MSN Toolbar Suite, First Impressions

I’ve had Microsoft’s beta desktop search tool running for about 18 hours now and have some observations to make.

On the up side:

1. I love the emphasis given to the metadata.

2. Searches are quick and effective.

3. Shorcuts and commands from the deskbar rock!

4. Word Wheel is a great interface!

5. Right-click actions & drag and drop make the results much more useful.

On the down side:

1. The indexer doesn’t seem to handle multiple logged-in users very well. I haven’t done a controlled test to verify this yet, but when I logged into my home machine this morning, it appeared that the indexer had been running even while I logged in as a different user (Fast user switching). If anyone has trouble duplicating this, feel free to contact me (email address is in my profile).

Further suggestions:

1. Just like everyone else, I wish this would integrate with Hotmail a little more closely. Let me search my email! Even better, let me index multiple account types (Hotmail, gMail, POP, IMAP, Exchange), and let me add several email accounts to my search profile.

2. RSS! Let me include an opml blogroll for indexing. I don’t know how many times I’ve said to myself “Now I just read something about that the other day on some blog” and then I spend 15 minutes searching Technorati to find it. It’d be awesome if MSN Search could keep track of my online “experience” and let me recall things easily. (This would make the most sense if MSN Messenger had an integrated Blog reader).

3. Allow the machine to publish a secured “search service” that would allow me to tie all the machines I use together into a search group.

That’s all for now…

MSN Toolbar Suite

Microsoft’s Desktop Search is live (in beta).

The teleconference is focusing on the user experience & integration with Windows, Outlook, etc. They’re also focusing on the inclusion of “verb actions” that allow you to launch content-appropriate actions with your findings.

Other pluses:

Uses Metadata

Respects privacy

High performance

Better Indexing

Integrates with products from various teams accross Microsoft.

More later after I get a chance to try it out.

MSN Desktop Search Today? Maybe?

The blogospher is buzzing with speculation and predictions about Monday’s Teleconference

The general concensus is that Microsoft if going to announce a desktop search product.

Robert Scoble has touched on this several times, and even provides a “Desktop Search Reviewers’ Guide”, which we can assume outlines how Microsoft’s offering is stronger & better than those from X1, Copernic, Google, and Yahoo!. This “guide to differentiation” is right in-line with a suggestion I made about the MSN Search Beta. Basically, if it’s not obvious, tell me why it’s better.

Neowin has their take here.

Mary Jo points to an alternate possibility of Microsoft launching Microsoft Office Outlook Live (MOOL) during the teleconference.

Maybe both? Maybe something more?

I’m hoping that Microsoft can deliver a little bit more than just a better desktop search today. Robert Scoble used words like “Wicked” & “Speechless”. Scoble is generally part of the “under promise, over deliver” camp. Even though contributing to the buzz is a far cry from a “promise”, it’s almost as bad to underdeliver on buzz as it is to fail to meet a promise.

Hopefully we’ll get a little more than we’re expecting.

Guessing what Scoble’s Talking About

I always get it wrong, but it’s fun to guess just the same.

In Robert Scoble’s 12-5 “Sunday Notes” post, he makes an ambiguous reference to an interview he did with a Microsoft Team that he “can’t talk about” but that he hopes will deliver something by Christmas…

So my official guess is that it’ll be an MSN branded web-based RSS aggregator. How else is the typical Spaces user supposed to keep track of all their friends?

More MSN Spaces Feedback

Ok, it’s been a few days, and I’ve got a few more thoughts and suggestions for the MSN Spaces team.

Import/Export on Blog Lists – It would be great if you would let me import and export blog lists as OPML, or even better, just let me point to an external OPML file and show the content in my space. Take this a step further, and let me point my “Blog” section to an external blog, and let me point my “Photos” to an external PhotoBlog. Consume the XML, format, and spit it back out. (I know it’s not quite _that_ simple, but it’s close…)

Copy/Paste – Copying a simple post from my normal blog into Spaces was painful. I had to manually copy paste urls and use the button to create links. It’d be great if the richtext editor could recognize and properly format some basic html.

Clear up that TOU, and Fast! – Michael Connolly tries to make it clear that rights on a user’s posts are not forfeited to Microsoft. The language of the TOU does not make this clear, and the FUD is flying through the blogosphere. The Spaces team is handling this pretty well, kudos for that, but the FUD is echoing…

MSN Spaces Redux, one day later…

Well, the first day saw slowdowns, error pages, many new “spaces”, complaints and praise.

Robert Scoble has been rounding up feedback.

I think the most significant part of this whole announcement is the fact that this service is not targetted at current bloggers.

It appears that Microsoft’s stated goal here is to bring the benefits of blogging (RSS, Pub/Sub model, Info sharing, Info Searching) to the masses, yet make it as simple to use as email or IM.

Here’s my wishlist:

Semi-WYSIWYG Spaces editor built in to MSN Messenger – Let me drag-drop pictures, audio, video & text, and integrate spelling & grammer checking.

Enclosures – I’m guessing you’re working on it. Again, integrate into Messenger. Maybe even give me a “record audio/video post” function. Focus on simplicity, Limit the number of clicks-to-publish.

Implement Categories – Then let me restrict access based on category.

RSS Feed Security – I know this one will take a while, but somehow figure out how to implement access restrictions on feeds. This may mean extending RSS a bit (I know MSFT has caught flak for the whole “embrace-extend” thing in the past, but RSS is supposed to be extensible!)

Customizable Themes – Background image uploads, color tweaking, etc.

Keep up the good work! V1 looks great!

MSN Spaces is Live!

In an announcement everyone was expecting, MSN Spaces went live today.

Scoble points to several reactions.

Scoble also lay’s out why it’s not going to get him to switch from UserLand.

I’m signing up to play with it, but I’ll echo Scoble’s comment # 2: If I can’t use my own (existing) domain, then I’m not going to migrate.

With that said, this new service might be the unified environment that brings blogging to the masses. We’ll just have to wait and see how well the marketing machine handles this one. A lot of us bloggers are echoing “yaawwwnnn”-like reactions, but remember, this may be the first blogging service that many internet users even consider using.

Now if only there was a smart client that would integrate with Spaces… I’m thinking something like: Right-click in Explorer -> Share Picture on MSN Spaces. now that’d be cool…