December 13, 2004

butterflies everywhere

A few from-the-hip reactions to Microsoft’s new desktop search client…  First, the good:

  • It’s fast.  I don’t have the largest library of docs and email, but I also don’t have the fastest processor / hard drive, and I was done indexing in about fifteen minutes.  And results are returned very quickly as well.
  • The search results UI is rich.  This is my primary complaint with the Google desktop search – returning local results in a web page limits options for sorting, filtering, etc.  Microsoft’s integrates into Explorer, and lets you filter by documents, messages, contacts, etc., and then sort by date, author, etc.
  • Deskbar incremental search.  It exists, it’s responsive, returns likely results, and stores your search history.

But in my humble opinion, the UI needs work…

  • Generally they’ve limited the power-user’s ability to customize the look and feel of the toolbars, the app, etc.
  • The Outlook toolbar doesn’t let you customize its buttons – you can’t remove the butterfly – and won’t let you drag and drop the toolbar (like any other) to different areas of the app.
  • Similar complaint with the deskbar – you can’t remove the butterfly, and it doesn’t behave terribly well when you have your taskbar set to auto-hide, or if you have your taskbar docked to anywhere else except the bottom of your screen.
  • The search result UI is rich, but could use some information design.  The titles of the documents or subject lines of the emails are only distinguished by color, and not by font weight or size. 
  • There are no options for configuring the search results UI.  I’d love, for instance, to limit or eliminate the preview in order to show more results per screen.
  • Related to that, the chrome is out of control.  More blue pixels, and more butterflies.  I get the need for branding; but this just screams “our branding is more important than your search results.”  Bleh.

Unfortuntely, it’s the UI things that are driving me to uninstall.  I live in Windows about 12 hours a day, and have spent plenty of time customizing the way its UI looks, feels and works.  I’m not ready for butterflies everywhere.  It makes me wonder else they’re planning on pushing the MSN brand into the Windows user experience…