updated 9/9/2005 6:37:28 PM ET 2005-09-09T22:37:28

Microsoft Corp. is releasing several new tools to help developers build software applications that work with its online search and communication products.

The hope is that such add-ons will draw more users to Microsoft products and help the company better compete with market leaders such as Google Inc. and America Online Inc. The tools will mostly be released at a Microsoft developer conference next week in Los Angeles. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Redmond-based Microsoft said Thursday the tools are for add-ons to its desktop, Internet and localized search technologies, as well as its MSN Messenger instant messaging program.

For example, one developer is working on a tool that would automatically translate instant messages from one language to another as they are being sent, said Adam Sohn, a director in the marketing group for Microsoft's MSN Internet unit.

Other tools are aimed at letting developers build specialized programs on top of its search engine, so that people could more easily conduct specialized searches from smaller data pools.

The releases include tools to build specialized products for its localized search function called Virtual Earth, which will allow results from multiple searches to be layered atop a single map. The tools will be free to some developers, in a bid to jumpstart interest in the developing technology.

Many companies, including Microsoft and Mountain View, Calif.-based Google, are working to improve localized search functions, both because they are helpful and because they have huge potential for advertising revenue.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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