MSN Toolbar Suite Beta First Impressions

The last hour I’ve been playing with the new MSN Toolbar Suite Beta and I’m very impressed! I’m using Scoble’s Desktop Search Reviewer’s Guide to write down my first impressions. I've learned a lot by watching the videos over at Channel 9: highly recommended!

  • Index time: I cheated a little bit on this one, I choose the “Index Now” option and after a couple of minutes more than 12.000 files were indexed. Now I’m noticing that 5.000 files are left to index, so the Toolbar Suite has found some more files to index after an hour or so.
  • What can it do, and what can’t it do? Maybe this one is a little bit early to judge, but so far it finds everything as expected.
  • Performance degradation: The full index raised my processor usage to around 20%, and the Toolbar Suite process took about 14 MB of memory. Once the initial full index was done, the memory usage has dropped to around 2 MB which is very acceptable. I can’t notice any performance degradation while working, when the computer is idle and there’s some stuff that needs to be indexed, the indexing process starts again. But when you continue working, the indexing stops immediately. It seems that when you’re on battery power indexing is disabled as well, nice!
  • User interface: People who know probably know that I’m a smart client type-a-guy, so I’m very happy that MSN Toolbar Suite comes with a very nice GUI. The UI resembles the web interface of, but you get all the rich client features like: drag-and-drop, right click, context menus, responsive UI, …  This is great!
  • Security/privacy: I haven’t looked into this one yet, but my guess is that the team did notmake the same mistakes as the Google Desktop Search team did in the beginning. IE history is not indexed, and the indexing is performed with a normal account (non-admin).
  • Does it play well with others? No idea, I didn’t like the Google approach (web interface) so I didn’t install it.
  • Does it work on other machines? I’ve tried it on my laptop and desktop, and on a couple of VPC’s, so far so good: no problems to report.
  • Advertising? Nope!
  • Integration: I think this one is (as always) one of the strong points of the Microsoft branded product. You get a nice integration with IE, Outlook and Windows. The only remark: when you search from within Outlook, a new window is opened. In my opinion showing the results inside Outlook would be more appropriate.
  • Price: the price is right, thank you Microsoft.
  • Download size: this one isn’t an issue for me, the download is around 5 MB.
  • File types: Of course all the office documents are indexed perfectly. I haven’t tried more exotic file types.
  • Search results: as I mentioned it finds everything as expected!
  • Customizable: the MSN Desktop Search comes with a fair amount of properties. I think “normal” users won’t get lost in them, and “power” users will be able to tweak the system.
  • Advanced features: so far I’m impressed but more on these one later on.
  • Space for the logo: you can’t seem to hide the MSN logo, but I don’t think that’s a problem. At least it doesn’t bother me.

So what are the cool things? The most important one for me is that the MSN Desktop Search has a rich user interface, drag-and-drop, right click everything works as it should do. A nice-to-have feature is the quick launch function: you can type for example “=calc” in the MSN Deskbar (which sits in the task bar) and the calculator will start. A more important feature is the shortcut functionality; to try it type “@” in your MSN Deskbar and read the quick help. Next type for example “@c,=calc”. The result is that you’ve created a shortcut “c” to the command “=calc”. So when you enter “c” in the Deskbar and hit enter, the calculator starts. This is already quite interesting, but it gets even better. You can also create shortcuts for URLs, even those who contain parameters! So if you type “@msdn,$w” in the Deskbar, you’ve created a shortcut to the MSDN search page which contains a parameter ($w). Now if you type “msdn smartpart” for example, MSDN will be searched for the term “smartpart”. Pretty cool isn’t it? Another nice one is when you type in the Deskbar for each keypress a new search will be fired, because the searching is so lightening fast you get a pretty smooth experience.


Are there any bad things about the MSN Desktop Search, is there room for improvements? So far I’m pretty pleased, but here are some personal remarks:

  • When you press the ctrl+alt+m keys, you will open the Deskbar, but the focus isn’t on the textbox, so you can’t start typing right away.
  • The space is my taskbar is very precious, the Deskbar isn’t big but it would be nice if for example the Deskbar was collapsed by default. When you’d click the Deskbar (or press that shortcut) the Deskbar should expand to its normal size. The next days/weeks will leave the Deskbar in my taskbar, but it has to deserve its spot over there! :-)
  • Another important player in the Microsoft search field is SharePoint Portal Server search. I'd love to see some integration here, for example adding a SharePoint Portal Server as a content source for MSN Desktop Search. This shouldn't be hard to accomplish, SPS has some web services which can be used to search through it's indexed content.

Scoble, can you make sure these features will be available in the next release?? Just kidding :-) although passing them to the search team would be cool! And if you do so, please also pass my congratulations to them: nice job and keep up the good work!


  • Thanks Robert! I forget to mention the videos... post is updated. :-)

  • Very nice! It even index your ID3 tags of your mp3 files. Ofcourse I don't have illegal music on my pc :)

  • "When you press the ctrl+alt+m keys, you will open the Deskbar, but the focus isn’t on the textbox, so you can’t start typing right away."

    - The focus should go right to the Deskbar edit box. Are you using a Table PC or some other special OS extension?

    "The space is my taskbar is very precious, the Deskbar isn’t big but it would be nice if for example the Deskbar was collapsed by default."

    - There are a couple of things you can do here. You can drag the Deskbar off the explorer taskbar, by clicking and holding on the gripper (the dark dots to the left of the deskbar), and dragging it on to your Desktop. It will then float, like a separate window, freeing up Taskbar space. You can also, then, dock it to the sides of your screen, and even set it to autohide (right click on it while it's docked).

    Finally, if you really want it small, you can actually remove the Deskbar buttons (MSN and/or Go Button) completely, by doing this:

    - type =regedit in the Deskbar to run registry editor.

    - Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\MSN Apps\DB

    - Add a new DWORD value, named Buttons

    - Set the value to 1 to remove ALL buttons

    - Set the value to 2 to remove just the GO button


  • well i wasnt so impressed by this search your desktop thing. it is too big, too slow, and doesnt find things as i expoected. a simple search shows up one or two item from "my documents" folder and you have to go change the settings. I'll pass till their 3rd attempt.

  • Jan,

    Thanks for the review. It always nice to see additional feedback from different viewpoints like the wish for inclusion of SPS.

    I personally would like to see some more settings for Outlook as Lookout had (such as what folders are indexed.)

    I also agree about optionally opening the search within the Outlook GUI.

    I however, found it to be fairly slow to index my system. I installed it about 10:05am Monday morning and now (2:45am Wednesday) it has not indexed all of my files yet. I have forced it Monday night to Index Now, and I was gone all day today. Of course, it has indexed 276,775 files and thinks it has 11,323 items left to index (this jumps from 0 to 12,000+ often.)

    Next, I hope that the interface looks more professional. The webpage that is in use for the results doesn't look as crisp as Google's results (also the same as

    Of course, it is only a "BETA".

  • SPS searching is already in the beta, although hidden/deactivated/incomplete (pick one) and will let you add/remove search servers and more.

    - Rafael

  • Great if you want to search MSN, of course i wanted to search MY DESKTOP.

    How many MSN WEB references do I need in a DESKTOP search engine.


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