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GLIMPSE: A Tool to Search Through Entire File Systems

Udi Manber

Supported in part by an NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award (grant DCR-8451397), with matching funds from AT&T, by NSF grants CCR-9002351 and CCR-9301129, and by the Advanced Research Projects Agency under contract number DABT63-93-C-0052. Part of this work was done while the author was visiting the University of Washington.

The information contained in this paper does not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the U.S. Government or other sponsors of this research. No official endorsement should be inferred.

Department of Computer Science
University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721

Sun Wu

Department of Computer Science
National Chung-Cheng University
Ming-Shong, Chia-Yi, Taiwan


GLIMPSE, which stands for GLobal IMPlicit SEarch, provides indexing and query schemes for file systems. The novelty of glimpse is that it uses a very small index - in most cases 2-4% of the size of the text - and still allows very flexible full-text retrieval including Boolean queries, approximate matching (i.e., allowing misspelling), and even searching for regular expressions. In a sense, glimpse extends agrep to entire file systems, while preserving most of its functionality and simplicity. Query times are typically slower than with inverted indexes, but they are still fast enough for many applications. For example, it took 5 seconds of CPU time to find all 19 occurrences of Usenix AND Winter in a file system containing 69MB of text spanning 4300 files. Glimpse is particularly designed for personal information, such as one's own file system. The main characteristic of personal information is that it is non-uniform and includes many types of documents. An information retrieval system for personal information should support many types of queries, flexible interaction, low overhead, and customization, All these are important features of glimpse.

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