"The major direction we have taken with this version is empowering users to really personalize, configure, and customize the toolbar to the way they'd like it to be," says Sundar Pichai, Google’s project manager for client software.
Google Toolbar 4 has four main features: custom buttons, centralized bookmarks, enhanced search, and a new sharing capability called Send To.
Custom buttons can be created to access predefined searches or preset data sources like RSS feeds. Because Google has made Toolbar APIs available, site owners will be able to set up Toolbar buttons tied to their sites that site visitors can install with a click.
Pichai expects this will help site owners enhance their relationship with visitors.
The ability to centralize bookmarks lets users access bookmarks through their Google accounts from any computer.
The new Toolbar offers enhanced searching by suggesting terms from popular searches and the user's search history as the user types. It also suggests possible corrected spellings for searches. The Send To feature, as its name suggests, simplifies sending Web pages to other people via E-mail or text messaging. Send To can also be used to send Web pages to a Google-hosted blog.
The enterprise version adds a group policy feature so that IT administrators can turn features on or off centrally using a Windows installer framework. With the new custom button feature, the enterprise Toolbar effectively becomes a "portlet" that can present information from corporate data sources.
As an example, Pichai says that at Google, he has custom buttons for employee directory searches. "I can type in a name and just hit the button and I get what I want, rather than going to that site and finding it," he explains.
Google Toolbar 4 beta is specifically designed for use with Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 and Windows 2000/XP. The company expects to release a Firefox-compatible version at a later date.