A More Productive Kerry Beagle
Last year I wrote about some options for desktop search on Linux. Since then many of the projects have advanced and newer ones like Tracker and Strigi show signs of widespread adoption over the next year. Not to be overshadowed, Kerry Beagle came out with a 0.2.1 release that addresses many of the previous version's deficiencies.
Version 0.2.1 has been out for a while now, but it's not available for Kubuntu Edgy so I never tried it. However, I finally got around to installing it on my Debian Etch computer and I'd like to share some of my impressions.
My focus today is primarily on the interface improvements in version 0.2.1, and there are many. The previous version worked, but it was cumbersome to use and configuration left something to be desired. The Kerry team must have noticed the same things because they are much better now.
The old version offered a dropdown box to select whether to show results from applications, contacts, documents, images, media, etc., but it was a pain to use because it meant two clicks just to change the filter. That may not sound like much, but it definitely gets annoying.
And version 0.1 made it even more difficult to change how the results were sorted. It defaulted to relevance, and while that can be interesting, I much prefer sorting by date because it provides better context and makes it easier to find what I'm looking for. As far as I'm concerned, date related functions in a search program are very valuable.
Fast forward to today and the dropdown box has been replaced by a right sidebar that displays all of the filtering and sorting options. Active selections are bolded. A quick click on a different option and the search results are instantaneously updated. I've also found that selections are maintained if you close the window and open it up for a new search later.
Another interesting addition has to do with how the results are displayed. Instead of only offering a detailed view, Kerry now defaults to a simple one line result that lists the name of the file and the folder it resides in. If you'd like to see the details a click on the information icon to the left expands the entry. You can also switch the default back to detailed if you wish.
Hovering the mouse over the file type icon will show the same preview and information that hovering over a file in Konqueror would. This is especially useful to get a quick look at an image before opening it.
You'll also notice that the file name and folder appear as links. If you right-click on either of these you will get the Konqueror context menu, allowing you to open the file in a specific program, apply an appropriate action, etc. This integration can be a nice time saver.
The final area of improvement I'll mention is the configuration dialog. It's clean, well organized, and makes it very easy to control what gets indexed. You can also set whether the indexer should run when using a battery. It defaults to yes, but you can always turn it off if you want to conserve power.
As I started messing around with Kerry a few missing items that could easily be added came to mind. The first has to do with the search field dropdown box. When a past search is selected it should automatically get executed instead of requiring me to click enter. Support for search as you type would also be useful.
Another improvement is allowing execution of a blank search. Sometimes it's useful to get a list of the most recently modified documents. I frequently need this after saving attachments from email that were stored in different folders. A blank search in Kerry would make it easy to find them without opening multiple folders.
After being a little disillusioned with the desktop search options I had been using, Kerry Beagle's latest version was a welcome surprise. Every bit of overhead that gets removed from the search process makes me more productive and increases the likelihood of me using the tool vs. falling back on old habits.
One of the great facets of free and open source software is the pace of progress when a developer is personally invested in their creation. Hopefully Kerry and its competitors will continue to advance the state of Linux desktop search. I look forward to discovering what comes next.