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exalead one:desktop Professional Edition may be a sign of better enterprise search to come

On the surface, exalead one:desktop doesn’t seem to offer anything revolutionary. Type in a search term and a lot of results appear. The well-designed interface shows familiar classification options to narrow results, such as e-mail sender, document type, or date. This search tool has other nice but not unique features, such as automatic spelling suggestions, “sounds like” search, and approximate (fuzzy) searches.

Underneath, however, this package is fundamentally different from other search offerings. Navigation and results spontaneously regenerate as you refine your search. To explain, say I started by looking for competitive information about Sun servers. My initial results might show related terms (such as Sun workstations) and categories, but I’d also see broader concepts, perhaps “programming.” When I click on programming, exalead reveals a whole different set of related categories. Like with a spreadsheet pivot table, you can truly dig deeper -- or refocus what you’re looking for -- with ease as well as speed (changes happen in less than a second).

Another plus is the quality of results. In addition to doing an above-average job of using documents’ metadata to find the most relevant files, exalead goes beyond the rudimentary clustering of competing products, which typically extract topics of interest from existing results: exalead does fresh on-the-fly categorization each time you start down a different course.

The in-house server software to index enterprise sources wasn’t ready for testing. To search intranets and other corporate systems, you’ll need exalead for workgroups (available this month) or enterprise servers (available in January). For now, I give one:desktop a conditional recommendation. If the company properly executes the forthcoming parts, it will be a strong contender in enterprise search.

exaleadone:desktop Professional Edition 4.0

exalead

Cost: Desktop starts at $60 per user; servers start at $3,000

Availability: Professional edition, now; workgroup edition, December; enterprise edition, January 2006

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