Since the release of Microsoft Office 2003, Microsoft desktop applications such as MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and Internet Explorer have contained an internal federated or meta-search capability known as the ‘Research Pane’. To see this in action in office 2003 (see link for instructions for Office 2007), select (i.e. highlight) a word or phrase within MS Word or MS Outlook, and on PC’s right click on the highlighted word, pull down to the “Lookup Up” option and click. Another way to do this is to hold down the ‘Alt’ button while left-clicking on a highlighted word (in Macs use a command-click). The Research Pane should then open up in the application window and execute a search on the highlighted section. Out of the box, MS Office ships with several research sources such as the Microsoft Encarta Dictionary, Microsoft Live Search, MSN Money and some third party offerings from Factiva and Thomson Gale among others. Here is a screenshot of content returned from three enterprise search engines as well as from some public biomedical websites.

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The list of sources that can be searched from the Research Pane is expandable by adding connections to Research Pane service providers. Armed with a URL to a Research Pane “registration service”, a user can install the source into their MS applications using the “Research options…” link. This potentially gives users access to a large set of data sources to choose from. Once a source is installed, the user can select the source from a dropdown list (which causes the search to be executed) or can select a set of sources based on certain pre-defined categories.

Raritan Technologies specializes in Federated Search solutions and has created an array of search connectors to a number of web sites, web services, search engines and databases and directory services (to name a few) using our Search Integration Framework Toolkit (SIFT) and Federation Manager. We and our partner in this effort, New Idea Engineering, have also provided a number of ways to deploy these federated search connectors to web applications and within web services such as SOAP and Open Search. We have recently added to this list by providing a MS Research Pane service ‘front-end’ to our federated connectors. This enables connections to search engines such as Autonomy IDOL, K2 or Ultraseek, Dieselpoint, Endeca, Exalead, Fast, Lucene, Mark Logic (and others) as well as Sharepoint (out of the box) SQL databases, LDAP directories, SOAP and OpenSearch web services, Z39.50 sources, Internet web sites that have search boxes (a very large list that includes general web search engines and specialized sites such as news or research sites) and Content Management Systems such as Alfresco, Documentum and eRoom, and Archival Systems like Symantec Enterprise Vault to be ‘plugged-in’ to any MS Office application. The modular design of the Raritan Search Integration Framework enables other connectors to be added to this list and as this happens, these new sources will automatically be available to users of the Research Pane once configured as a service.

The ability to combine internal content sources from content management systems, enterprise search engines, databases and directory services with external content from subscription or public web sites and web services into MS Office applications provides a huge potential for search integration at the “tip of the sword” where thought and knowledge are combined to create new content.

For more information on the Raritan Technologies “Research Pane Integration” or to arrange for a trial connector please visit http://www.raritantechnologies.com/ResearchPane.shtml.

Barry Freindlich
President Raritan
Technologies, Inc.