Product analysis by Joel Oleson for CollabShow.com was requested by X1, but these thoughts are my own. This analysis is designed to look into why a particular product was designed and what issues it addresses as well as provide insights into its niche market to distinguish it from the thousands of products in the market. I only look at the products that are worth your time. This is more than a simple review… this is an analysis.
Over the past decade search has continued to be the most important productivity gain in both the consumer and enterprise worlds. We spend so much time looking for information and ultimately give up and begin duplicating our efforts or using what little we do locate in our research attempts. According to an IDC study, “Knowledge workers spend from 15% to 35% of their time searching for information.” A decade ago both Google and Microsoft were building tools designed for desktop search. In the time since, the integrated desktop search has been considered “good enough” by Microsoft, and while search seems integrated into everything we do, little seems to have progressed much in desktop search to combine email and SharePoint search until now. The real problem is that information has exploded, and there is more and more with broader sets of interfaces. A few things have changed since that time, and many of those changes don’t lead to a faster discovery experience.
So, what has changed?
- Documents have moved from file shares into a variety of different enterprise repositories from SharePoint, Office 365, Dropbox, desktop, cloud.
- Email is as strong as ever but is now in a variety of platforms, from Exchange to Exchange Online and Office 365.
- Document management, records management and archive systems have become more accessible to the average information worker resulting in more places to look for information.
- Enterprise search has become more important.
- Increased demands on the user to create more in less time with resources spread out across the network and into the cloud.
- Variety of devices from mobile, tablets, and virtual desktops with small footprint, including virtual clients with little or no hard drive.
X1 has been analyzing the needs of the information worker and consumer in this space for over a decade. With their analyses, they have identified the need for fast retrieval and an intuitive, simple interface and powerful filtering across all of the repositories that a user uses and values. When you’re searching for information, you don’t want to have to go to a dozen different places across a variety of user interfaces. You’re likely to give up and end up spending hours duplicating effort or emailing someone else and wasting their time because you couldn’t find the email or document you were looking for and that you know you’ve seen somewhere.
Figure 1: X1 Search 8 and the Power of Everything Search
Understanding X1 Search 8
X1 Search 8 focuses on a unified interface that provides quick retrieval with hit, highlighting across a huge variety of repositories with more coming all the time. Here are a few examples:
- Outlook 2007
- Outlook 2010 (32-bit and 64-bit)
- Outlook 2013 (32-bit and 64-bit)
- SharePoint 2007
- SharePoint 2010
- SharePoint 2013
- Office 365 – SharePoint Online
- Office 365 – Exchange Online
- IMAP based email accounts such as Gmail, Yahoo!, AOL, and more
Figure 2: X1 Search 8 Professional
See X1 Search 8 SharePoint Search in Action
While it’s easy for me to dig into the app and help you see the internals, I want to make sure we don’t lose sight of the business value in a product like this. Ultimately, these are mostly about productivity.
There are three main things on which to focus in understanding the latest release from X1.
- Search SharePoint data – Can connect to a variety of sites that you care about and provide intuitive display of the data that you care about. Creates a super-fast retrieval, including preview of your files and rich documents including Office, PDF and even images.
- Unified search of SharePoint and email, including both on-premises and Office 365 – Simply point at your mail and SharePoint sites and put in your credentials to get quick access to unified search across your online repositories.
- Hit highlighting of search terms with results including sortable results from metadata fields and inline previews from a variety of different file types.
- Virtual Desktop client supporting thin client solutions like Citrix.
How Configure X1 Search 8?
There are no server components. The product is a simple client. The install is very simple. You run the setup and it installs the necessary files at the location you specify. As well, by default X1 Search 8 understands where your personal files are located and will automatically start indexing your documents, pictures, videos and local data without being told.
Figure 3: X1 Automatically Scans and Begins Indexing Your Outlook Mail and Local Desktop Files
If you want to manage a deployment that has an understanding of common SharePoint sites and remote shares, or Dropbox locations and so on, you can do so. There are configuration options for a planned enterprise or departmental-based deployment, such as a specific configuration of departmental repositories for sales engineers or human resources documentation for the HR department.
Figure 4: Add from a Variety of Sources, Including SharePoint, Office 365, Outlook.com, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, and IMAP
Pricing & Licensing
There are three ways to license X1 Search 8:
- Single users – $50 per user, plus $19.95 annually for Premium Support
- Enterprise licensing – Volume discounts are available – Please call for pricing or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Multi-user virtual servers – Call for pricing or email at email@example.com
Reality Check and My Thoughts on X1 Search 8
I remember when I first started using a desktop search client. I was amazed how much productivity I got out of faster searches with local indexing and being able to get email and files all in one place was really powerful, but the downside was how much CPU it seemed to take
At first when I installed the X1 Search 8 client, I was impressed with how quickly the app was usable. I was expecting to see lags as it was doing its indexing, and surprisingly, I hardly notice it. I also wasn’t expecting to see email. I thought I’d have to plug in my Office 365 accounts and figure out what the email servers were. Not only did it start indexing my mail that was already in my PST, it figured out that I had other email in my Outlook as well. So I was seeing results in my email from my Gmail and Office 365 account. It really allows users to take charge of their own search experience and creating that unified experience that admins have a challenge anticipating. It also removes the burden and empowers users to build experiences that projects never seem to get to. It really creates a simplified experience that I’ve heard so many users ask for, seeing both SharePoint search and email search in a single pane of glass.
One thing I was hoping for that I didn’t see was in the offline capabilities. While it does do great email and desktop search with those items that are local, the search of file shares and SharePoint is only available while connected to those things on the network. It doesn’t provide a cache that allows you to access data from your site. One workaround I hadn’t tried was seeing if I did a sync to Outlook and then did search.
I need to spend more time with the product to see if indexing speed ever causes any disk contention, but with my initial testing, I was impressed with how much I didn’t notice. When I was doing my testing and validation, I noticed just how quickly the searches return in sub-second response times, and even the preview capability is so much faster than loading word or Adobe reader, even the rendering of images seems to be faster than natively loading an image in Windows which is incredible.
Now let’s dig in. Currently the solution is only available in Windows. Macs have been considered, but so far it’s not yet on the roadmap. I’ve also wondered about mobile devices from the plethora of devices out there, but let’s stop and focus. This is a desktop solution for now. The mobile needs are a different world at this point and mobile apps are a different story from local indexing and getting access to the documents that are spread out everywhere. I understand from X1 they are working on mobile next with further considerations for Mac. I think I would prefer to see them add additional repositories that continue to unify the search experience. As SharePoint brings in the power of its own search, the tool becomes that much more powerful as well.
The great news is seeing unified search across the variety of platforms in a single powerful desktop product priced very reasonably. Whether it’s a user that’s buying the product or an enterprise trying to address the gaps in documents that are spread across a large variety of platforms and tools, the X1 Search 8 product is impressive.
I think X1 has really hit the nail on the head with this one, and I am excited about the possibilities that this will provide for Enterprises. There’s no reason not to check out this product and validate it with your current and future needs.
You can download a 14-day trial on http://www.x1.com/products/x1_search/trial.html, watch additional videos and get more information from their website at http://www.x1.com/products/x1_search/videos.html.
Questions? Contact X1 at firstname.lastname@example.org
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