Do a web search from any Windows application

This seems like such a fundamental thing that would have been in place 20 years ago what with all the frenzy to integrate to the Internet, but does not seem to be there.

If I am on a web page, I can select some text, and right-click to “Search Google for…” Why can’t I do this regardless of what application I am using? If I am reading a PDF file, Word document, or text in an email in Outlook, I should be able to do the same thing.

Am I missing something obvious? Or is there a third-party app that will do this?

I have been searching for this but all I come up with is the standard Microsoft options like typing a term into the Windows search bar (which will take me to Bing even though Chrome is my default browser).

Yes, you are. Each application is written by different people, with different ideas and different priorities.

Yeah, the right click menu on the Windows Desktop is an extensible thing. The function of right-clicking inside an application does whatever the creators of that application decided it would do, or in some cases, does nothing at all, because the creators of that application did not decide to make it do anything (or explicitly decided not to make it do anything, which isn’t exactly the same).

It’s not a system-wide thing, except by convention and accident.

I get all of that but I’ll bet Windows has a library call that could set up to trap a right-click, allow a search, then turn control back to the application to continue the action. I would just think that when the Internet came along, and Microsoft was trying to integrate Windows to the Internet, it would have been built in.

Microsoft Office products do this and I would think to make Windows maximally friendly for the Internet, Microsoft would make this part of the standard for Windows app behavior. But I guess those standards are more like guidelines anyway.

You’d need to specify both which browser to use, and which search site. Is that set on the application level, or the system level? And what if the company behind some application, or behind the whole OS, is feuding with a search engine company?

And a lot of applications have better things to do with right-mouse-button clicks than popping up a search menu.

I expect you could create an extension for Windows that would intercept the right click and do something consistent with it. I expect that would interfere with/disable the right click functionality inside the applications.
I don’t expect Windows would necessarily know what’s going on inside the application with respect to selected objects - since different applications probably have their own methods for implementing that.

Windows specifies a default browser, and my browser specifies a default search engine. So if you click on a link in an email, for example, in opens in your default browser. And I’m pretty sure Microsoft is not friendly with Google but it all still works.

The OS mechanisms supporting ordinary Windows applications date back to mostly 1985-1995. The right mouse button started being used for pop-up menus in Windows 95, shortly before the Internet really took off in ordinary office and home settings. At that point, many software makers started supporting the right click and popping up menus, but there are several different ways for a program to do this under Windows. It would not be trivial for Microsoft to interfere with mouse button clicks or with the menus themselves at this point.

As @Mangetout wrote, even the selection of text is custom-designed in most applications: the OS doesn’t know what text you’ve highlighted in Adobe Reader or Unknown Niche CAD Program 13.4. If you highlight text and press Ctrl-C, it’s the program itself that looks at its internal data structures and UI state, and prepares the content what it will store in the Windows clipboard.

Notice that several UI mechanisms that have been added to Windows over the decades involve new hardware : the mouse scroll wheel, the “Windows” and “Menu” keys and the various media buttons on modern keyboards. Existing programs are never required to support these. And even after >20 years, the mouse scroll wheel (especially on a non-Microsoft mouse) still doesn’t work well all the time in all applications.

Now, Microsoft could simply add a service to the OS to allow an application to invoke the default search engine (and I’m sure they’d reset the default to Bing every 3 days); indeed, it’s probably there already. You might think that Microsoft could simply require software makers to add it to their software, but that’s not how the Windows ecosystem works. Software makers for Apple (OS X, iOS, etc.) or Android are often forced to rewrite their applications. That works partly because the “app store” concept forces developers to work a certain way, and partly because the underlying platforms keep evolving. But under Windows, there’s an implicit “right” for a software package from 2001 (outside the “Microsoft Store”) to keep working as-is for decades; it’s part of the attractiveness of the platform for businesses and many home users.

I agree with most of your post, but I remember that my first Win 95 computer in 1996 came with a keyboard with both Windows and Menu keys. So those were present a long time back.