In what looks like a preliminary test before Windows 8, Microsoft has released a beta version of Bing Desktop, a combination search toolbar and desktop manager for Windows 7. We tried it out, and the tool basically includes two features: a bar that lets you search Bing and an option to set your desktop background to the daily Bing homepage. As a standalone app, it's pretty thin — Windows desktop backgrounds can already auto-switch, and having a dedicated search bar is generally as easy as alt-tabbing into an open browser.

Bing Desktop makes more sense if you think about it as a teaser for a new (if somewhat minor) Windows 8 feature. Taken as that, it's fairly decent. We wouldn't mind more options, like a way to switch between multiple photo collections for a background, but searching will at least open Bing in your default browser instead of locking you into Internet Explorer, and a hotkey-based launcher isn't a bad idea. Oddly, though, it apparently doesn't install on the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, even in compatibility mode. It's currently available for download through Microsoft.