IE8 has a lot of new features, but I like to show off three (visual search, web slices, and accelerators). So, while I’m waiting for VS2008 (VSTS) to install, I want to point out some of the goodness of the search feature set.

First, the inline search (Ctrl-F) has an updated UI. Even though there is still the Previous/Next buttons, I like the improvements around the matches count and the highlighting of the matches in yellow.

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Second, there are quite a few enhancements around the IE8 Search box. I’m still amazed to see that people do not use this and instead type in a search site URL, wait for the page, then type in search text, and then wait for the result. This search box blows away any reason to type in the URL of your favorite search site, like www.live.com.

So, make sure that you check out the list of search providers (nothing new, since this was in IE7). The IE8 Gallery shows a variety of the top search engines, but also shows some other companies who want to have their sites searched.

One of the new twists to this is Visual Search, which is why we have non-search engines in the IE8 Gallery search list now. Note this picture, where I have the Amazon search provider selected (note the icons at the bottom) and have typed in “microsoft”, and then I get a list of search results with pictures. Very cool! And when these sites see how easy they can build a rich search experience, I  think a lot of sites will look into this capability.

Other visual search providers include eBay and Wikipedia. I’m sure that others are on the way. Another instanace that I had pointed out to me is from Dell. They haven’t put a provider in the gallery yet, but when I visit their site, a Dell search provider shows up in my list while I’m on the site. Very interesting.

There’s another interesting feature set that I just ran across (thanks to Giorgio Sardo). If you have the Live Search provider as your default search provider, you can do some interesting requests:

  • type in a stock symbol, and get back the current rate with the MSN stock report (see picture below). This report indicates that I will be working for several years to come. 8->
  • type in “weather LOCATION” and get back the current weather for LOCATION. You can type in [city,state] or a zip code.
  • type in a calculation, like (3+5)*1.2 and get back the result
  • type in an simple equation, like X+6=1 and get back the X value
  • type in a temperature conversion with 5 degrees C in F to get Celsius converted to Fahrenheit, or 70 degrees f in c to get F—>C.
  • type in define XYZ and you’ll get a definition of XYZ.
  • type in character names like Mickey Mouse or Superman to get visual search
  • type in celebrities, like Bill Clinton, to get related visual search results

 

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For the developers reading this, I saw the IE8 team blog yesterday on how to add your own search providers for sites that you like. In this post, Jane Kim (see her MIX 2008 presentation, Integrating Your Site With IE8) creates several search providers of her favorite sites, and shows how simple connecting into an existing search page can be. If you take a look at the install links that Jane provides, you can see the URL of the search provider definition AND then hit that directly to see the XML. For example, Jane has a Food TV search provider install link, which the syntax looks like:

javascript:window.external.addSearchProvider('http://www.ieaddons.com/en/DownloadHandler.ashx?ResourceId=1065')

If I hit the link to the XML directly (http://www.ieaddons.com/en/DownloadHandler.ashx?ResourceId=1065), I get the search provider definition:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<OpenSearchDescription xmlns="http://a9.com/-/spec/opensearch/1.1/">
                <ShortName>Food Network</ShortName>
                <Description>Food Network provider</Description>
                <InputEncoding>UTF-8</InputEncoding><Url type="text/html" template="http://www.foodnetwork.com/search/delegate.do?fnSearchString={searchTerms}&amp;fnSearchType=recipe"/></OpenSearchDescription>

This can easily be done as an accelerator too, but that’s a conversation for another day.

On a final note, several of these features that I’ve mentioned are related to our Live Search service. It turns out the the Live Search team has already enabled their site to do special things for IE8 users. For example, type in a stock symbol (like MSFT) or a weather search (weather Memphis,TN) and you’ll see a web slice option in IE8. See the stock example below. We’ll talk about this more in the future.

 

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