Microsoft Research video shows off next-generation Windows desktop search?

A recently produced Microsoft Research promotional video (via Bernard Oh) decorated with various snippets of new and upcoming research projects caught my eye when images of a Windows Vista-like search interface flashed for split seconds. Curious like a cat, I sourced a high-resolution copy of the video to take a closer look.

Even though the focal blur effect is quite ridiculous, you can make out enough visual elements to identify the Aero interface window frame and the address bar. The gray bar below that appears to be some sort of time/date filter with only enough clarity to make out “Last Month”, “This Year” and “Last Year”.

The files in the first screenshot appear stacked by file type, but not the file type you might be familiar with. Folders and programs also appear as a stack, and there are also stacks with multiple types (ex. feed & communication, picture & communication). I can only assume these are feeds or emails with pictures embedded inside them. And unlike the stacks in Windows Vista, these have icons which represent the file types instead of identical blue panels.

The second screenshot shows off the address bar with the search “place” expanded. The list includes “My Computer” and a network share called “MSW” but also external “places” such as Amazon or YouTube. In this screenshot is also a right pane which appear to list the specific files inside a particular stack. The picture stack appears selected, thus a list of PNGs appear.

The third screenshot shows off a very subtle preview overlay when you hover over these stacks. Whilst the picture doesn’t do it justice, the individual previews actually fade in and appear in the “deck” and moves down the deck until it eventually fades out.

In conclusion, I really don’t know what to make of this except it is super exciting. Bearing in mind Microsoft Research contributed to the Windows Vista desktop search functionality, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if these are ideas or prototypes for the next generation search interface. But to play devil’s advocate, this is Microsoft Research after all.

You can find the full video below and the shots above are from captured from timecode 1:36min or -3:04min.

30 insightful thoughts

  1. You can actually expect the Windows 7 search to be a lot more visually appealing, and graphical based. Windows Search 4 has brought allot of underlying power. Now the question is, how do we make it easier for average users to take advantage of the power? How do me show them the large amounts of filters and constraints? How do we make searching, fun? This is what the Search Component of Windows 7 will focus on.

  2. Wait a second, you missed something, IMHO, much better. A while ago there was this rumor of a spherical Surface computer… If I’m not mistaken, they’re showing that from 3:57 to 3:59.

  3. Hey there, Long. Excellent find there, my friend! You really make up for the times I don’t run across a single freakin’ thing anywhere else. lol. Then again, just about all viewers of your blog can say that, probably. lol. Excellent work, sir. =)

  4. I remember reading somewhere that Windows 7 will feature a lot of Windows Live integration. Maybe you’ve uncovered another new feautre of a Windows 7 internal build!

  5. hi long.
    if you open up .temp files inside Windows Photo Gallery, something similar happens.

  6. Go to the frame where you capped the 3rd screenshot. Replay it for a few more times. Notice that the pictures in the subtle preview overlay changes a bit before the shot’s cut? Maybe it’s a feature that lets you have a glimpse of the files in a stack, automatically or by manual operation, e.g. scrolling with the scroll wheel?

  7. Cool video 🙂 and nice finding too…

    And “ollywally” what exactly are you saying? which .temp file we need to open in photo gallery..and if so, what similar thing happens?

  8. that looks like old school Longhorn (c. 2003-04)

    anybody else catch the word “Horizon” at 1:17, as in “Windows Live Horizon”?

  9. There’s all these small bits of things people are coming across which all hint at Windows being quite integrated with web services — which is what Windows 7 is rumoured to have and I believe there’s an ambiguous quote from a MS executive hinting at this too and the ‘pillars’ for Windows 7, etc.

    Anyway, Windows 7 will be quite interesting.

  10. MSW is the primary/landing page for the intranet at Microsoft. I wonder if it wraps up the call to sharepoint search…?

  11. The 3rd picture is making me crazy because stack don’t really make a lot of sense without a feature like that one to filofax through them. I couldn’t believe that at least the album cover stacks in wmp 11 didn’t do this. Things are so half-assed and inspired as they are. We really have to wait for a whole new os to get this obvious feature?

  12. Finally having animations in Windows is enough to make me smile. I mean, afterall, wont that close the ‘gap’ between Windows and OSX?

  13. Stacks still need to visually display the amount of items in each. The early longhorn stacks did this. While it appears they don’t even do it in the new prototype. Come on Microsoft…. get with the game.

  14. Windows Desktop Search 4 fixed a very important and nasty bug. When a file is deleted, it’s index location is also deleted. Same happens when you move a huge folder…

  15. OK, where did you source the high-res version of the video from and where can I get a copy? I’d like to show this to my developers and if I’m going to project it on a 12′ screen it better be high-res…

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