Yahoo Inc, which runs the No. 2 Web search engine, has released a related program to scan personal computers for documents and e-mail, following Google Inc and Microsoft Corp in a race for brand promotion and market share.
Yahoo made a free test version of the software, Yahoo Desktop Search, available to download on Monday.
The program allows a preview of entire files, a feature not included in the Google or Microsoft MSN programs, which also are test versions.
Software that can locate documents, e-mails, pictures and music on a PC's hard drive may attract users to its company's Internet site, which makes money from advertising. Yahoo is playing catch-up to Google, the most-used search engine, which released its program in October, and MSN, which followed last month. Analysts caution the market is still in its infancy.
"People ask me, `Can these guys catch up to Google's market share?' and I say, `What market share?' It's so early, there's no market share right now," said Charlene Li, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc in San Francisco. "Initially, at least, people will use the desktop search from the Internet search engine player they use the most."
Google is used in about 35 percent of Web searches, according to a September survey by ComScore Networks, a research firm that tracks Internet traffic. Yahoo is used in 32 percent and MSN in 15 percent.
The Yahoo program can be downloaded at http://desktop.yahoo.com. Like the Google and MSN programs, Yahoo's test software works only with Windows-based computer operating systems.
Google's Desktop Search mainly combs through the text of documents, e-mail and Web pages the user has viewed. MSN's program goes further, searching for pictures, music, video and address-book contacts.
Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo's product has those capabilities and adds the ability to view each search result without opening the actual file.
Users can see entire documents returned by the search function or play audio files, all within the search program. Google's and MSN's search programs show only snippets of documents and other files.
The preview shown in Yahoo's program, which appears in the right half of the screen, saves users time, said Bradley Horowitz, the company's director of search. Without it, customers have to open separate applications, such as a word processor, to determine whether the search found the information they wanted.
Yahoo's product also lets users take specific actions such as replying to or forwarding an e-mail that's found by the search.
Google's search program uses less computer memory and is easier to use than Yahoo's or MSN's, Li said. It's also more closely tied to Google's Internet search, running in the same window as its Web search. Yahoo opens in a separate window.