updated 11/15/2005 11:43:15 AM ET 2005-11-15T16:43:15

Microsoft Corp. on Tuesday released a business version of software that aims to help people more quickly find documents, e-mail and other data stored on Windows-based computers.

The free new desktop search product comes after years of complaints over how hard it can be to locate Microsoft Word documents, sort through long e-mail lists and find other data people use during the workday.

The software will feel similar to Microsoft’s consumer offering for searching files on desktop computers. But the product is designed so corporate technology executives can easily install it on many computers simultaneously, and better control how it is used.

(MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

The product also will work with products that search corporate networks, including those offered by competitors.

Workers have for years complained about how difficult and time-consuming it can be to do things like search through e-mail or Microsoft Word documents. Rivals, including Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc., have also responded to that problem with their own desktop search offerings.

Microsoft sees the business-focused desktop search product as an intermediary step before the company releases its next version of Windows, called Vista, which promises better search capability.

However, the new version of Windows, due out next year, isn’t going to include an even more advanced way to store and organize information, called WinFS. That will now come later.

Microsoft also said Tuesday that its consumer desktop search product will eventually let people search information found in Microsoft’s new Windows Live online offerings.

Windows Live, another Microsoft effort to compete with Google and Yahoo, seeks to expand the Windows franchise online with better Web-based e-mail and other products. The search capability for those services, many of which are also still in development, is due out next year.

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