Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bing desktop review, more than just a search engine

Why is there a fish on my desktop

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When it comes to the stock desktop on Windows, it's usually just filled with icons depicting folders, app shortcut and files. Sure you could install a custom theme engine to get something artistic up on your desktop or you could also take advantage of the widgets which are only available in Windows 7 and Windows Vista. But moving forward to newer releases of Windows like Windows 8 and Windows 10, the desktop has seemingly become static already and all the rotating information is present only in the start menu/screen.

This should be something fairly new for everyone out there, you're probably somewhat familiar to the search engine called Bing by Microsoft but there's actually a desktop application which enables you to search directly through the desktop.

Personally, I am not so sure when did I even discover this application but for the past few years, it has been seemingly there on my desktop. Just to reiterate things, Bing desktop is an official program from Microsoft which supports systems running Windows XP and above. Microsoft doesn't actually pre-install this application onto Windows PCs nor do they even promote the program whatsoever.

What is Bing Desktop

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The first thing you need to know about is that Bing is Microsoft's own search engine and it is directly competing with Google. As is, Bing is the second most popular search engine out there and although you might not commonly use it, Bing does silently exist in a couple of things. Probably the most high-profile undercover mission which Bing does is powering search results in Siri, Apple's personal assistant.

Not to forget that Cortana is also powered by Bing and so is Yahoo Search.
" Just Bing it!
Moving on to the desktop application itself, basically Bing Desktop is a program which allows you to directly search through Bing from the desktop. For Windows 7 and below, Bing Desktop would make perfect sense because technically there isn't a direct way to search the web without firing up an internet browser. But, when you look at the likes of Windows 8 and Windows 10, both of them feature integrated search engines on the desktop.


Bing Search

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At it's core, Bing Desktop is all about using Bing as a search engine on your desktop. Using Bing through Bing Desktop is a fairly simple job, just type in what you want to enquire then click enter and the search results will pop up on your default browser. Yes, the search results will be from Bing itself and there is no way to change it to display results from Google.

However, conveniently searching results through Bing on my desktop isn't the reason why I have this program installed on my computer. In fact, I rarely even use it to search for anything at all. But what I do search through it is the popular trending topics which are automatically compiled search terms which are currently trending on Bing News.

This feature is particularly useful for me as I'm used to only going through tech and local news and often time I'm missing out on some hot topics which are being reported throughout the world.

Bing Wallpapers

Now this feature is the actual reason why I even have Bing Desktop installed on my computer, the compilation of hot topics on the search bar is cool but the wallpapers are even cooler. If you've visited bing.com before then you would notice that I doesn't look like the clean and minimalist look of google.com. In terms of visuals, bing.com features a custom wallpaper which changes every day.

Basically what it does is that it'll automatically rotate your desktop wallpaper based on the current Bing wallpaper being offered. There's also options to include wallpapers from other categories like animal, scenery and others. In my experience, most of the wallpapers shown have a good amount of detail and it's a something like a surprise to see what wallpaper comes up to be.
" Staring at the same wallpaper day in day out is just boring
While you can choose which category of wallpapers to rotate from daily, you could also change the frequency of the wallpaper changes from as fast as 5 seconds all the way to a daily rotation of the wallpaper. Also if you're not pleased with the randomized choice of the wallpaper, you can manually change the wallpaper through the category tabs.

Every wallpaper will remain present on the program window for up to 3 days and if you are attracted to that very wallpaper you can actually save a copy of it through the personalization settings of the desktop (right click on the desktop > personalization > desktop background). Below the wallpaper, there is also a short description on the wallpaper and also options to share the image directly to Facebook and Twitter. 
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Make sure to enable the Bing homepage images as your desktop background setting to get all the wallpapers on your desktop

Interface

Beyond the integrated Bing search bar, the program also features several other tabs like the wallpaper tab which is where you choose the wallpapers manually, a weather tab which shows the weather of your current location (you can add other locations too) and a top news tab which breaks down trending articles into several categories.

There are also several trending tabs which highlight trending tabs which curate currently trending news topics, images, and videos. Finally, there is a facebook tab which is able to pull your news feed into Bing Desktop.
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There is also a settings cog just to the right of the Bing search bar which lets you change quite a number of things about the app itself like the location of the search bar on the desktop and also the color of the search bar.

Something cool about the search bar is that you can pin in to a certain corner of your desktop and it'll automatically hide behind that corner and when you hover to that corner, the search bar will pop out. A nice little sliding animation is present to aid the motion of sliding in and out. You can also open the search bar through the icon on the taskbar.

My favorite position for the search bar is on the top right corner, I find it the most suitable place for it to stay hidden.
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Conclusion

If you want a little surprise on your desktop every day, you should totally try out Bing desktop as it'll definitely give you that needed surprise. Sometimes, the wallpapers being shown gives me a little motivation to do more and this is certainly a subjective debate whether it'll improve your mood to do things. But bottom line, there's no harm trying out Bing Desktop as it is a reliable source for you to get some nice looking wallpapers for your desktop.

Comparing Bing Desktop to the new lock screen on Windows 10 called Windows Spotlight which also rotates the wallpaper at a given frequency, it's clear that Microsoft took some inspiration from Bing Desktop to develop Windows Spotlight. Although Bing Desktop does not have the intelligent preference engine of Bing Desktop which updates the lock screen image based on the users past preference, the fact is that Windows Spotlight is still not available for the desktop.

I'm guessing that it won't be long before Microsoft introduces such a feature on Windows 10 which cleverly changes the desktop wallpaper based on the users preference. Maybe then will I uninstall Bing Desktop for good, but in the mean time I'll continue to enjoy my daily wallpapers from Bing and also the internet.

Do note that Task Manager classifies Bing Desktop as a high impact startup program.

Insider talk (out of topic)

Wow, this is the third article i've written this month. Close to breaking my record high this year which is 5 articles. Just finished my paper last week so i've quite some time before the next semester starts so i'll be able to do some intensive blogging for the next couple of week. 

Just to let you know that i have been planning to write this article for a long time already and my next goal is to finally write my review of the Star21 fitness band. Planning to complete that review by the end of the month. I've taken the pictures for that months back and now i've just gotta do the writeup of the review before it's really too late. 
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