Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Microsoft Answers Beta Seeks To Answer Windows Vista Questions

Microsoft has launched a new web site geared towards answering common questions from Windows Vista users, Answers.Microsoft.com. The free Q&A site is an official forum for Windows tech support that is run by actual Microsoft employees willing to help out users.

Answer seekers are given three options to help you find the most relevant answer to your question. A search bar to search previously answered questions, browsing with Find Answers or Ask the community, where you can get answers from fellow members or Microsoft staff.

During my testing the search bar wasn't functional so I had to opt for testing the other two options. I consider myself a "power user" so I rarely have questions that need answered. But there has been one thing nagging me about Vista and that was the large icon size. So I began with that.

Clicking on the find answers tab (or browse) brings you to a straightforward page that will remind you of the Vista control panel. On this page you get answers to the most common Windows Vista questions.

vista answers

Clicking the Appearance and Personalization category I immediately saw the answer to my question. From there you are taken to the Microsoft Answers Forum, where you'll see your answer was asked and answered. In this case Keith, a Support Engineer, posted the answer with follow up from another user. Both answers were very helpful, the answer from the user was actually a little more helpful.

Ask The Community, varies from the find answers tab on slightly. Clicking the tab takes you to the same landing page, which gives you the same category options. The difference is clicking those categories takes you directly to the forums rather than showing some of the popular questions.

The forums looked very user friendly, with nothing too over done or over complicated. To use the forums you will need a Live ID (Hotmail or Live emails work). Each forum was well categorized with a standard format. There are stickies at the top with answers to some of the more common questions. You are provided with easy to follow visual ques as the threads that are unresolved feature a question mark, resolved threads featured a check mark and threads with a proposed answer have a check mark over a question mark.

Posts can be voted on for usefulness with more helpful users gaining reputation points. Any post can be nominated as a proposed answer, however I'm not certain who has final say on whether or not that actually was the answer, I'd assume it was the original poster.

The site is still in beta so I did run into a few issues. As mentioned the search bar wasn't working at all. A couple times I reached site errors telling me the site was too busy. I also experienced slow load times. All of which is pretty normal for a new site. I was surprised that Microsoft is limiting the website to just Vista-related questions and answers. XP might be on its last leg but what about Windows 7 ? What happens when it hits the streets, will the site be divided into two, or will Microsoft convert the site to only cover Windows 7 questions?

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