A cynic might ask: ‘Is there a place I can’t find search on the Web?’
It’s easy enough to keep a Google, Yahoo or other search engine page open and most browsers include toolbars from all of the major search engines.
But then you’re either leaving the page you’re working on or at least the application where you are working to get at the search function. The latest release from Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Gmail Labs provides more ready access to the search engine from within the e-mail application.
“People would ask me questions, over chat or email, and I’d have to leave Gmail to search Google for an answer. Then I’d have to select the answer, copy it, go back to Gmail and paste the answer into the chat window or my reply,” said Google software engineer Adam de Boor, in a blog post on the release.
You can add this latest Labs feature (or “experiments” as Google calls them) by clicking on “Settings” at the top of the Gmail page, then selecting “Labs.” The Labs view shows a long list of available features. Click “Enable” next to “Google Search” to get the new feature.
Depending on what else you’re using in Gmail, the default setting can push the search box far down the page or even to a second screen. You can have it show higher up on the main Gmail page if you also enable Navbar drag and drop from the Labs sections.
The news comes as part of Google’s efforts to promote the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model versus more traditional on-premises solutions, such as Microsoft Office which is also developing its own Software-Plus-Services model that will include a free version of Office.
The top three results and more
The search feature is a simple, unobtrusive entry box integrated in the left hand column of Gmail along folders and chat contacts. The results popup takes up about one-fifth of the page and features the top three results with a “More…” link at the bottom to expand to more results.
“We’ve found that few people go beyond the first three results,” de Boor said in an e-mail interview with InternetNews.com. He also noted the results aren’t as comprehensive as what Google.com provides.
“We don’t yet return you things like local results, movie showtimes, or the special stuff you get on google.com,” said de Boor. “I expect I’ll be able to add that in the near future.”
You can also enter multiple search queries and have separate popup result screens stay active.
Clicking on any result will open a new Web page. Alternatively, you can also right click a result to have it appear in a new tab.
If you have keyboard shortcuts turned on (under Settings), you can also quickly access the search box by typing the letter “g” and a slash (“/”) when you’re not composing an e-mail, or Ctrl + g if you are composing an e-mail.
The release comes as part of a steady stream of interim feature updates to various Google services. Last month Gmail celebrated its five anniversary and also filled a notable competitive gap by adding the ability to insert images in Gmail messages.