Microsoft Corp. is moving its MSN desktop search application out of beta on Monday and laying out plans to extend the software to enterprises later this year.
In the applications full version, Microsofts MSN division is emphasizing its ties with the Windows operating system. The application is being renamed the MSN Search Toolbar with Windows Desktop Search.
Microsoft next plans to parlay the MSN desktop search offering into an application tailored to enterprises that will be out in beta by the end of the year, said Dane Glasgow, a product unit manager for MSN Search. He declined to provide many details about the corporate version of the software, such as whether it will be delivered by MSN or another product group such as Office of Windows.
But Glasgow said it will feature administration options for managing and deploying desktop search across a company.
More immediately, the MSN toolbar will be building tabbed browsing into the Internet Explorer browser. MSN is announcing plans to release an automatic update to its new toolbar suite within the next few months that adds the ability to open tabs of multiple Web pages inside one browser window and to create routines where multiple sites are opened at once.
Tabbed browsing has been a central feature in alternative Web browsers for Windows, such as Mozillas Firefox and Opera Software ASAs browser. Glasgow said that the MSN desktop search application will open search results within separate browser tabs.
Microsoft also is working on a new version of Internet Explorer, but Glasgow said the tabbed browsing feature for the MSN Search Toolbar is a separate effort from IE 7.
“The technology in IE is separate from the technology we will be shipping,” he said.
The desktop search technology grew out of an effort across multiple parts of Microsofts business, including MSN, the Microsoft Windows and Office teams, and Microsoft Research, Glasgow said.
It also appears to be part of Microsofts broader desktop search development for Windows, including the upcoming “Longhorn” release, though company executives have said that MSNs version of desktop search wont be directly bundled into Windows.
“Desktop search is a cross-company effort,” said Glasgow, who leads development for the toolbar. “This technology is on the path to Longhorn. Longhorn has had search as part of its plans for quite some time, and this is the first Windows offering into that space.”
As for MSNs new desktop search application, it will be available as a free download in the United States for Windows 2000 and Windows XP.
Similar to the beta version released in December, it provides a group of toolbars for initiating searches across local e-mails and files or the Web. Web searches send users to MSNs Web search engine, launched earlier this year to compete with Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc.
Along with Internet Explorer, search toolbars reside in Windows Explorer and Microsoft Office Outlook. Desktop search also can be launched from a deskbar in the Windows taskbar.
“While delivering fast search results on the desktop is a nice feature to provide our users, our users are interested in taking action on those results, so we have focused heavily on letting users search from where they are with different entry points into desktop search,” Glasgow said.
With the full release, MSN has added a preview pane in the results so that users can view the contents of a file or e-mail and take actions without opening another application.
Users also can customize the indexing for desktop search. They can specify which Outlook folders should be included in the index and can block specific file types from being included, Glasgow said.
As with the beta, the application plugs into Windows authentication for maintaining security when a PC is set up with multiple user accounts.
The MSN Search Toolbar with Windows Desktop Search supports searching across more than 200 file types. These include Microsoft file types such as Outlook and Office files as well as Adobe PDFs and standard audio and image files like MP3s and JPEGs.
MSN also is launching a new Web site, addins.msn.com, which displays a selection of third-party developer additions to the desktop search toolbar. MSN is providing developer access through the Windows IFilter interfaces.
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