Desktop search is one of those really great things for people who have a lot of files and tend to forget where they all are.
From my experience, such engines can also be prone to glitches and slow performance. Microsoft is hoping to change some of those perceptions with an updated version of its desktop search product. Microsoft says Windows Search 4.0, of which a preview version was made public on Thursday, can speed query response time by a third as compared with the version of the search tool included in the initial release of Vista.
The software maker also said that it has fixed the majority of the reported bugs found in the product since the release of Vista, as well as added a feature that allows the search index to roll back to a previously saved version if it encounters an error, as opposed to needing to rebuild the index from scratch.
Windows Search 4.0 is available both as an update to Vista's built-in search engine and an updated version of the XP add-on that Microsoft has had available for some time, previously under the name Windows Desktop Search.
These changes are separate from moves Microsoft made within Vista Service Pack 1 to address concerns from Google. As part of those changes, Microsoft changed the way it displays search results in the operating system and created a mechanism for both users and computer makers to specify an alternate default desktop search program.
It's interesting that Microsoft is making these changes separate from Service Pack 1. I asked if this might be a trend toward updating operating system components outside of Windows releases. Here's the response I got back, in the form of a statement.
"Microsoft does not have any specific plans for releasing future updates to the search engine separately from Windows." the company said. "However, the company is always listening to customer feedback and will plan future releases with their feedback in mind."