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Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday released documents that detail changes it will make to its desktop search and indexing feature in Windows Vista that will be included as part of the Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1) update.
The changes are a response to charges from rival Google Inc. that Microsoft built the feature in such a way that it slowed down competitive offerings from rivals.
Microsoft agreed to make the changes as part of its ongoing antitrust proceedings with U.S. and state officials, and they were detailed as part of a status report filed in the case in June. To provide more information to the general public, the company posted documents online Wednesday that detail how third parties can help modify desktop search applications to work with the changes being made in SP1. Microsoft has said it will release SP1, a roll-up of updates to the Vista OS, in the first quarter of 2008.
Microsoft said it made the changes so that a customer who uses a third-party desktop search product instead of Vista's built-in feature can have "easy and direct access" to those offerings through the Windows user interface. "That means that in addition to the numerous ways a user could access a third-party search solution in Windows Vista, they can now get to their preferred search results from additional entry points in the Start Menu and Explorer Windows in Windows Vista SP1," the company said in an e-mail message.
These features were at the heart of Google's claims, which appeared in a white paper to U.S. and state antitrust officials in April. Google said the desktop search feature in Vista discouraged users from installing third-party products because Vista's search boxes and bars -- available in several places in the OS, including the Start menu and in the Windows Explorer file manager -- work only with Microsoft's search and indexing tool. The company also said it is nearly impossible to turn off Vista's indexing, which means a competitor must add a second indexer that slows down a PC.
To let their products use Vista options they don't have access to now, third-party vendors can register their search applications using the new search protocol in Windows Vista SP1, which is detailed online. An article explaining the search changes can be found in Microsoft's Knowledge Base.
Windows Vista introduces Instant Search: enhanced desktop search and organization that helps you locate files and e-mail messages on your PC. If you remember anything about a file—the type of file, when it was created, or even what it contains—Windows Vista can quickly find it for you.
With Instant Search, you are never more than a few keystrokes away from whatever you're looking for. This feature, which is available almost anywhere you are in Windows Vista, enables you to search for a file name, a property, or even text contained within a file, and it returns pinpointed results. It's fast and easy. Instant Search is also contextual, optimizing its results based on your current activity—whether it's searching Control Panel applets, looking for music files in Windows Media Player, or looking over all your files and applications on the Start menu.
From the Start menu
From the more efficient and comprehensive Start menu in Windows Vista, you can find virtually anything on your PC with fast-as-you-can-type performance. To find a specific file, application, or Internet Favorite, you simply open the Start menu—or press the Windows key on the keyboard—and begin typing in the embedded Instant Search box. As you type, Windows Vista instantly searches file and application names, metadata, and the full text of all files, and it displays the search results organized by the type of asset—Programs; Favorites/Internet History; Files, including documents and media; and Communications, including e-mail, events, tasks, and contacts.
Explorers, Control Panel, and experiences
Explorer in Windows Vista showcases Instant Search in the top right corner. It's always with you when you're using any explorer, including the Documents Explorer, Music Explorer, Pictures Explorer, and new Search Explorer. Just like using Instant Search from the Start menu, you only have to type a few letters to quickly display the most relevant results. If the results aren't what you're looking for, Instant Search provides easy access to tools that can help you design more specific searches or search across the Internet using your search engine of choice.
Instant Search also appears in the top right corner of the redesigned Control Panel. Here, you need only type in a word or a phrase associated with the task you want to accomplish, and Control Panel filters down to the most appropriate choice.
You can also find Instant Search in Windows programs such as Windows Internet Explorer 7, Windows Photo Gallery, and even Windows Media Player. Anywhere you see it, just start typing, and you'll soon find what you're looking for.