Google Desktop is a downloadable application that indexes items on your computer such as e-mail conversations, Microsoft Office documents, Web history, PDFs, music, images and video. The app then copies the items' content to your local cache, allowing you to search for any of these documents quicker than your computer's standard search function does. \n\n[Want more info on search? Read: "Real-Time Search: 5 Alternatives to Google, Bing".] \n\nGoogle Desktop also features a floating or docked sidebar that acts as the control panel; there, you can easily access the search tool from your desktop and choose from a growing list of Google Gadgets (think: widgets) to customize your desktop. \n\nBy no means is Google Desktop new to Google's suite of apps (in fact, it graduated six years ago from Google Labs). But if you haven't tried it before or haven't used it in a while, here are five reasons you may want to check out or revisit the useful application now. \n\n1. It saves you time. Google Desktop is faster than ever. A query for a document using my laptop's standard search tool took almost five minutes. A search for that same document using Google Desktop took 0.01 seconds. So, if you've spent hours searching through hundreds of unorganized folders for that one report from two years ago, Google Desktop is your answer.\n\n2. Strong customization. You can pick and choose which items Google Desktop indexes. If you prefer that it doesn't index e-mail messages or your Web history, for example, visit the preferences tab and uncheck the boxes. \n\nYou can also choose to password-protect searches for Microsoft Office documents and include additional drives or network folders to index (or specify which ones not to index). \n\n3. Useful Google Gadgets. There's a host of widgets that integrate easily with Google Desktop's sidebar; you can find the growing list here. Some of these include widgets for desktop access to your Google Calendar, Docs and Gmail, as well as widgets for weather, Facebook, productivity tools and more. \n \n\n\n4. Google Desktop for the Enterprise. The enterprise version of Google Desktop offers businesses many of the same standard features, plus search results from the company intranet and greater controls, such as encrypting all user data and managing Exchange indexing load parameters.\n\n5. Privacy controls. If you want to temporarily prevent searching on your computer, double click the Desktop icon on your task bar and select "Lock Search." Attempts to search your desktop will return a message saying that Desktop search is locked; you'll need to enter your Windows password to turn this function off. \n\nHave you used Google Desktop? What have your experiences been?\n\n\nStaff Writer Kristin Burnham covers consumer Web and social technologies for CIO.com. She writes frequently on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. You can follow her on Twitter: @kmburnham.