Yahoo! plans to launch software in coming weeks that allows users to search for e-mail and other files stored on their computers, but unlike rivals Google and Microsoft, it is...

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Yahoo! plans to launch software in coming weeks that allows users to search for e-mail and other files stored on their computers, but unlike rivals Google and Microsoft, it is turning to a partner for help with the technology.

The company said yesterday that it is developing the software with X1 Technologies, a company in Pasadena, Calif., that makes business-productivity software, including a tool that searches a computer desktop for files. Its main product, X1 Search, sells for $75.

Yahoo!, based in Sunnyvale, Calif., said it will make its desktop search available free. The software will search hundreds of types of data, including photos, songs and Microsoft Office files.

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The race to debut a desktop search is extremely competitive and is considered one of the next frontiers in the evolution of search technology. Microsoft has offered a way to search files in its Windows operating system for years, but the process is slow and cumbersome.

In October, Google became the first of the three rivals to launch a test version of desktop search. The software can search for files in Microsoft programs and search recently viewed Web sites.

The tool raised privacy concerns, however, as experts said that it could disclose personal information if used on public or workplace computers. People sharing a computer might be able to see Web pages previously viewed by others, for example.

Google said it is developing password protections and other tools to address those privacy concerns.

MSN has said it will release a test version of its desktop search by the end of the year. Yesterday, it said its timeline is driven by the quality of the service. “We will launch MSN desktop search when we feel that the service has met the quality bar our consumers expect and deserve,” the division said.

Yahoo! didn’t give a specific date yesterday for when it would release its desktop-search product, and the announcement may have been timed to take some of the wind out of MSN’s sails. Yahoo! also gave some insight into its plans for desktop search, saying it will expand the technology to allow users to search across online files, including address books, photos and newsgroups.

X1 was founded by Bill Gross, who developed similar software, Lotus Magellan, in the late 1980s. Gross also founded Idealab, a technology incubator based in Pasadena.

Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360 or kpeterson@seattletimes.com