Microsoft has provided a detailed explanation of how desktop search will work in Windows 8, spelling out a future where the default results will all be apps.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Search, View and Command User Experience Team program manager Brian Uphoff described how search would work on Windows 8's new Metro user interface. Windows 7 allowed search from the start menu, but the upcoming version of Windows will not feature such a menu, at least not in recognisable form.
For one thing, search will be activated from the home or 'start' screen simply by starting to type. Not everyone will realise this can be done, so pressing the Windows key or the Search 'charm' will also activate search, but Uphoff said early tests showed "people tend to serendipitously discover" that just typing works.
In Windows 7, a search will bring up several types of results in one menu, cramming them all into a limited space. Uphoff noted that each group — apps, settings, files and so on — would contain an average of three to four results.
However, Microsoft's research has shown that two-thirds of all Windows 7 start menu searches are for apps, with 22 percent for files and around nine percent for Control Panel items.
Therefore, a search in Windows 8 will provide as default a full-screen list of apps that match the search terms. A narrower menu on the right-hand side of the screen makes it easy to then choose to see setting or file results.
"These search result views are a natural progression from the Windows 7 groups and are easily accessible from anywhere in the operating system via the Search charm or keyboard shortcuts," Uphoff wrote. "Separating searches for apps, settings, and files into their own views allows room for each of them to evolve and breathe — this way they can each provide their own ideal display format — unlike the single list of results in previous versions, which required conformity to achieve aggregation in the limited space."
Uphoff gave the example of file search, which uses filters to "easily refine the results based on the type of file you're searching for". App results, on the other hand, can be tailored in different ways by the developers of the apps in question.
"Each app developer understands their data and users best, and knows the best way to present the information to them," Uphoff wrote.
All settings and Control Panel results will appear in one group, Uphoff said. He added that Microsoft had noted complaints from early testers that shutdown was not available as a search result, and said the company "will address this along with improvements to the Start user interface for shutdown".
One notable excision from the new search functionality is that of email and contact search. Uphoff said less than 0.05 percent of searches from the start menu in Windows 7 had been for emails, adding: "The inclusion of email search never got the generalised support from mail clients that we had hoped for."