New Search Features in Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2
Can you imagine a world without search? I don’t think a single day goes by when I don’t do a least one Internet search. Internet search has gotten leaps and bounds better than what it started out as years ago; yet aside from adding a search box to the browser chrome, browsers, as of yet, have not significantly changed the way that users search online.
With Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2, Microsoft is taking some big steps that we hope will change the way you search. Our goal is to enable you to search for the right term on the right provider and get the right information as quickly as possible. With contributions from your favorite search providers, we are now providing suggestions in Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 that can help you formulate great search terms. In addition, in Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 it is now very easy to search with any search provider. You can easily install multiple providers and switching over to use them is simple. We know you don’t just search on Google or Yahoo or Windows Live; Searching with Wikipedia, eBay, or your favorite online store is just as easy.
What Can You Do with Search in Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2?
Let’s imagine that you want to use Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 to conduct some Internet searches to plan a night out on the town (in this example, Seattle). You might want to start out by searching for “seattle restaurants”, so you start typing in the search box. As you are typing, one of the first things you’ll notice is Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2’s new search suggestions as seen in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Internet Explorer’s new search box dropdown. At the top of the dropdown are previously typed search terms. The next section contains the search suggestions, after which are history results, and finally at the bottom is the QuickPick menu.
Search suggestions appear as you are typing and offer you some ideas on things you might like to search for. In fact, as I type “seattle” I see “seattle restaurants” as one of the suggestions. Clicking on the suggestion brings me right to the results page. This is great for me as restaurant is one of those words that I chronically misspell. (I’ve used Word’s spelling correction feature twice already as I’m typing this article so not having to type out the full word in the search box is great for me.)
Our goal is to enable you to search for the right term on the right provider and get the right information as quickly as possible.
As you type more, you will notice that some suggestions include small images. These are called visual suggestions. Visual suggestions may cue you in to particularly important suggestions such as in Figure 2 where “seattle space needle,” “seattle mariners” and “seattle seahawks” have been highlighted with visual suggestions.
Figure 2: The search box showing some visual suggestions. These visual suggestions highlight particularly valuable suggestions like the Space Needle, the Mariners and the Seahawks.
In addition to highlighting interesting suggestions, visual suggestions can also be used to provide some bit of information such as in Figure 3 where I’ve typed “seattle weather”.
Figure 3: An example visual suggestion. Visual suggestions can combine text with images to highlight a particular suggestion or provide a bit of information.
There are two additional sections you’ll notice under the search box. The first section, directly under the search box contains your previously typed search terms. From observation, we know that people tend to search for the same things over and over again. Maybe you read an article last week that you want to go back to, or maybe like me, there are sites that you visit infrequently enough that you can’t remember the URL, you don’t have in your Favorites folder and you just know how to get to because every time you search for “seattle metro transit” (for example), the first result is the King County Metro website.
The other section you’ll notice under the search box is a section of results from your History. This section is new to Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2. Using Windows Search, Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 will search over your stored history. The search results are based on the pages’ title and URL. Perhaps you didn’t actually do a search for that interesting news article that you read last week. You might have just been browsing your favorite news site. With history results under the search box, you can find the page you were looking for without ever doing a search.
In all three sections under the search box, we have added hit highlighting so that you can glance through the results and know exactly why each one was suggested to you. The search box dropdown is also consistent in look and feel to the address bar. In normal use, the address bar will display results from your Favorites, History, and Feeds, however, you can also switch the address bar over to search mode by typing “?” followed by a space and then your search term. This will allow you to get search suggestions in the address bar.
Now that you’ve seen what’s available under the search box, let’s go back to planning a night out on the town. Having issued the query for “seattle restaurants” we are now looking at a search results page. One of the results that came up is Wild Ginger, which sounds like a good choice. However, thinking about it more, it would be a really good idea to read what the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper (Seattle P-I) has to say about Wild Ginger since they frequently do restaurant reviews. With the Seattle P-I installed as a search provider, you can just select the name of the restaurant and click on the Accelerators icon. There you will find all your installed search providers and clicking on one you can issue a search. This is just like how Accelerators work. In Figure 4 you can see how your search providers are available as accelerators.
Figure 4: Installed search providers are automatically converted to Accelerators. You can select text on a Web page and search with any of your search providers.
Any installed search provider will automatically behave like an Accelerator. Your default search provider will be listed as the default in the Accelerator list and your secondary providers will be listed in the overflow menu. Search providers don’t have to do any extra work to enable Accelerator support-this is done automatically whenever you install a search provider. Search providers can even support Accelerator previews if they want, although this does require some new work on the part of the search provider.
After issuing your search via the Accelerator menu, you will now be viewing a search results page for Wild Ginger. After reading the review of Wild Ginger, you decide that you aren’t in the mood for Asian food tonight and would rather go for Italian. So you search for Italian restaurants on the Seattle P-I site. If you are paying attention, you’ll notice that the text “Italian restaurants” has now been placed in the search box. This is because Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 detects searches that you do from within the websites of your installed search providers.
One of the biggest advantages of the search box is that it allows you to initiate a search from anywhere. You don’t have to first go to your provider’s homepage. But we know that once users are already at their search provider’s website they may change or refine their query on the site. By keeping track of your most recent search query string, we have made it very easy to switch over to a different search provider if you decide that a different provider is more appropriate to handle your query. For example, you could decide that instead of searching for restaurants on one site, you would rather search on another. In which case, your most recent search term is all ready for you in the search box. Speaking of which…
Switching search providers in Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 is much improved from how it was in Internet Explorer 7. Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 has a nifty little menu under the search box called the QuickPick menu. Here you will see the favicons of all your installed search providers. Clicking on one of these icons lets you execute a search with that provider. The QuickPick menu will appear when you first click into the search box and it will remain accessible as you begin typing. Once you start typing the QuickPick menu moves to the bottom of the dropdown below your history results. We really hope that this will make secondary providers more accessible and encourage everyone to use the search box for all the sites they use, not just for search sites.
Within the QuickPick menu, you also have the option to access the Internet Explorer Find on Page feature. Find on Page in Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 is much improved from what was available in Internet Explorer 7. Find on Page is now a single line bar that drops down from the Internet Explorer chrome. It supports highlighting of all the hits within the website and highlights the hits as you are typing instead of having to press enter when you are finished. In addition, Find on Page will display to you the number of hits within the page. Figure 5 shows IE8’s new Find on Page functionality.
Figure 5: Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2’s new Find on Page bar doesn’t block any of the page content. It will highlight all the matches within the page as you type your query.