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The coolest search engine
A screenshot of the home page of Bing

Last month Microsoft’s profits dived by 32 per cent, the first time in 25 years. The company did not panic. A few days ago it launched Bing, an innovative search engine that will certainly give Google a run for its money.

The past month saw launches of some search engines. Two in particular were able to generate hype: Bing and Wolfram Alpha. Searches for Wolfram Alpha began to build up in the weekend after its launch on May 15, peaking on May 18, and trailing off after that. It had a strong showing, and then interest waned.

Interest in Bing, on the other hand, started out just as strong with its unveiling last week. Then, when it was actually launched, interest shot up even higher. The positive experience people had with their first search certainly helped. Now, the question is: can Bing keep up the momentum, or will interest in this search experiment fade away too? You will hear a lot more about Bing over the next few months: on TV, on the Web, and, yes, even on Google. Microsoft cannot afford to let Bing disappear from view. It is far too good.

So what is it that hooks you on to Bing? A small experiment got me hooked to the search engine. I wrote the name of a reporter of Anandabazar Patrika in Bengali and it displayed a story he had written. No other search engine is capable of doing this. Especially so because the website www.anandabazar.com uses a proprietary Bengali font in a very complex way. I was impressed and decided to probe further.

Manually setting the location, that is, switching from India to the US or UK, changes Bing significantly. There are at least three different versions of Bing right now. Depending on where you are, your Bing experience will vary.

On the surface, the Bing home page may appear similar to others: a single search box as a starting point, surrounded by colourful or currently relevant imagery. But click deeper and you’ll discover so much more. Searchers often don’t know about the range of content that search engines can fetch for them. The home page — with its rich imagery, informational hotspots, and clear and prominent links for images, video, news and products — helps searchers choose the best scope for their query.

Try it: Hover over one of the hotspots on the home page to be taken to a fact you probably didn’t know. This is available if you change your country setting to US. Bing automatically suggests similar terms or common refinements that searchers have used in the past, or that Bing knows are related to the term you’re typing. But Google does that too, so nothing new.

Bing also includes a new feature that takes the captions you see beneath a search result a step further. Hovering over a search result gives you a better sense of whether a site contains the information you’re looking for or not, without taking up valuable real estate on the search page. For certain sites, Bing also offers Deep Links from within the preview. Just try the following:

1.Enter a search query for “iPhone 3.0”.

2. When you hover over a search result, it displays an orange spot on the right side of the link.

3. Moving your cursor to the spot reveals a window containing a portion of copy from the Web link in question.

4. You can then connect to the Web link from within the preview window by clicking on “Go to the page”.

The video search is even better. You’ll get results not only from YouTube, but from a variety of sites. Just hold your mouse over the video snapshot and the movie starts playing. Cool, isn’t it?

Bing is still in Beta mode. I suggest you make it your home page for the next few weeks and keep a watch on the changes that take place. It works best with Internet Explorer 8.

Google Squared

Nobody rests in the tech world. Even before Wolfram Alpha was launched people began writing about it as a Google killer. Wolfram Alpha is a great comparison tool. To get the best out of it, you must first know how to use it. A mathematics problem posed to a student will get solved in seconds. It will give you all the steps too. You can either cheat or learn. The choice is yours.

Google Squared is just your search results in column and row form. So, you can search for flights to a destination and get a list of departures, airlines, costs in a format that’s much easier to consume than the typical search results. You can add additional columns and Google will try to help you fill in those blanks. It, too, is a great comparison tool. To try it, go to www.google.com/squared.

Send in your computer-related problems to askdoss@abpmail.com.The solutions will appear soon.


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