Yahoo is implementing improved search features for users of its mail services.

New features include the capacity to search the full text of message attachments. It enhances the existing basic search facilities available through Yahoo Mail.

Beginning today, the improved search function will be rolled out in phases over the coming months to users worldwide, said Drew Garcia, a senior product manager on the Yahoo Mail team.

Search attachments too

Yahoo Mail's new search function can index the full text of about 20 common types of attachments, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint files, as well as PDFs, he said.

Another improvement is that, along with each search result, Yahoo Mail also delivers a snippet of the content in which the searched-for term appears. This is intended to give users an idea of the context in which the term is found.

Yahoo Mail will also let users see thumbnail images of pictures and documents attached to emails.

The new search also matches the first letters of search terms, something which comes in handy when the user isn't sure of the correct spelling of a word, Garcia said.

Users don't have to do anything to enable the new search function. Yahoo will index all the mails inside a user’s account once the search function is enabled for a user.

Major upgrade also scheduled

The improved search will be part of a major revamp to Yahoo Mail as Yahoo incorporates into the Web mail service technology it acquired when it bought Oddpost in July 2004, a Yahoo spokeswoman said.

When that happens, new features will include a significantly redesigned user interface that looks and feels more like a desktop email client than like a Web mail interface.

Yahoo plans to beta test the revamped service in “the coming months”, the company said.