Microsoft is set to release on Monday an upgrade to its MSN Search Toolbar with Windows Desktop Search that adds a number of enhancements, including the ability to preview documents on users' hard drives.
This upgraded version of the search toolbar, which requires Windows XP or Windows 2000 Service Pack 4 or later versions, features a new preview pane to let users view documents retrieved from their PCs.
Another enhancement is an increased capability to determine which files in a user's PC the toolbar should index. Microsoft has also created a Web site at http://addins.msn.com/, where users will find components created by third parties to extend the toolbar's desktop search functionality. Finally, the upgraded version getting unveiled Monday features new wizard-like setup tools as well as improved performance.
In several months, the toolbar, which also lets users search the Web, will gain tabbed browsing functionality, which will result in individual searches organized as tabs. Another future plan is the creation of a desktop search tool for the workplace; Microsoft plans to have a beta version of this tool by the end of this year.
One thing the toolbar doesn't do is index information that users of MSN online services, such as the Hotmail Web mail service, may have stored in Microsoft servers, said Dane Glasgow, product unit manager for MSN Search. Indexing server-based information is something rival Yahoo has begun to do with its own desktop search product.
The Microsoft toolbar, which makes its desktop search functionality available from Windows Explorer, Internet Explorer and Outlook, can index and retrieve the metadata of over 200 different types of files, as well as the full text of some file types. At this point, the only e-mail files it indexes are those in Outlook 2000 or later versions and Outlook Express 6.0 or later versions.
The Microsoft toolbar, which requires Internet Explorer 5.01 or later versions, will be made available on Monday for free download at http://desktop.msn.com.