We're dealing with so much information these days that it's become a game of hide-and-seek to find files, e-mails, photos, or Web shortcuts on our computers. Try one of these great search tools.

Google Desktop Search. This has to be tried to be believed. Google Desktop Search indexes every nook and cranny so you can retrieve most common document types, e-mail, or visited Web site in milliseconds. It's not quite as flexible as paid utilities like X1 or Copernic, but unlike those, it works without slowing down your computer. www.desktop.google.com.

LookOut for Outlook. LookOut replaces the crummy “find” feature in Outlook with a search utility that actually works. It's fast, free, and endorsed by Microsoft. www.lookoutsoft.com.

Picasa Photo Organizer. Picasa automatically organizes the images you've scattered all over your hard drive into “albums” you can view in a variety of ways. It also includes image editing tools for red-eye removal and the like. Thanks to a recent purchase by Google, Picasa is now free. www.picasa.com.

Bookmark Manager Pro. Forget finicky folders and subfolders. With BMP you just dump your bookmarks into your “favorites” and it finds them with a click or two. BMP also culls out dead links for you. Try for free; $23 if you keep it. www.wakproductions.com.

But remember, nothing is truly free, including these great search tools. Google (for example) doesn't send your personal info over the Internet, but it does compile data about how people use their software, something advertisers are very interested in. I trust the companies listed here, but be sure you understand the privacy policy of the tool you're installing before using it on your computer. —Joe Stoddard is a process/technology consultant to the building industry. Contact him at jstoddard@smaconsulting.net