Software

10 ways to get the most out of Bing

Even if you're a firmly entrenched Google user, you might find some useful new functionality in Bing. Greg Shultz looks at some of the Bing features you might want to investigate.

Even if you're a firmly entrenched Google user, you might find some useful new functionality in Bing. Greg Shultz looks at some of the Bing features you might want to investigate.


Using Google to search for everything is so ingrained into our computer-user personas, it's hard to imagine using anything else. Even so, Bing does offer a lot of features that make it a worthy addition to your Internet browsing toolkit, once you learn more about what the site has to offer. Here are 10 things you should know about using Bing.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Use it as a Decision Engine

Microsoft may be competing with Google by spending advertising dollars in the search universe, but it seems that the actual product has a slightly different aim. Microsoft is calling Bing a Decision Engine and positioning it as a new kind of tool, as described in this press release:

Bing is specifically designed to build on the benefits of today's search engines but begins to move beyond this experience with a new approach to user experience and intuitive tools to help customers make better decisions, focusing initially on four key vertical areas: making a purchase decision, planning a trip, researching a health condition or finding a local business.

The next time you're using the Web to make a decision about buying something, going somewhere, improving your health, or finding directions, give Bing a shot.

2: Find interesting information

Sites such as StumbleUpon and Digg allow you to randomly find interesting Web sites based on various categories. Similarly, the Informational Hotspots embedded in the amazing images on Bing's Home page allow you to instantly discover interesting facts simply by hovering over the hotspot (Figure A). If you want to learn more about that topic, click on the hotspot's popup box to initiate a search.

Figure A

Use the Informational Hotspots embedded in the Home page images to discover interesting facts.

3: Use the preview feature

One of the biggest downsides of investigating the results of a search operation is clicking a link only to discover that the site doesn't contain the information you are looking for. To help alleviate unnecessary clicking, Bing has a preview feature that gives you an idea of what the site has to offer. Just move your cursor to the right of a search result and hover over the orange bullet. When you do, a preview window appears that contains the first few sentences from the site's home page (Figure B). The preview boxes also can contain Deep Links, which are essentially links found on the main page that lead to content buried deeper in the site.

Figure B

The preview window provides a description from the Web site, as well as links that lead to content buried deeper in the site.

4: Take advantage of the Explorer pane

After you initiate a search operation, be sure to investigate the Explorer pane on the left side of the window for ways to refine your search. Depending on how broad your search term is, you'll find the Quick Tabs section at the top of the Explorer pane, which automatically arranges the search results in the most common categories according to that topic -- kind of like a table of contents. If you scroll down the page, you'll also discover that the displayed results are arranged according to the categories in the Quick Tabs section. Also in the Explorer pane you'll find a Related Searches section, which provides you with alternative, yet related searches. The Explorer pane also contains your Search History, making it easy to quickly return to a previous search.

5: Search for images in new ways

When you search for images, you'll encounter the Infinite Scroll feature. It basically puts all the image results on one page to reduce the amount of clicking from page to page while looking for the perfect picture. To help you quickly narrow your image search, the Explorer pane provides filters for narrowing your search results by using attributes such as size, layout, color, style, and people (Figure C). (If you are searching for an image with people in it, you can narrow to just faces or head and shoulders.) If you find an image you like, but it's not quite what you are looking for, hover over the image and select Show Similar Images to refine your search to images that share a similar characteristic.

Figure C

You can narrow your image search results by using attributes such as size, layout, color, and style.

6: Get videos and more

When you access the main Videos page, you'll see an interface reminiscent of Windows Media Center. Featured TV shows and music videos take center stage and allow you to easily peruse the collections. Search for videos, and you'll see the results as thumbnails. When you hover over a thumbnail, a preview of the video will begin playing. The Explorer pane provides filters for narrowing your search results by attributes such as length, screen type, resolution, and source. (Bing can pull the video from multiple sources, including MSN, AOL, MTV, ESPN, YouTube, MySpace, Daily Motion, Metacafe, and Hulu.)

7: Save and share your searches

If you find a really great set of search results, you know that you can always access them later in your Search History in the Explorer pane. However, you can take your search history to a new level with the Save & Share feature (Figure D). Just click the See All link in the Search History section. You can then select any search and save it to your hard drive or, if you have a Windows Live account, to your SkyDrive folder. You can even share your search results with friends and family via Windows Live, Facebook, or email.

Figure D

You can save a search to your hard drive or SkyDrive folder, as well as share them via Windows Live, Facebook, or email.

8: Get Instant Answers

Often, when you are searching the Internet, you're looking for a quick answer to a question right at hand, and you don't have time to scan thru a bunch of search results just to find it. To help you out, Bing provides a feature called Instant Answers. Using your question, a special keyword along with your search term will bring up an Instant Answer. For example, need the find the area code for Orlando? Just type Area code Orlando FL. Want to know who won a specific Super Bowl? Just type Who Won Super Bowl XXX? Need to convert currency? Just type Convert 100 dollars to pesos. Need more information on the types of Instant Answers available on Bing? Just type Help Instant Answers.

9: Create a Collection

When you're searching for a location in Bing's Maps and find what you are looking for, you can add the location to a Collection that's tied into to your Windows Live account. That way, when you need to find the location again, you can just open your collection and quickly access it. Just right-click on the map, select Add A Pushpin, fill in the Pushpin Properties form (Figure E), and click Save. You can then share your collection via email or your Windows Live blog.

Figure E

Creating Collections makes it easier to track down your favorite locations in the future.

10: Set your preferences

To customize the way that Bing works, pull down the Extras menu in the upper-right and select Preferences. You can then specify the Safe Search level, set your location, choose your language, and choose the number of search results to display on a page.

Bonus: Bing & Google

If you're a big Google fan and are not sure whether you want to rely solely on Bing, you may want to try the Bing & Google site to get the best of both worlds. Using an interesting approach, Bing & Google passes your search term to both search engines and then uses a frame-like interface to display the results side by side (Figure F).

Figure F

Get a side-by-side comparison on Bing & Google.


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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

17 comments
CassInfo
CassInfo

I use it for the cash back feature when shopping online. Works like Fatwallet.com but usually the saving percentage is higher on Bing - at least for now.

Roc Riz
Roc Riz

11) Use Google. Google is more mature of a search engine than Bing, so you may get better results!

Scott R.
Scott R.

Let me be the first (only) one to say I'm a full and happy convert from Google. I like Bing much better overall and love its features. This story taught me some more ways to utilize Bing. Thanks!

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

no thanks, I won't be using this flaky service. There have been three other threads on Bing in recent weeks and they all showed how faulty and flaky the service is. Check these links out, and the posts in the threads - http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-3513-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=314490 http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/hiner/?p=2351 http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/tr-out-loud/?p=979 This is the third Pro MS Bing blog in a few weeks, what's up? My comment to the last on the above list says it all, at http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-13622-0.html?forumID=102&threadID=314617&messageID=3140473 Quote Bing moves beyond search?? Sorry, but before it can do that it has to be e decent search engine first. I've tried it several times over the last few weeks and found that it's passable for finding sites on commercial operations in the USA but forget it outside of that. I just did a search on Bing and Google on "Ernest Bywater" - Bing says it has 130 hits and shows only 43; while Google says it has 1,830 hits and shows 154 -- however you look at that it's a major discrepancy in the results. Bing had only a couple of Australian site hits and the rest were all on US based servers; Google had a swag of Australian site hits, some European, some Japanese, and a lot of US based ones. How can you possibly trust Bing to help with a decision if it isn't get more than about a quarter of the information needed. end quote To me, Bing seems more focussed on showing you the web sites for the clients who've paid Bing to get them hits as against finding anything for you. That's the way it comes across from the results seen.

dogknees
dogknees

I look at the 4 areas they're aiming at and I pretty much don't do any of them online! Mostly I'm looking up information on something or other that I'm interested in. Generally very specific and unusual bits of information. While Bing is no worse than Google for this, it appears to be no better either after some testing. Any suggestions of better search engines for this sort of thing?

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

and Live wasn't all that good. From the ten minutes i spent with Bing, I am going to stick with my Google. Thank god their commercials are horrible. I think Google can sit back and not worry about this round.

TNT
TNT

The image search rocks. I love being able to search for image sizes, and the previews it provides are useful too. Bing isn't as good when searching for content... yet. I still turn to Google for most of my research, but when I need images it's Bing all the way. Thanks to this article I may try a few other types of searches on Bing. Like directions and such.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

What features or capabilities do you like about it? Maybe I'm not aware of them. Nothing in the article appealed to me; the features described aren't anything I'm interested in when I'm searching.

gljaeger
gljaeger

Each of us is going to have a preference in the services or products we use. For me, it is the quality of the results and not the quantity. Whether in the case of searching for information on "Ernest Bywater" Bing brings back less results than Google, or other searches; I want better qualified results. If one search engine returns 10, 000 results versus 500, and the results presented by the 500 return engine are more relevant that the 10, 000 results then they are the better search engine for that search. My point is that just because one engine provides more results, it does not follow those results are the best ones. Even though Bing provides a method to potentially down-select the results to give a better defined result, the final results are still out. There have been other solutions created providing the searcher with better relevant results using relevant keyword and phrase discovery and allowing the searcher to select a single context or create the context through the selection of multiple results. As I mentioned in the beginning, it is not about who is better at gaining revenue or user share, but who is better at delivering better relevant results.

Old Dodger
Old Dodger

I have just done a search on Google & Bing for Oleander Shrub. Google claimed 70,900 hits and showed 791, Bing claimed 92,000 hits and showed 1000. It would take an awful lot of searches on a whole range of topics to make a true comparison.I personally like Bing but still use the likes of Google and Wolfram alpha depending what I am looking for.

Gudufl
Gudufl

I also tend to look up very specific info and must agree with you on both Bing and Google. Furthermore I find the number of irelavant results disturbing and a waist of time. In those cases I use Webcrawler to help me out, and 9 out of 10 times it ends up being a great help in drilling down to info that I am looking for.

MikeGall
MikeGall

Is there are only a couple ways that I know of for search engines to work. Either: keywords in page/registered by owner/word search in page, or use more of a context/frequency of reference approach like Google. The problem is if the bit of information you are looking for isn't the "most important" thing on the page then it will probably not be linked to under that name, and it won't be listed as one of the keywords for the site. Additionally, Google will have a hard time rating a page high with your information in it if a lot of people aren't linking to/searching for the same thing. I'm not sure of a good workaround for this. Depending on the type of research you are doing perhaps a journal search site might be better for you. They will tell you journal articles on the subject that you can then look up. Of course the fun thing then is that the article will probably not be free you'll need access to a subscription to the journal but it is a start.

Realvdude
Realvdude

It is about the one thing that stands out when comparing it to Google. Even comparing mapping features, there about the same. I found Google maps to usually have better detail when zoomed in, but Live(Bing) usually makes up for it with the bird's eye view.

Scott R.
Scott R.

When Bing came out, I thought that if this search is as good as MS says it is, I'm going to put them to the test. So I quit Google cold-turkey (except the e-mail) and forced myself to use Bing. I'm still using it and I'm not looking back. I think that with many things technology-related, once you use something for a while and get used to/familiar with it (search engine, OS, etc.), you tend to stay with it for a number of reasons. I like the features mentioned in the article and other comments (previews, decision engine, etc.), but I've also noticed that when I search for something, I never have to click through page upon page of results. Rarely do I even have to go to the second page. I like how it interacts with Bing Maps, which I am beginning to find is better than Goggle Maps in some ways. I'm just discovering the cool home page with the informational links embedded in the page. Great for when I get bored and just want to poke around and learn random stuff.

Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

mentioned the site locations. Bing had next to nothing outside the US servers on the results it provided, yet some of my better works are on UK and Aust and Japanese servers - not shown by Bing. Since then I've done a few more searches and have found the majority of Bing hits are commercial sites showing ad links to Bing. Also my AdBlock Plus goes crazy blocking ads a lot more when using Bing than when using Google, don't know why for sure, but can guess.

dogknees
dogknees

There needs to be more content analysis. Some of the research being done on natural language needs to be applied. It's happening, but slowly, which is why it frustrates me that Bing concentrates on something the others already do well enough instead of looking to provide something truly new.