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Free Windows tool makes Meta searches easier

Free Windows tool makes Meta searches easier

If you spend any significant amount of time searching for information on the Web, wouldn't you like to make your searches more productive and reduce the time you must spend on them, as well?

Good news: a free new tool collects listings from multiple search engines for you, then retrieves only those Web pages you say are the most relevant. This approach can save you hours of time, based on my initial experimentation with the product.

It's called Express, and it's a free download from Infoseek, itself a major search engine. Express retrieves data from as many as seven search engines you specify: AltaVista, Excite, HotBot, Lycos, WebCrawler, and Yahoo, as well as Infoseek. Express combines the ratings from all of these engines into a single ranked list.

This type of multiple-engine aggregation itself isn't new, of course. My own favourite aggregator is MetaCrawler (www.metacrawler. com), which scours most of the above search engines plus Thunderstone, a research site.

But Express, a software package that resides on your hard disk and integrates with your browser, offers many features that are not available from MetaCrawler and other Web-based tools. And it's truly a Windows-based solution. Developed for Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT, Express is not yet available for Macintosh or Unix platforms.

When you perform a search with Express, you get a listing of sites that match your search, just as you do with other search engines. But Express includes a check box to the left of each listing that allows you to narrow your search results to a fine degree.

When you click a check box to select a listing, Express begins to download that page in the background. After you've selected a few pages, clicking Express' View Results tab displays the first downloaded page. Clicking the right arrow button in Express' toolbar takes you to the next page, and so on. Unlike other search engines, there is no need to repeatedly click your Back button to jump between Express and the Web pages it refers to.

Your search can be narrowed to a much more specific degree by clicking one of the major categories on the left side of the Express window. These categories include such choices as Stock Quotes, News, and Weather. But by clicking More you can add numerous other categories to this list, such as Computer Hardware, Software, and Shareware. If you aren't satisfied with the list of Web sites that Express searches within categories such as these, you can add sites you like and delete ones you don't care to search.

Although Express is distributed by Infoseek, that search engine (to its credit) doesn't seem to get preference in the ranking of the listings.

To keep the product free, Express displays ads.

But in a marvellously democratic decision, Express displays some ads from Yahoo and the other sites from which its listings come.

If you prefer your search listings without advertising, you need to buy a different software package that eschews ads. Danny Sullivan's Search Engine Watch contains a page that briefly reviews such products as BullsEye, Copernic, Mata Hari, and WebFerretPro. See searchenginewatch. com/sereort/9809-utilities.html.

Express is available for download at express.infoseek.com. It requires 10MB of disk space, an 800 x 600 display, and Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 or later or Netscape Navigator 3.0 or later.


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