Unity’s much-delayed Smart Scopes Service has arrived in the development builds of Ubuntu 13.10.

The feature aims to add a more comprehensive and relevant search experience to the Ubuntu desktop. Over 50 new ‘Scopes’ – a data-specific search backend – will come installed by default. Some of these deliver results from popular websites like Wikipedia, Yahoo!, and Google; others deliver data from locally installed applications, like music players and installed apps.

It’s Like Source City in the Unity Dash

Each of these scopes can be disabled individually by right-clicking on it:

Disable a Smart Scope in Unity
Disable a Smart Scope in Unity

Smart Scopes Now Smarter

The Smart Scopes feature was originally intended to debut in Ubuntu 13.04, but was eventually considered ‘not mature enough’. Whilst this was a shame, it was necessary. The version debuting in 13.10 is, I’m pleased to say, is faster, more intelligent, and more featured than that targeted for 13.04.

Admittedly many remain suspicious about how useful it will be. Over the coming months eager testers will get to find out. But, if you found yourself aggrieved by the “irrelevancy” of Amazon shopping results when looking for a local file or application, prepare for much of the same – just on a larger scale:

empathy search
Searching for a locally installed app returns all this…

As bad as the image above might look to some the Dash is doing what it’s meant to. Empathy, the app I was searching for, is in top spot. I don’t have to scroll or wade through to find it.

For source specific searches you can use modifiers. Want to quickly search Wikipedia? Prefix ‘wiki:query’.

modifiers in unity smart scopes
It’s Possible to Search A Specific Service

Modifiers are great, but they are a power-users tool. Do you use them on Google? I don’t. And that means that for me the “default” set of results returned will be more important.

That’s where the “smart” in ‘Smart Scopes Service’ will come in. The relevancy of results will be determined by people like us. As we search and click on results the ‘smart scopes server’ that delivers the results will learn which types of results are more relevant for which terms.

Given that the feature has only just landed in 13.10 the results are not as finely tuned as they should be by October. So if you’re using Saucy already keep that in mind when using it.

Other than that, the feature adds an insane amount of potential to the Unity desktop. A world of results, and the ability to interact with them, will be only the tap of a Super key away…

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