On Monday afternoon, Microsoft's MSN unit unveiled a beta version of the MSN Toolbar Suite, a sweeping set of desktop and Web searching tools that promises to give Windows users today many of the search features the company originally promised for Longhorn. MSN Toolbar Suite includes a taskbar-based Deskbar, Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer-based toolbars, and a search toolbar that integrates into Outlook Express and Outlook. And unlike a hastily released rival desktop search tool from Google, the MSN Toolbar Suite keeps your local file searches local, and doesn't require them to hit a Web server to display results.
"People expect Microsoft to do a fantastic job on client code and searching within Windows and Office, and what we have delivered here is what people expected of us: The best way to search your PC," said Yusuf Mehdi, the corporate vice president for the MSN Information Services and Merchant Platform division at Microsoft. "Our ambition for search is to provide the ultimate information tool that can find anything you're looking for." As Microsoft officials have been saying for over a year, it shouldn't take longer to find information on your hard drive than it does to do a search on Google. That line was so effective, in fact, that Apple CEO Steve Jobs borrowed it when he introduced his company's Spotlight search technology, which will debut in mid-2005.
MSN Toolbar Suite is most notable for the way it delivers on most of the file search promises of Longhorn, features that many users assumed would require the oft-delayed WinFS file storage technology. But MSN should also be credited with creating a suite of add-ons that integrate somewhat seamlessly into Windows and provide logical entry points for searching on the desktop, in Explorer and IE windows, and in your email application. That means you can perform searches in a more natural way than if you had to run a separate application, or always use a Web browser.
Microsoft had been touting its upcoming desktop search tool for months. At its July 2004 Financial Analysts Meeting, Mehdi said that the company would ship a beta version of the tool by the end of the year. "\[It offers\] local PC and e-mail searching that we have built as a joint effort across the company, the Microsoft Office Team, the Microsoft Research Team, the Knowledge Interchange Team, and the folks on the Longhorn Team, and our MSN Search engineers," he said. "We have put together a working version of Local PC File Search."
The MSN Toolbar Suite is currently available as a beta release and can be downloaded from the MSN Web site (URL below). The final version of the MSN Toolbar Suite is expected in the first quarter of 2005. For more information about this exciting Windows add-on, please refer to my exhaustive preview on the SuperSite for Windows (URL below).
MSN Toolbar Suite download
MSN Toolbar Suite Preview