Microsoft's new Windows Live search engine is officially driving the software giant's online services. Today, Windows Live Search begins to replace MSN Search, while the Live.com portal page and Windows Live Local's maps become final products. Google remains on top in the world of Internet search, but its assortment of Web-based products, such as the Writely word processor, lack the integration that Microsoft has built into its Windows Live collection.
And Windows Live Search attempts to add interface innovations that Google Search lacks. Along the right, a list of related searches, similar to those within Ask.com's layout, narrows down a query so that you can home in on, say, Turtle Island instead of Ninja Turtles. Along the top of the screen, Windows Live also links to lookups within Images, News, Local, QnA, and more. By visiting Live.com, you can start searching or sign in to build a personal portal that lets you subscribe to RSS feeds from within search results, and organize content within tabbed pages.
We like Live search's dynamic display of images. You can hover over thumbnails to read the dimensions and URL of origin. Don't think a result is relevant? Click a Feedback link to tell Microsoft so. Click an image, and you can view the Web page that it came from without leaving the window. On top of that, Live's Scratchpad lets you rename and save pictures to create your own collection--similar to the customization offered by Windows Live Local. If only we could scribble all over Web pages and save our notes.
Well, actually, Microsoft is attempting to allow just that with Windows Live Local. Redmond is planning to let you doodle on your maps with lines and shading, so that, say, you can mark up the secret route to a hidden hot springs, or a favorite dog-walking path. In addition to its business listings, Local will embrace white pages lookups so that you can find people, too. And close-up Bird's-Eye views are coming for 25 more cities, including Portland, San Diego, Phoenix, and El Paso. To see what we've tested so far, check out our 10 favorite Windows Live apps.