Services & Software

Microsoft outlines Vista desktop search changes

Company agreed in June to make alterations to satisfy antitrust concerns from rivals, particularly Google.

Microsoft on Wednesday outlined the changes it plans to make to the desktop search feature in Windows Vista to satisfy antitrust concerns.

The software maker agreed in June to make the alterations to the way desktop search operates in response to concerns from Google.

The primary impact of the change is giving Vista users who choose a non-Microsoft option for desktop search more outlets to see those search results, as opposed to the results generated by Vista's built in desktop search engine.

The changes are coming with the first service pack to Windows Vista. Microsoft is launching a beta version of the update in the next couple of weeks, with a final version expected early next year.

The search changes mean that, "in addition to the numerous ways a user could access a third-party search solution in Windows Vista, they can now get to their preferred search results from additional entry points in the Start Menu and Explorer Windows in Windows Vista with SP1," a Microsoft representative said in an e-mail to CNET

Microsoft said that to enable access to search applications, search providers will need to register their service using the new protocol in Windows Vista SP1.

This week, Microsoft is releasing three documents aimed at helping the industry understand the changes. One, due to go live later Wednesday, is a knowledge base article on Microsoft's main Web site that outlines the planned changes.

The second, to be posted to Microsoft's developer site, is a documentation of the company's search protocols to allow other software makers to take advantage of the shifts. A third item is a paper that describes how services can operate in a way that avoids disrupting overall system performance.

"Following through on the commitments we made in court, this week we are releasing three documents to help our partners modify their desktop search applications to work with the search changes," Microsoft said in a statement. The software maker also said it has provided an interim test version of the service pack to the technical committee that was appointed by the court overseeing Microsoft's consent decree.

"Throughout this process, we have worked closely with the Technical Committee, who in turn have consulted with (software makers), to develop the specification and documentation for these code changes," Microsoft said. "We will continue to work with the Technical Committee to make sure our designs meet the agreed-upon specifications."

A Google representative said: "We look forward to evaluating the proposed changes to Vista desktop search, to ensure they are consistent with Microsoft's obligation to give consumers more choices."

The changes will be visible to those running Vista in a few places. The first of these places is in Vista's start menu. Today there are buttons that say "see all results" or "search everywhere." If a third party search engine is chosen, that engine will launch when the search everywhere button is clicked.

The second place is in the command bar in windows within Vista's explorer navigation system. As you start typing there in the search box, currently there is a dark blue bar with buttons that say "save search" and "search tools." As part of the changes, there will be an added button that says "search everywhere" and links to the default search engine.'s Elinor Mills contributed to this report.