Microsoft, on Sunday released the finalized version of its desktop search tool, taking aim at Google and other rivals in the increasingly competitive search market.
The MSN Search Toolbar, which was introduced on a trial basis five months ago, provides a way to search for Email, documents and other data stored on hard drives much more quickly and efficiently than the "Find" function found in Windows.
Google, which became the Web's top search engine after its debut in 1998, was the first major search company to roll out a test version before bringing the tool out proper in March this year. Search rival Yahoo released its test, or beta, desktop search tool in January.
While Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are competing on the Windows desktop, Apple Computer has also beefed up search capabilities for its Macintosh computer operating system. The latest Mac OS, called Tiger, includes a fast desktop search tool called "Spotlight."
Christopher Payne, vice president of MSN Search, said Microsoft's desktop search tool was more flexible, offering users the ability to exclude sensitive information from the search index.
Microsoft's new desktop search, which can be downloaded from http://desktop.msn.com, can also be accessed from the Internet Explorer Web browser, the Outlook Email and contacts program or from the Windows desktop.
"It's actually a time-saver," Payne said.
Using add-ins, users can also search more than 200 different file types, including Excel, PowerPoint, MP3, GIF and JPG files. PDF documents can be searched by the tool by downloading software components from Adobe Systems Inc.
MSN, Google and Yahoo desktop toolbars are free downloads, and are aimed at attracting users to their online services.
Payne said Microsoft would also offer its desktop search tool to enterprises for use on corporate computers.
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