If you’re already using IE8 Beta 2, you’ve probably already seen the new search features available in IE8, perhaps you’ve even tried them out. Today I’d like to show you these features in greater detail and fill you in on some of the things we were thinking about when we created them.

Our goal for IE8 is to make searching for what you need faster and easier. We want you to search for the right term on the right provider and get the right information as quickly as possible. Here’s how we make that happen in IE8:

  • Search Suggestions present you with suggested queries as you type which help you compose and research your query.
  • Visual Search Suggestions are suggestions which include an image and additional text. These can help you visualize what you are searching for and sometimes even get you the information you need without even leaving the search box.
  • The QuickPick menu enables you to easily switch to your secondary, non-default, Search providers allowing you to search with the right provider every time.
  • History results, directly accessible from the search box, show you pages you’ve already visited and save you a click or two. 
  • Automatic Search Accelerators allow you to send selected text on a webpage to any of your search providers skipping the cumbersome copy and paste step.    
  • Search query synchronization keeps the search box up to date with your most recent query term even if you search within a webpage instead of the search box. You can quickly edit or redirect your searches.

Search and Visual Search Suggestions

Search Suggestions allow your installed search providers to suggest different queries to you while you are typing. This is great when you aren’t sure of how to spell someone’s name or you can’t quite remember if the movie was called “The Birdcage” or “The Bird’s Nest”. You might already be familiar with textual search suggestions as they are already in use on some popular websites and in some toolbars. (IE8 supports JSON suggestions which some of these use.) 

In IE8, we expanded the notion of a suggestion. In addition to providing text suggestions, search providers can now deliver visual suggestions, suggestions which include an image. The picture below shows text suggestions from Live Search and visual suggestions from Amazon.

IE8 Live Search Text Suggestion and IE8 Amazon Visual Search Suggestions

Check out how Amazon customized the title of their suggestions section allowing them to indicate how many product matches are available for a given search term. You’ll also notice below how search providers can add additional separators to their suggestions. Both eBay and The New York Times have included separators which distinguish query suggestions from product or article results. 

eBay and New York Times Search Results With Added Separators

Above, you can see that some of the suggestions include some additional gray italic text. This text is simply a description, and provides some additional information about the suggestion or result. These allow you to make an informed decision about which selection might be most useful to you. 

To try out these, and other search providers, head over to the new IE Gallery site

If you own a website and are interested in supporting search suggestions, you can read more about how it works and how to implement suggestions on MSDN. Also, stay tuned to the IE blog for more info on this topic.

QuickPick Menu

Searching on the right provider, at the right time, is a key factor in helping you find the right information. Searching on Live Search for “The Office” returns good results for sites about the show or NBC, but if what you are really interested in is DVDs of The Office then you probably want to be searching on Amazon or eBay. With the QuickPick, searching on your secondary providers is just two clicks away. 

As soon as you click in the Search box, the QuickPick menu will appear. This menu shows the icons of your installed search providers. When you hover over them, you will see a tooltip with the provider’s name. 

IE8 QuickPick Menu

Click on the search provider you want to switch to and you’ll be off and searching on that new provider. Find on Page is also accessible from the QuickPick menu when you click on the “Find…” button. The QuickPick will drop below search suggestions after you start typing so you can access it at all times.

The QuickPick always remains a single line regardless of how many search providers you have installed, and in the default search box size, will hold up to eight providers on the QuickPick menu. To allow more providers on the menu, simply increase the size of the search box by hovering your mouse between the search box and address bar; you will see a horizontal arrow appear at which point you can click to drag the search box to your preferred size. 

Additionally, the order of your search providers can be changed, so you can choose to place your most frequently used providers upfront for quick access. To change the search providers order from Manage Add-ons; click the search box dropdown arrow and select Manage Search Providers.

History Results

The last section that you’ll notice in the search box dropdown contains results from your local History. Imagine you’ve already visited a site, you just can’t remember exactly what it was. This is where history results can be helpful, they show you where you’ve already been. The results are searched on by the URL and the title of the page. They are the same results you’ll see when you type in the address bar. Christopher and Seth posted some details earlier this week about how the address bar uses Windows Search to give you great results.

History Section of Search Results

Search Accelerators

By now, hopefully you’ve read about and tried out Accelerators (“Activities” in Beta 1). We hope you’ve noticed that all your search providers are now available as Accelerators. Your default search provider will always be your default search Accelerator and your secondary providers will always be available in the Accelerator overflow menu. 

IE8 Accelerators Menu including the Overflow Accelerators Menu

If you own a website, you may be thinking “well that’s great… but I want my search provider to support Accelerator Previews. Does that mean that I need to build both an Accelerator and a search provider?” Actually, no, you don’t need both of these! If you want to build a search provider which supports an Accelerator preview, you can do that by adding the Accelerator preview URL to your OpenSearch description file. Details can be found here.

Search Query Synchronization

One last cool feature you may not have noticed yet is search query synchronization. As you search on your installed search providers, IE will track queries done from within the websites of those providers. For example, if Live Search is one of your installed search providers, try this:

  1. Navigate to www.live.com
  2. Search for something from within the webpage
  3. Check out your search box

The term that you searched for is now populated in the search box. (Note that this may not work on all search providers due to redirections or changes in the URL that IE isn’t able to recognize and correlate to one of your installed providers.)

With this nifty little feature, if you ever need to switch search providers, your latest search query term is already waiting for you up in the search box.