IE8 has a lot of big new features (see the IE blog for more of that), but what I like about it is the small things. This is the first in a short series of my favorites little features that I haven’t seen mentioned much (or at all) elsewhere:

Search Engine Quick Pick

imageI am so thrilled with the way this turned out. Early in IE8 planning, we spent a bunch of time looking at how people use search engines. One key observation was that users tend to have one (or maybe two) “main” search engine (say, Google, Yahoo or Live), and any number of “vertical” or specialized search engines.

We wanted to make it as easy as possible for users to be able to switch between the main search engine and these vertical engines. Thus, the Quick Pick menu was born. I still remember sketching it out roughly on a piece of paper in Sharon’s office (Sharon is the main Program Manager for the search features in IE8), and then seeing it mocked up by the awesome designers (Ben is the man) a few days later, adding in the “Find” button – which solved a common discovery problem we had with the Find dialog in IE7.

The team executed it perfectly – it takes two clicks to re-execute any search on any of your sites. Even more important, the site you choose doesn’t persist (i.e. your main search engine will be the default again in a new window). This is because Quick Pick is designed to help you search those specialized search engines, and you don’t want Amazon or Youtube to be your default, just because you happened to search on it once (ahem, other browsers :).

Bonus feature: Watch what happens to the text box if you do a search using the search box on Live search, and then, on the search results page, you change the search term using the box on the page. It works with any search engine (as long as the engine doesn’t have redirects in the query URL like, for example, the Ebay one). The idea behind this feature was to support a more complex variant of the pattern described above (searching on multiple engines): (1) search on A using the IE search box, (2) refine the search a couple times using the search box on the page, then (3) two clicks in the IE search box to search somewhere else using your refined search term.