Lookout – Your Personal Search Engine

Written October 4, 2004.

If you use Microsoft Outlook 2003 and get a lot of email, then you can now search your email, files, and your desktop using your own personal search engine, called Lookout. Lookout, recently acquired by Microsoft around the middle of July 2004, is a “lightning-fast search for your email, files, and desktop works with Microsoft Outlook®”, according to the www.lookoutsoft.com website. “Built on top of a powerful search engine, Lookout is the only personal search engine that can search all of your email from directly within Outlook – in seconds…”. I can personally testify to that.

At first, I was skeptical. After all, I have been using the old-style Find feature from within my Microsoft Outlook® email client for several years. I’ve grown accustomed to starting the Find feature and waiting…and waiting…and waiting while it browsed through all the email I’ve archived over the years. (By the way, I’m somewhat of an email hog–I tend to keep a lot of email I get, dragging and dropping it into tons of folders I’ve set up to categorize it all. From some email accounts, I tend to save all the messages I get.) However, after installing the free Lookout software and letting it index all of my email, I am amazed at the speed by which it’s able to find messages.

Simple Download and Setup
First, I verified that I was running Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, or Windows XP. I am running Windows XP, so that’s not a problem. I also verified that I have Microsoft Outlook 2000, Outlook XP, or Outlook 2003; I have Outlook 2000, so that checked out okay, as well. The file download takes just a few minutes if you’re using a dialup connection, and even faster if you connect to the internet with a high-speed connection. If you are using America Online then you’re out of luck. You’ll need to upgrade another Internet Service Provider and to the Microsoft Outlook email client if you want to take advantage of Lookout.

The download is rather small (under 1 megabyte) and only takes a few minutes. After downloading the file to your hard drive, simply run the downloaded file to continue. You are asked where you want to install the application, as well as whether your agree to their terms or not, which is standard protocol. Once you go through this painless installation procedure, you need to close the Microsoft Outlook® application and restart it. After restarting Microsoft Outlook®, the installation procedure continues, and you’re asked to start indexing your documents. Just like a real search engine, Lookout must crawl and index all of your email messages, email folders (everything in your inbox), as well as any archived messages you have. You can easily choose what you want to index using the Lookout Options. This allows you to let the Lookout personal search engine crawl and index your archived folders, your My Documents folder, Personal folders, and any other files you wish to make available for search. Other features include how often you want the search engine spider to crawl and index, as well as how often to add new items, such as new email messages you receive. Once you install Lookout, You’ll want to remove the old-style Find feature from your toolbar area so you don’t mistakenly use that old feature.

Search Using the Toolbar
Lookout comes with a very convenient toolbar, automatically installed within the Microsoft Outlook® client. On the Lookout toolbar, there is an Indexer button, an Options button, and a help button. The Indexer button shows you the status of the current indexing process and allows you to start the indexing process if it’s not running. The Options button allows you to configure which email folders and files are indexed, and how often it updates.

The future of MSN Search?
Currently, Microsoft is working on the new MSN Search search engine. You can get a preview of it if you go to www. Lookout adds to the Microsoft search technology. “Lookout has developed an innovative technology for searching e-mail that is aligned with our own MSN Search efforts,” said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate vice president of MSN. “Our vision is to take search beyond today’s basic Internet search services to deliver direct answers to people’s questions, and help them find information from a broad range of sources. We are thrilled to add the expertise of the Lookout team to our existing team of search experts.”

The acquisition of Lookout, founded by Mike Belshe and Eric Hahn, adds expertise to the MSN vision of offering the best search tools to help people find information. As part of the acquisition, Lookout founder and software developer Belshe will become a full-time employee on the MSN Search team. Founder and software developer Hahn will work closely with the MSN Search team during the transition of Lookout to Microsoft.

“It’s truly exciting to be joining the MSN Search team,” Belshe said. “With Microsoft’s focus in the search arena, we feel this is a great opportunity to expand on the technology we have built in a way that will really help consumers. MSN’s own cutting-edge technology combined with Lookout and other upcoming products is going to fundamentally change this industry in a very positive way.”

“Our goal was to build simple, high-quality tools that empower people to spend less time processing e-mail,” Hahn said. “I’m very thankful to the large community of people that provided feedback and support to our efforts, which ultimately resulted in continuous improvements to the Lookout software.”

MSN launched a range of new and updated services on July 1 for its MSN Search service, and Lookout is adds to that search arsenal of services.

The Bottom Line
If you’re using the Microsoft Outlook® email client, then you’ll definitely want to take the time to download and install Lookout. It’s a very welcome upgrade to Microsoft Outlook®, especially because the old-style Find feature is not very robust and is extremely slow. If you get a lot of email and tend to be an email hog like me–or if you just want to be able to search your email and documents quickly, you’ll be presently surprised. And best of all, it’s free.

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