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Pioneers of desktop search

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September marks the anniversary of the founding of a company which is a notable pioneer of desktop search; their claim to fame is that they released the first full-text retrieval software (what the world now calls desktop search!) for the PC; the year was 1983, the company ZyLab, and the software ZyIndex!

dtSearch 1.0 was released in 1991, having been in development since 1988. Does that make it second? Not according to our archives, they show that ISYS search was released prior to 1991 in Australia by Odyssey Development!

Carrying out a search on the web for "pioneers of desktop search" however will often show Google Desktop Search or one of the other similar tools produced a decade later for the consumer market, this it seems due to wet-behind-the-ears journalists relying on Google for their research! Since the first Windows Web browser didn't come out until 1993, it's hardly surprising that early digital history is limited on the Web.

There were in fact full-text search engines around before ZyIndex. Early examples from our archives was the Verity Topic software (1988) and Excalibur's RetrievalWare, but both these systems were unsuitable for running on a single PC, and were orders of magnitude more expensive!

These early systems used the description 'full-text search' to distinguish themselves from earlier search software that just searched on the title, author or a manually produced abstract or list of keywords; a computerised version of the old library card index system!

In addition to the true desktop search products of ZyIndex, ISYS and dtSearch there also existed prior to 1991 a number of products that were aimed at searching text databases, rather than documents in the PC file system - which at that time was DOS!

Excalibur went on to become Convera after merging with a division of Intel, later it was acquired by FAST search, who in turn was swallowed up by Microsoft! Verity was bought by Autonomy in 2005, who was in turn swallowed up by HP in 2011!

The customer base of dtSearch Desktop/Network, just like ZyIndex and ISYS, was and is heavily in the corporate and government legal, intelligence and law enforcement sectors.

Over time companies evolve to meet the changing needs of their customers. In the case of Zylab it concentrated on providing solutions and services in the legal sector, and has always supported the Microsoft Windows user base.

ISYS branched out into the Linux and software developer market before being gobbled up by Lexmark the printer company in 2012, it lives on as Perceptive Search.

dtSearch from 1995 expanded into the software developer market with its search Engines for Windows, Linux and now Android, and like ISYS is one of the few companies that developed its own document filters; these can also be licensed separately from the search engine.

The dtSearch engine is the same as used in dtSearch Desktop/Network and dtSearch Web/Publish although not all of its capabilities are used. Today 3 out of 4 of the “Big 4” accounting firms have dtSearch multi-user or developer licenses and 6 out of 7 of the Fortune 500 largest Aerospace and Defense industry companies are dtSearch Engine customers.


Find out more...

Zylab -


Verity -

Convera -

Excalibur -

dtSearch -

dtSearch - /about/dtsearch-history.aspx


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