For your next online purchase, you may want to try Bing.com, Microsoft’s new “decision” search engine. Perhaps you have tried it already and you haven’t noticed any difference from other browsers, other than the pretty picture backgrounds on Bing’s homepage.
If you’re not sure where to start or what Bing offers, click the “Tour Bing” link in the top left corner of the home page. The features are most convenient when you have a Microsoft account, which may be worth your while. You may also want to change your preferences, which can be found under “Extras” in the top right corner.
From the homepage, you will see a column of options on the left side if you want to focus your search results. If you click on these options, such as “Shopping” or “News, more subcategories will appear that may assist your search.
If you search from the main bar, more options will be available based on your keywords next to your results. Here are a few examples:
Search: Honda Civic, sidebar options include: Used, Parts, and Videos
Search: Border Collie, sidebar options include: Breeders, Training, and Adoption
Search: Yosemite, sidebar options include: Lodging, Weather, and Camping
Each search results page also include related searches, sponsored links, and search history.
Bing is termed “The Decision Engine” because it offers more than just search results, most of which are related to buying decisions. For example, if you search for “mountain bike”, you will see a “Shop for mountian bike” heading above the website results. This feature includes brands, prices, and guides, where you choose more specific results. These links take you to a page that shows an image, price, and description with the option of going to that website.
Bing helps you compare businesses at a glance. Suppose you type the keywords “hotel San Diego”. The first result is a “Listings for hotels near San Diego, CA” feature that itemizes names of hotels—including a link to their website and their phone number—next to a map showing all their locations. A link for directions is available for each hotel, which directs you to a driving directions page similar to MapQuest. If you click on the name of the hotel, you will see a simple rundown of reviews, prices, and contact information, etc.
You can get local information like traffic and weather simply by typing those keywords into the search bar. Check on flights and track your packages by typing the flight or shipping number. Review your stocks’ statuses on a table by searching for the ticker symbols in a row followed by “quote”. Ask basic trivia or math questions in the search bar, like “who wrote the constitution” or “how many liters in a gallon” and Bing will have the answer.
Bing offers some interesting interactive features as well. Each website result has hover option to the right that brings up a summary of that site and other related links. If you hover over images results, you can see the size, name and a link to related images. Videos on Bing will begin playing if you hover on them.
As with any product or idea, Bing is most helpful for certain occasions, preferences, or needs. If you want to find a specific website or lesser known topic, Bing is probably not going to be any better than another search engine. In fact, the “helpfulness” could become an annoyance if you’re an experienced surfer who’s not interested in the latest deals and fads. Most of Bing’s features don’t ever require you to leave their website, which is very helpful for shopping, comparing and researching simple trivia, but sometimes completely irrelevant to your searches. That doesn’t mean you should not use Bing for those reasons, the normal search results are still available in plain sight. You just won’t always need the extras.