Federated Search in Windows 7
I wrote some software some time ago that is used by a mining company for maintaining their stores, HR, and monitoring production. I have been discussing with the MD about ways to give him reports in a centralised manner.
Earlier, I had written a reporting app which can be plugged into the main app for his managers, or can run stand-alone for his own use. The problem is, he doesn't need all the reports it serves, and there are now a bunch of mine shafts and offices that he will need information from, since the company has expanded from mining chrome in one town, to mining gold and chrome in different towns. Seeing as he has a lot of work and a number of other concerns I am not involved in, I couldn't place a whole lot of apps on his machine just for reporting when all he wants to do is see some bottom line figures.
While I was thinking of a solution, I happened to attend a conference on Developing for Windows 7 about 2 weeks ago. One demo the speaker gave was on federated search. He searched for a Steve Balmer video and got a bunch of YouTube results right there in the Windows Explorer shell (in a similar format to the picture below) and I thought, whoa! I had been thinking of writing a shell extension for him to use which would go and search for his data from the various sources and he could see them all unified but this demo saved me a lot of time and effort. After the conference I asked how this works, and was told all I have to do is create an .osdx (Open Search Description) file, and Windows can use that as a search provider.
My main concern was how much code I'd have to write but was happy to hear that I didn't have to re-write a single line of code. The osdx file can specify a service that I have already written that aggregates the data from all the various sites and the results can be displayed in the explorer window.
This is what I am reseraching now, to see how best I can present these results in detail when he finds something he wants info on. I haven't isntalled the Windows 7 beta so this is something I was completely unaware of. For those like me who haven't heard of this, it is a feature that allows you to search multiple locations from within the Windows environment. For instance, if you want to find something on Bing, Youtube and amazon, you select search providers for these locations and type your search once, and you will have your results displayed right in there.
I will be updating you on my findings in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, here is something that I found on MSDN that I think will be useful for understanding the schema for the osdx file (XML based) and how this works under the hood.
MSDN article for Federated Search