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Microsoft cries foul over Google Outlookware

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Update: This story has been updated to include comment from Microsoft and better represent the dispute

If you install Google's new Redmond-battling Outlook plug-in, it automatically disables Microsoft's Windows desktop search service. And Microsoft is peeved.

Last week, as part of its ongoing effort to destroy Microsoft Exchange, Google unleashed a plug-in that lets you access its so-called cloud apps straight from Outlook - Redmond's very own Exchange client. Google says that many people find comfort in Outlook clients while still wanting the web-centric ways of Gmail, Google Contacts, and Google Calendar.

That may be the case. But earlier today, with a post to the official Outlook blog, Redmond alerted the world to what it calls a "serious bug/flaw" in Google's plug-in. The post pointed out that the plug-in disables Microsoft's desktop search service and claimed that this prevents users from searching even Outlook itself.

"Google Apps Sync Disables Outlook Search" reads the post's title. But this is a tad misleading. Users can still use Outlook's built-in search, but this does not pre-index data.

"When a Google Apps user installs the sync plugin for Outlook, the plugin modifies a registry key which disables Windows Desktop Search from indexing and providing search functionality for all Outlook data, not just the Outlook data being synchronized from GMail. Because Outlook search relies upon the indexing performed by Windows Desktop Search, Outlook search functions are broken as a result," Microsoft's blog post reads.

Naturally, all that emphasis is Microsoft's.

Microsoft also claims that uninstalling Google's plug-in may not fix the issue. According to its blog post, you can't turn Windows Desktop Search back on unless you reedit the Registry key in question. And naturally, it shows you how to do that.

Google promptly responded with a blog post of its own. Mountain View acknowledges that it disables Windows Desktop Search, saying it does so because the tool can't index imported Google data files. Evidently, Windows Desktop Search will hang itself trying to index Google stuff.

But Google points out you can search even Google data via Outlook's built-in search tool.

"Windows Desktop Search will not properly index Google Apps Sync data files, so in order to stop indexing from running indefinitely, the Google Apps Sync installer disables it. We recommend using the default Outlook search," Google said.

Google tells The Reg that if you've installed its plug-in, Outlook's default search will work just fine - without tweaking. But without pre-indexing, this doesn't provide instant search. "Using Outlook with Instant Search turned off (which is what the Google sync plugin does for you, turns it off by way of shutting off the Windows Desktop Search) is a sub optimal experience for the Outlook user and is not the default setting," Microsoft tells The Reg. "Outlook users who previously were using and benefitting from Instant Search may be surprised to find that feature disabled after installing the Google plugin."

In its blog post, Google says that the latest version of the plug-in will automatically restore Windows Desktop Search after an uninstall. "If you want to re-enable Windows Desktop Search for your Outlook data files, you can uninstall Google Apps Sync. If you are using Google Apps Sync version 1.0.22.1945 or lower, you must first install the latest version and then uninstall Google Apps Sync to re-enable indexing."

Meanwhile, Microsoft is doubly annoyed that Google's plug-in also disables the Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, a tool which syncs Outlook with Microsoft's own cloud-based web-based email service: Live Hotmail.

Google's acknowledges this too. But it tells The Reg that it will work with Microsoft to allow its plug-in to work with both the Outlook Connector and Windows Desktop Search. "At launch, we really focused on making email, contacts and calendar work really well, and we're going to continue to improve the Outlook experience for Apps users. For example, we're working with Microsoft to make Windows Desktop search work as well," a company spokesman told us. ®

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