As some of you must have noticed, the new Live Search shipped a couple of weeks back, and last week, became the service that replaces what used to be MSN Search as well. The new service offers a bunch of improvements and new features over both MSN Search and the earlier beta search experience on Live.com. Read this post on the Live Search blog for a summary of what’s new.
I specifically want to highlight one of the features in Live Search – Search Macros. If you haven’t heard about search macros before, please read my earlier post on the topic, but essentially, it is a way you, as a user, can create your own custom search engine and share it with other users.
In the earlier incarnation of search on Live.com, we offered a beta version of Search Macros that offered a basic experience to create, share and use macros. In the new Live Search, however, you will notice a whole new, vastly improved user experience for this feature. Here are some of the highlights:
1) First of all, there is an easy to remember start page where you can go to get, um, started. You can also get to this from the Live Search results pages by clicking ‘More’ on the scope bar and selecting ‘Edit Macros’.
2) You can now play with the feature and try to create some macros without first having to sign in (you need to sign in only when you are ready to save the macro). The new, wizard like experience to create macros is also very simple and quick to use.
3) You will notice there are now two modes for creating macros – a basic one and an advanced one. The basic one lets you quickly put together a list of sites that should be part of your macro. If your macro is a simple site filter, the basic experience is for you. If, on the other hand, you want to do more powerful customization and use our advanced search operators, you can use the advanced mode. The advanced mode lets you choose from a list of operators, and has a brief description and example for each one to help you get started with using it.
4) One of the cool new features is the ‘Test Search’ you will notice at the bottom of the page where you define your macro. This lets you quickly compare results from your macro to regular Live Search to test how your macro performs. You can then iteratively edit the macro definition till you like the results.
5) To save your macro, you need to sign in with a Windows Live ID (Passport) account. When you sign in, you will notice a clean new experience to manage your macros and Creator IDs (or namespaces). A Creator ID is something that associates the macro with you, and you can create multiple of these per passport account. For example, my ID is ‘rvp’, which stands for my full name.
6) Arguably the coolest new feature is the macro home page. For each macro you create, there is a customizable home page that you can bookmark and point friends and other folks to, to use your search engine. What’s more, the home page has an easy to remember URL, based on the name of the macro and the Creator ID associated with it. For example, I wrote a macro suited to developers working on the Microsoft platform to search for documentation, samples etc. Its called ‘mscoding’ and the url is simply:
Simple, easy to remember and small!
7) You can find macros that people have chosen to share at the Windows Live Gallery site. Here you can browse through macros by their tags or search for them directly in the search box. You can also find details of the macro, like its definition and description. Adding your own macro here is also easy, and the creation wizard I mentioned earlier will offer you an opportunity to do so.
8) You can find links to the creation page and the gallery from the Live Search results page under the ‘More’ scope. Also, when you use a macro (or other scope like Video), it will automatically show up in your scope bar, so you can use it again easily next time. That portion of the scope bar is a dynamic, ‘most recently used’ scopes list, so it will automatically feature the scopes/macros you use most often.
So try the feature out and let us know what you think! Your feedback will be very useful for future iterations of Search Macros, as we continually improve and incorporate new ideas!