I mentioned a few weeks ago that Intellext are making their search-in-the-background tool, Watson, available for free. I used it for a while last year, and I just tested it again as I wrote that long post on the collection of PIM articles in CACM.
Watson watches what I'm writing (in Word, PowerPoint, Outlook) or reading (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Outlook email) and brings back related info from the web, news sources, blogs, my desktop search, and even from shopping sites. The free version is not configurable, but it seems to cover a wide array of freely-available search sources. It also presents one context-related advertisement at the top of the results that doesn't seem to get in the way of my using the tool.
The goal for a tool like this is to find useful things for me as I write and read - content that I might not otherwise think to look for or even know about. It seems to carry out the finding task quite well. As I added more and more to my writing, the results kept getting refined. And as I focused on different parts of the article, Watson found materials that were related to the current focus. I was also surprised at how well it interpreted text I was viewing in email or in my browser and returned related results. I noticed in the desktop search results that Watson brought back a copy of the email I was viewing, so at least I know desktop search is indexing, and Watson is creating the correct search.
I think it will take some getting used to the way Watson works in my mode of doing things. Even with Watson as a side bar, I have to actively peruse what it has found for me. That's obvious, but I think I was expecting it to come back with something very specific to what I was writing and thinking about. When that didn't happen, I fell back to do my own specific searches. But, rather than switching to the browser and firing off a search, I found it easier to use my other "hidden search" tool, ActiveWords.
ActiveWords has a "Knowledge Access" add-in application that will fire off a search for any term that isn't already defined in my WordBase. This lets me select text in any application and hit the hot key (F8). That was a great resource for finding websites of the authors. I use this all the time as my primary link to a web search. And if I visit a website (or local document) frequently, I can have ActiveWords let me know at which point I can create a word that goes directly to that resource. Now only if it could tell me about frequent Knowledge Access searches that I do.