Living 64-bit: Search Filters for WindowsPosted on November 19th, 2009 No comments
One of the greatest features in Windows Vista that carries forward to Windows 7 is the Windows Search-In-The-Start-Menu. Just hit the Windows key and start typing, and voila! you are instantly graced with search results. Suddenly desktop search is useful!
Unfortunately, the utility of the search is greatly limited by whether or not an appropriate filter exists for a particular file type. Windows ships with filters for various barebones formats, such as text files and web pages, as well as Microsoft Office documents (of course). Though filters for some formats can be found on the web, normally it is the job of the installer to properly configure filters to handle the application’s file types.
And herein lies the problem.
You see, when you’re running a 64-bit OS, most application programs you have are actually running in 32-bit mode. Why? Well, from an end-user’s perspective of the application, there is usually no difference between 32-bit mode and 64-bit mode. There are virtually no performance differences, no look-and-feel differences, and no functional differences.
But from an application vendor’s perspective, 64-bit support requires often drastic API changes, as well as compiling, testing, and releasing a 64-bit version. It’s a lot of work to support something that your customer probably won’t even notice, and that’s not to mention having to explain to a confused grandmother that she downloaded the 64-bit version for her 32-bit machine and could she please try again. So for most application vendors, 64-bit is something only done when absolutely necessary, and thus most applications get released in 32-bit versions only.
So back to search filters: One of the gotchas of 64-bit is that you cannot load 32-bit libraries into a 64-bit process, and on a 64-bit machine, the Windows Indexing Engine is a 64-bit process. Thus most 32-bit applications will be unable to properly install their search filters on 64-bit Windows unless they go out of their way to do so. OpenOffice currently suffers from this problem, as does Adobe’s PDF Reader.
Fortunately, it has been recognized as a problem, and applications are fixing it. OpenOffice is supposed to have it fixed in version 3.2, and Adobe offers a free 64-bit version of their PDF filter. And in the meantime, you can often find good filters for free on IFilter.org, or some for free and for sale on IFilterShop.com.