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Margaret Kane

Staff Writer, CNET

Google has launched a new feature that tries to guess what users are looking for as they type queries into a search box.

Google Suggest quietly debuted this week on the company’s Labs site, which showcases Google features that “aren’t quite ready for prime time,” according to a message on the site. When a user starts typing a request into the search box, a drop-down menu appears with possible suggestions as to what the user could be looking for.

For instance, typing in “Mi” generates a list starting with “Microsoft” and continuing with “miniclip,” “Michael Moore” and “miserable failure,” among other suggestions.

Google uses “a wide range of information” to predict queries, according to an FAQ, including data about the overall popularity of various searches. The company does not use individual search histories to help generate the prompts, it says.

Google regularly launches new features in its Labs section, using it as a test bed before formally releasing them. The company recently launched a specialized search function that can scan for scholarly literature, and a desktop search feature allows users to scan their PCs using Google technology.

Google’s competitors haven’t stayed silent. Yahoo said Thursday that it plans to start testing a downloadable desktop search application in early January, and Microsoft has plans to launch a similar feature by the end of the year.