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Yahoo Ups Search Ante

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NEW YORK In the escalating race among search engines to be more relevant and user-friendly than their rivals, the distant No. 2 player Yahoo has upped the ante with the release of Search Pad, a new tool designed to help users who are conducting multiple searches save and organize information.

The new in beta product is specifically designed for consumers who are using search to conduct research, said Yahoo officials. The idea is to eliminate the need to save information culled from a series of searches by either creating numerous bookmarks, going back and forth to the same searches multiple times, or copying and pasting a set of links in a separate document.

Yahoo says its search engine can now instantly recognize when a user is gathering information on topics such as academia, health, jobs, travel or shopping, causing Search Pad to kick in. The product allows users to save links on a digital notepad that is accessible throughout that person's search session. Later users can edit their Search Pad results and save them in a document that can be e-mailed or shared with others.

Search Pad is the latest example of a growing trend among search engines, which are becoming less blind reference tools than smart platforms that can recognize user intent.

For example, category giant Google now consistently pre-populates its search box with potential search terms as soon as a user begins typing in a few letters.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's recently launched Bing has been specifically designed to automatically narrow down search results based on a user's likely intent by offering preset search categories and more one-step search offerings, e.g., instant flight information.