MSN Search Toolbar with Windows Desktop Search is primarily a query tool accessible from a multitude of Windows components, including the Taskbar, Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, Outlook, and Outlook Express. Like Copernic Desktop Search, MSN smartly inserts a query box in the Windows Taskbar, allowing you to run local searches by simply typing a word or a phrase within the window. And as does Yahoo Desktop Search, MSN Desktop Search also adds a query toolbar to Outlook and Outlook Express. Like other desktop search apps we've reviewed, MSN Search now includes the ability to preview the contents of your files without having to open the associated application. MSN also has a page of add-ins for more detailed searches within file formats, such as PDF and ZIP.
Like Copernic, Yahoo, and others, MSN uses "word wheeling" technology that immediately begins displaying matches as you type. And MSN's toolbar plug-ins for Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer, and the two Outlooks are handy for impromptu searches. As does Apple Mac Tiger's SmartFolders feature, MSN allows you to save your favorite desktop search queries and automatically update them with new e-mail and documents. Say London is your favorite topic of interest; simply save your desktop search on the word, then anytime you receive a new e-mail or document referencing London, it will be added to your folder.
Unrelated to search is the newfound capability within MSN Search to open more than one Web page within Internet Explorer 6 without spawning more than one instance of IE, a feature already popular within Firefox, Netscape, and Safari. Although IE 7 (currently slated for later this year) is expected to include tabbed browsing, MSN Search provides it today as an add-on to Internet Explorer 5.5 or later. You'll first need to be running Windows 2000 SP3 or later or Windows XP; if you're using another version of Windows, you're out of luck.
Unfortunately, the many cosmetic enhancements to the MSN Search Toolbar do nothing to improve the actual search results from MSN Search itself. Perhaps recognizing that other search engines can perform slightly better, MSN Search allows you to change the default search engine to Yahoo or Google if you prefer. That gesture alone improves our opinion of MSN Search Toolbar with Windows Desktop Search tenfold.