Installing Google Desktop 2 on our Windows XP computer went smoothly and took less than five minutes in our tests. If you're ultraconscientious about privacy, scrutinize the Preferences page via the Sidebar's top drop-down menu, which lets you choose what to hide or reveal to Google.
Once Google Desktop 2 is open, the Sidebar appears in a narrow column within the right-hand edge of your screen. The gray interface is subtle and sparse, given its bevy of content. Modules include Photos, Maps, Google Talk, Email, News, Web Clips, Scratch Pad, Stocks, and Weather. To date, you can pick from hundreds of plug-ins to add more panels that display a PC system monitor, a calendar, content from iTunes, your American Express transactions, and more. Click any panel to expand details to the left of it. Click Maps to extend a miniwindow, where you can type in a search that opens a browser window to Google Local. To hide the Sidebar, click the top drop-down arrow to display the search box either as the Deskbar on the bottom of your screen or as the Floating Deskbar.
Desktop 2 lets you reject Sidebar features that might betray your secrets to passersby who glance at your screen. For example, Sidebar shuffles through recent photos, which could embarrass you, say, if snapshots of last weekend's costume party from your friend's Flickr account pop up at the office. To hide the Photos panel or other potentially sensitive portals, such as Email, just open the Add/Remove Panels window from the Sidebar's uppermost drop-down menu. You can also visit Options to filter content--helpful if you want to keep the Email module open but want to block certain messages from appearing.