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Research Desktop
Research Desktop

Research Desktop augments the standard desktop environment with concepts and designs that enable new ways of working and managing resources. It provides support in four key areas: Activities, Tools, Library and Notes.

Stop press: The activities portion of Research Desktop, known as Project Colletta is now available for download.

Problem Space

Researchers, from historians and sociologists to market specialists and financial analysts, engage in a range of activities in order to accomplish their tasks. This often involves gathering relevant sources of information and reading through the material to find important aspects of a topic. After analyzing the material they communicate their findings to their colleagues and the rest of the community in form of publications or online discussions.

In contrast to workflows of well structured business processes, researchers conduct their work in different ways depending on their experience, style, and preferences. The material they collect and author may be related to a short-lived project or may be an integral part of a life-long work. Some may require efficient tools for analyzing large numbers of documents. Others need to share their notes and videos from field studies with collaborators and co-authors of a paper.


Research Desktop Activities allows users to label related documents, images, e-mails, and other items useful for performing a given task. Using the assigned labels, they can easily activate a particular task or switch between multiple tasks.

Research Desktop provides dedicated information spaces: personal Library to collect books, manuscripts, relevant articles and media, and Notes to enable simple storage and access to content snippets, URLs, and other bits of information that can easily be misplaced or can be difficult to find.

Research Desktop is powered by a selection of tools and services that can be used in various contexts. Users can easily analyze individual books or collections of publications, create a co-author network, and discover trends in data. It revolutionizes the way we work by providing easy access to functionalities that are typically hidden within applications or not commonly found in the desktop environment.

Research Desktop is an example of a specialized functional layer (‘skin’) that can be built for specific professionals to increase creativity and improve users productivity.

Main Components

There are four main components of Research Desktop:

  • Activities: Research Desktop allows the users to name a space of activities they are working on. They can use the label associated with the activity space to access all the documents and applications used in that space, include new items, and quickly access related activities. Switching between activity spaces is enabled by Research Desktop side bar and extensions of the individual application windows with the Research Desktop plug in.
  •  Tools: Research Desktop includes a variety of tools for analysing content. Researchers can activate them within Activity spaces, Library and Notes as needed to accomplish a particular task. While reading a book they can use Summary tool to automatically extract key concepts. When analysing a set of references from a publication they can apply Clustering and Topic Map tool to understand how documents relate to each other and what topics they cover. The tools are accessed through the Research Desktop sidebar or exposed in the particular space, Library, Notes, or Activity spaces, based on the types of documents or user’s activity.
  • Library: Library is an exclusive part of the Research space dedicated to the literature and media that researchers use in their work. It is designed as a personal Library space, equipped with tools for managing reading lists, analyzing references and author networks, setting up subscriptions services, and analyzing the content. While the books and papers may be used in activity spaces or stored across folders in the file system, Library provides a unified view of the available content and supports a wide range of scenarios in which that information can be used, from creating reference lists when authoring a paper to identifying key scientists and contacts in the particular topic area.
  • Notes: Research Notes is a fully extendible drawing board where researchers can plan, sketch, and outline their findings and thoughts. It is a place where they can find all the notes they attached to documents while conducting their work. They can review them or use them to browse to documents and activity spaces. This provides a fluid transition from the thinking and planning to reading or consulting resources. Furthermore, Notes space supports the user in gathering information. Collection of documents, such as results from on-line search and browsing can be added for later review and selection. Any type of content, from media documents to text excerpts and details such as URLs, can be easily placed in this area, without having to store them in the folder structure or remember the file which contains them.
Video Demos
Project Team
Integrated Systems

The Integrated Systems Group is looking for interns and Post-docs. For more information, visit Microsoft Research Careers or contact us directly.

Contact Us

Integrated Systems Group, Microsoft Research
7 J J Thomson Ave
Cambridge CB3 0FB, UK
+44 1223 479700