Microsoft has rolled out a new update to the company’s Bing search engine in an attempt to appeal to developers.
Shabbar Husain, senior program manager of Bing’s Tech Team, announced the changes, the result of a yearlong effort, in a Bing Blogs post. His group had “been working hard to develop a more natural way for users to address technical queries,” he said. “It could be someone looking to download or troubleshoot software or a programmer who wants to get the technical details of an API.”
In side-by-side screenshots, Husain demonstrated how Microsoft’s technical search results differ from those generated by Google. “In all cases, we have been making strides to make technical searches easier,” he said.
Bing’s results now display additional, in-context information along with code snippets while Google sticks to tradition with links that are followed by a brief summary.
The streamlined API and code search does a better job of supporting a developer’s workflow, enabling “programmers [to] spend more time coding and less time searching,” Husain said. “The best way to learn about an API is to see a description and an example of how it is being used. More importantly, seeing the actual code is critical for programmers,” he argued. Often, however, “this information is buried in the API documentation requiring additional steps.”
In an example search of the List.Sort method, the first result features a link to MSDN, the company’s developer resource site, along with a copy/paste-friendly code sample. “As you can see without even going into the MSDN page, [users can learn about] this method, can even copy paste the code and start using it,” stated Husain.
Bing also understands developers in their language, so to speak, particularly in their use of special characters.
“Technical developer queries often contain non-alphanumeric characters like :: (scope), ++ (operators), () (function), etc. Such queries are notoriously difficult for a search engine to handle,” explained Husain. “Bing has given special treatment to such technical queries so that the context is preserved and we show relevant results on top.”
Appearing on the right side of the results page, along with Snapshot and social sidebar, is a new downloads pane that appears when users search for software. The section displays the product’s official logo, a brief description and its cost, along with trusted download locations and review scores. “Now people can easily find the right software directly from the authoritative source without having to take additional steps,” said Husain.
Finally, the revamped search engine provides shortcuts for users that are researching Microsoft-related products. “To help people find information about Microsoft technologies more quickly, we have rolled out instant answers at the top of the results page,” said Husain. Quick answers appear as tabs under the top result and show a summary of a given product’s features and capabilities.