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-- by Lenny Bailes
Even if you use long, descriptive filenames, it can be tough to find a document you created months ago. If only you could see into files, you could find it right away. That's the beauty of AltaVista Search My Computer Private eXtension (AltaVista PX), the personal version of the popular Internet search engine. With its full-text indexing and an expanded search sphere that encompasses mail archives and networked computers, AltaVista PX does what Windows Find can't-content searches of your stored files.
AltaVista PX uses the Internet version's internal indexing technology on your local hard disk. It scours directories for downloaded HTML pages, Eudora and Microsoft Exchange mail stores, and documents with extensions from 22 PC applications. Then it indexes every word in those files. You search the index through a local HTML interface for your Web browser; it mimics AltaVista's Internet version, right down to returning an HTML page of hyperlinked search results. You can perform full-text searches on this index, similar to askSam's free-form searches. Then you can refine and narrow searches. AltaVista PX would be a great help to a Webmaster who wants to build an intranet database or help system in HTML.
PX can search much more than your own local drive. On a network, colleagues can search each other's machines for files, once you've all created AltaVista indexes of their contents. For security, you can exclude individual directories or file types.
AltaVista PX is not flawless. Its fairly primitive results-sorting won't allow you to search by date. However, it's ideal if your primary productivity interface is your browser or you need to sift through piles of unorganized data on your drive.