Microsoft today unveiled a new version of its Bing Bar for Internet Explorer (7 and up). Here are the basics:

Today, Bing released the Bing Bar 7, bringing the best of the web right to your browser with easy access to things like Bing search, Facebook, email, Bing Rewards, maps, games and more. 

I know what you’re thinking – another toolbar? Bing took a fresh approach and redesigned it so the Bing Bar not only delivers a rich search experience, but also brings some of the most popular things people do on the web right to them in an app-like experience. For example, one key feature of the Bing Bar is the Facebook integration, which makes it easy for you to see what your friends and family are up to without ever having to leave the web page you’re on.

Some more info can be had at the Bing Blog:

Today, we are going to cover a few of the top features including search, alerts, Facebook, mail and Bing Rewards so be sure to download the new Bing Bar to experience all the new features.

Great Search

  • The first thing you will notice is that the search box is centered, not on the left. As we talked to consumers they overwhelmingly wanted search to be front and center, particularly as they looked at the clean design of Internet Explorer 9.
  • Similarly, people want to reduce the number of clicks to find what they want so we consolidated things like search history (in purple), suggestions (in black) and deep links (at the top) right into the search box to help accelerate search. Since most people don’t want to start typing a search and then lift a hand off the keyboard to grab the mouse, it’s easy to navigate with the arrow keys to any item on the list. 

Facebook

People told us that they spend a huge amount of time on Facebook these days, and we are building on our relationship with Facebook to bring a great web experience to our joint customers. We use the notification capabilities to let you know that you have new activity on your Facebook account, so you can stay connected no matter what you’re doing on the web.

  • News Feed – You have quick access to your news feed to see posts from your friends and to update your status. You can also comment on or Like a friend’s post right from the Bing Bar.
  • Photos – With photos you get a great looking collage of your friend’s photos, making it easy to scan the pictures your friends are sharing.
  • Friend Requests, Messages, and Alerts – The Bing Bar also provides a quick glimpse and easy access to friend requests, messages and Facebook notifications.

Proactive Alerts

As we talked to customers we realized that more and more of them use many different online services and while some of those services provide proactive alerts of new mail or postings, they didn’t have a consolidated way to get all that information. Additionally, as folks are browsing the web often times they encounter areas where they might like some help (say content on a page in a foreign language). We created Alerts to act a bit like your online personal assistant, letting you know when new messages arrive or when the Bing Bar can help you with something you are doing online.

Here is a small sample of the actual alerts.

  • Facebook & Mail Alerts
    Most people have more than one web mail account and many of them use a few different providers. Also, many folks are using Facebook as a primary means to communicate with friends and family. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get a quick view into new emails or Facebook messages from one central place, without distracting you from your primary task in the browser? We thought so too. These alerts appear subtly below the Bing Bar, and gently fade away after a few seconds, if you hover over them they remain and you can take action.
  • Each of the different buttons has several notification states. In addition to Facebook and E-mail alerts we also provide short alerts for breaking news (with a short summary of the headlines), weather advisories (like the Winter Storm Warning below), translation alerts (when there is web content available for translation), new Bing Rewards offers and much more.

Mail

We know it’s common for people to use more than one e-mail account, and many times from different providers (we support Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and Gmail). We wanted to help simplify and provide one central location for consumers to quickly preview mail.

Bing Rewards Preview – US Only

Finding the latest offers for Bing Rewards is easier than ever by simply clicking the Bing Rewards icon in the new Bing Bar. With Bing Rewards you have the opportunity to earn credits redeemable for great rewards just by taking advantage of offers while searching, discovering, and exploring on Bing right from the new Bing Bar. Learn about Bing features and ways to find information more quickly while earning credits for rewards like gift cards for Starbucks and Amazon, Microsoft Points for Xbox Live and more. We’ll also alert you when new offers are available through alerts in the Bing Bar. Sign up for free through the Bing Rewards icon in the Bing Bar and earn 250 credits to get you started towards your first reward.

To download the Bing Bar, please visit the Discover Bing web site.