US patent 8,086,604 is the one Apple used to temporarily get sales of Samsung's Galaxy Nexus blocked. It covers using a single UI to search multiple data sources, including both local and remote ones. Here is the first claim:
1. A method for locating information in a network using a computer, comprising:
- receiving by the computer an inputted information descriptor from a user-input device;
- providing said information descriptor received from the user-input device to a plurality of heuristic modules, wherein:
- each heuristic module corresponds to a respective area of search and employs a different, predetermined heuristic algorithm corresponding to said respective area to search the area for information that corresponds to the received information descriptor, and the search areas include storage media accessible by the computer;
- searching by the heuristic modules, based on the received information descriptor, the respective areas of search using the predetermined heuristic algorithms corresponding to each respective area of search;
- providing at least one candidate item of information located by the heuristic modules as a result of said searching;
- and displaying by the computer a representation of said candidate item of information on a display device.
It's a continuation of another patent application filed on Jan. 5, 2000. There must be tons of prior art from before that. One very obvious piece is Apple's own Sherlock, first released as part of Mac OS 8.5 on Oct. 17, 1998. What else is there?