Ottawa PC Users' Group, Inc.
 Product Review 


X1 Search
by Chris Taylor

Did you ever wonder why you can find information stored on a web server anywhere in the world in seconds but you can't find a specific file or email on your own computer?

I always found that truism to be very frustrating. Yes, Outlook and Outlook Express – the two mail programs I use – have search functions. But they are slow and limited. It's not easy to find an email from Sam, with holiday in the subject line and an attachment containing the words Marshall Islands.

Then throw in files on your local hard disk. Try finding that document in Adobe Reader format, downloaded last year from a web site, talking about how to tune your computer. You're sure it contained the words registry and Ethernet. Or was it a PowerPoint presentation file? Or was it network rather than Ethernet?

There are ways to find those elusive needles in haystacks, but sometimes they are so hard or time consuming that you may just decide the information was not really all that important after all.

What if you had a program that maintained an up-to-date index of all your files, all your emails (including the contents of file attachments), your address book contacts, and more? Have I grabbed your interest? I found this in a program called X1 Search from X1 Technologies.

File system

By default, X1 indexes the file name, size, date and time stamp, and location for all files on all local hard drives. Also by default, it will index full content for 21 common file types such as dbf, doc, htm, html, pdf, ppt, rtf, txt, wpd, xls, and will even sniff out files in most archive formats such as zip and lzh. However, you are not limited to those file types. File viewing technology from Stellent (makers of Quick View Plus) is embedded in X1. This means that not only can X1 display just about every file for you, but with a little tweaking, you can have it index the text found in any of over 255 file types.

X1 provides considerable control over what gets indexed. You can open a tree view of folders on your drives and choose: ignore the folder; index file names and sizes; index file names, sizes, and full contents for specified file extensions; or index everything regardless of file extension. You can also add network locations, either as mapped drive letters or UNC specifications.

On my computer, a total of 259,358 files have been indexed for filename, size, date/time stamp, and path. Of those, 33,315 have been indexed for content, which is currently using the default set of 21 file extensions.

Email and newsgroups

I use Outlook 2003 when accessing my work email and Outlook Express for my OPCUG POP3 account. X1 handles both of these mailers as well as Eudora and Netscape Mail. I have a lot of email. In addition to emails, X1 has indexed the full contents of the newsgroups on PUB II – the conference areas on PUB II are also published as newsgroups – as well as some newsgroups I follow at Microsoft. As I write this, X1 tells me I have a total of 58,492 emails/newsgroup postings indexed. The numbers would be a bit higher, but I excluded some folders and newsgroups I never need to search.

In addition to the emails themselves, I have 5,912 file attachments in emails that have also been indexed.

All my email contacts have been indexed, including the many thousands of entries in the Global Address List on the Exchange Servers at work.

Currently in development, X1 can also index other Outlook content: Calendar, Notes, Tasks, and Journal. I have not run into any problems, but theses indexes are currently unsupported. Ask me if you need instructions on enabling those indexes.



Raison d'Ítre - searching


Searching in X1 is limited to a single index at a time; email, attachments, files, contacts, calendar, notes, tasks, or journal.

You can enter a general search term and all meta-data as well as full content will be searched. For example, a search in the files index for zip might find a file called readme.zip, all files in a directory called c:\downloads\zip files and a Word document that contains the words zippity do dah.

Additionally, X1 provides field searches for each of the indexes. This helps to narrow searches. For example, you could search for files with song in the filename, down in the pathname, and zip anywhere. You can sort the results of any search by any field name by simply clicking on the field header. You can also re-arrange the fields by dragging and dropping field headers. Available fields vary according to the index. For example, when using the email index, some of the fields are from, to, subject, date/time, email client, and folder name.

Phrase searching, proximity searching, exact word match, and Boolean operators are all available to help expand or narrow searches.

As you enter search terms, the list of items matching your search appears in the left pane. Clicking on any item will display its contents in the viewer pane on the right. Given the excellent file viewers built into X1, the content will normally appear very similar to how it would appear in its native application.

If you want to do more than just look at the items found, right clicking the item in the file list will display a pop-up menu listing common actions. For files, there are options such as Open (which acts the same as double-clicking on a file in Windows Explorer), Print, Delete, Locate on Disk (which opens Windows Explorer with the file selected), and Send by Email. For email, options include Open, View Folder, Reply, Reply to All, Forward, Move to Folder, Mark as Read, Print, Open Attachments and Delete. The other indexes include relevant action options.

If you have complex searches that you repeat frequently, they can be saved and made available from a pick list for instant retrieval.

X1 is fast! As quickly as you can type in search terms, X1 is narrowing the list of items matching your search. Search terms are highlighted in the list and viewer panes. If you enter multiple search terms, X1 chooses a different colour to highlight each search term.

I worried about the performance hit X1 might take on my computer. I was very pleasantly surprised. The first full indexing took less than 2 hours. I have X1 set to update the indexes for files every 10 minutes, email every 20 minutes, contacts once a day, and calendar, notes, and tasks every 2 hours. Updating each index generally takes less than half a minute. X1 will yield CPU cycles to other applications if needed, so X1 should rarely cause a noticeable slowdown.

Of course, any index takes up disk space. But X1 seems pretty good in this regard. My Exchange Server mailbox at work is about 280MB. My local files for Outlook Express total about 300MB. My local disks have about a quarter million files taking up 60GB of space, although how much space is being used by the 33,315 files that have full content indexed is anyone's guess. The end result is that the indexes for X1 are taking just under 900MB. Not too shabby.

What doesn't work

While I am impressed with X1 overall, there are a few things I found annoying.

X1 has a very nifty auto-hide feature. If this is enabled, you just have to move the mouse pointer to the top of the screen and a header bar appears with the index category tabs and the main search box. Click anywhere in this header and the entire X1 interface appears. But if you have a multiple-monitor configuration, you can end up with weird effects such as part of the header appearing on one monitor and the rest on another.

The size field is only moderately useful. You can sort on that field and you can look for precise matches, but you cannot search for things like files greater than 1MB or files between 100K and 500K.

There is a toolbar at the top of the viewer pane, but the colours chosen do not make it easy to distinguish between active and inactive icons.

If you tell X1 to delete a file within a zip file, the file disappears from the file list in X1, but the file is not actually deleted from within the ZIP file. There is no error message indicating the file wasn't deleted. In a previous build of X1, the file would not be deleted, but you received a somewhat confusing error message indicating the file could not be deleted. I reported it as a bug, saying I thought the error message could be clearer. It is strange that the folks at X1 decided to "fix" the problem by simply removing the confusing error message rather than fix the real problem.

If you include Outlook Express newsgroups in your index, any attachments to news postings will not be indexed. And newsgroups were the one area I ran into a serious bug. When X1 tries to index the newsgroup with OPCUG newsletters in Acrobat Reader format – which is only a 45MB file with 30 postings – it bogs completely down and never stops trying to index the postings. Given that X1 does not actually index the attachments for Outlook Express newsgroup postings, it did not make sense to index this group anyway, so I simply excluded the newsgroup and X1 returned to its normal performance.

Happy camper

I have come to depend quite heavily on X1. It has turned searching for items into a simple, quick task instead of something I dread having to do. If you spend inordinate amounts of time searching for things, or give up because it is simply too hard to do, take a look at X1 Search. You can download a 15-day, fully functional trial version from the X1 web site.

System requirements:
Windows 98SE/ME/2K/XP, 128MB RAM (256MB recommended), disk space depends on content being indexed. Mail clients supported: Outlook, Outlook Express, Netscape Mail, and Eudora.

X1 Search is available from the web at
www.x1.com for US$99.00. Members of the OPCUG can get a 20% discount until the end of 2004. Contact me for instructions on how you can obtain the discount. The X1 license allows the product to be used on 2 computers.


Bottom Line:

X1 Search
US $99.00 for use on 2 computers
from X1 Technologies

Web site: http://www.x1.com


Copyright and Usage
Ottawa Personal Computer Users Group (OPCUG), Inc.
3 Thatcher Street, Ottawa, ON  K2G 1S6

The opinions expressed in these reviews may not necessarily
represent the views of the OPCUG or its members.