately, it had its own problems. It used to crash my Outlook 2K often; and once Microsoft bought them, there was no hope of getting things fixed. Microsoft has been pushing its own Windows Desktop Search instead of Lookout. Though not as fast as Lookout … it is the compromise solution I have been using for the sake of stability.

I know there are other desktop search products out there, including the one from google. But the thing I like about windows desktop search is that I can do Outlook operations on the search results (like forward the mail or move them into folders). Now I am so addicted to search that I move mails to folders only when it has huge attachment. Otherwise, it is pretty much the gmail model. I only use Inbox.yyyy and sent-mail.yyyy folders actively (yyyy being the year). I considering setting up a rule in Outlook to save sent-mail in Inbox, that way I would have only Inbox.yyyy folders and I can do a threaded view of the conversations (i.e. the gmail’s “All Mail” label)!

Apart from email, our other significant communication medium at work is Yahoo! messenger. I archive all my conversations and refer to them very often. The unfortunate side effect of this is that some conversations that start on email are concluded on chat and six months later when I search mails, I do not find the mail with the conclusion. Over the years I have wizened up to search conversations on email and followup the search in ymessenger. Unfortunately, search in ymessenger also sucks! You have to do a manual search based on the timestamp of email conversation and people involved.

YMessenger saves conversations in C:\Program Files\Yahoo!\Messenger\Profiles\${userid}\Archive\Messages\ directory in files with the extension .dat. It would be nice to have Windows Desktop Search (WDS) index these files and show my conversation results when I search for communications. I can think of couple of approaches to achieve this:

  • Convert ymessenger archives to Outlook mailbox format (.pst) and let WDS index it
  • Convert ymessenger archives to RSS and import the RSS into Outlook using RSS Popper and once the messages are in Outlook, WDS will index it
  • Convert the ymessenger archive files (.dat) to html format and have WDS index these. Probably the easiest integration, but the limitation would only issue will not be able to run searches of the type “customer requirements from:myYahooBuddy date:last month”
  • WDS supports plugging-in IFilters to search new file types. I could implement IFilter to index the ymessenger archive files (.dat).

All of these presume there is some API to decode the content in the ymessenger archive files (.dat). The search is on!