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Copernic Agent: Jack of All Searches

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Copernic Agent is a meta search engine, invisible web explorer, online research assistant and extensive tool box, all combined into an elegant, easy to use program.

In reviewing a product like Copernic Agent, it's hard not to sound like one of those advertisements for a veg-o-matic: "But wait! There's more!" It's tough because Copernic Agent is packed with useful tools and features for searchers, most of which could be standalone products in their own right.

Copernic Agent comes in three versions: Basic, Personal and Professional. Each version targets different types of users with different needs.

Fundamentally, Copernic Agent (all versions) is a meta search tool, capable of sending your query to multiple engines simultaneously. Better yet, these search engines are organized into categories, and you can choose which engines are active for each category.

The program also has numerous options that help you manage search results in powerful ways. For example, the Agent keeps a history of your searches, organized into folders with meaningful names created by you. Results can be filtered in various ways, and can be sorted by numerous fields. You can also control how "verbose" results will be (compact, standard, or detailed).

But this is just scratching the surface of the capabilities Copernic offers. Let's take a closer look at each of the three versions.

Copernic Agent Basic is a free toolbar for Internet Explorer. It allows you to search more than 90 search engines grouped into 10 categories. The toolbar itself plugs into your browser, and consists of a search form, a list of search sources, and a clickable icon that runs your search.

Once you've entered your query, a pane opens up on the left side of the browser, showing Copernic's progress and listing all of the URLs retrieved from various sources. Once the search is complete, a new list appears in the right pane, ranked according to relevance.

Copernic Agent Personal adds other capabilities to the Basic version. The number of accessible search engines jumps from 90 to more than 1000, in over 120 categories. You can also customize your search engines and categories.

Results can be filtered by region or domain. You can annotate results, and group results (by scores, dates visited, domains, annotation contents, status: new, visited, checkmarked, saved or annotated).

The Professional version contains tons of additional functionality. Most notably, it performs extensive analysis of result pages, from language detection to extraction of key concepts from pages.

It also offers features for power searchers who regularly use the same sources of information on the web. For example, saved searches can be set to run on a regular schedule, automatically returning newly found results. A page tracking and change detection feature notifies you by email whenever a tracked page has changed.

There's also a built-in summarizer that creates a short description of each result page. A page preview displays a thumbnail version of result pages. And you can also automatically save result pages for offline viewing.

As I wrote at the beginning, "But wait! There's more!" Much more, and far beyond the scope of a SearchDay column.

Which version is right for you? That's a hard question to answer. I find the professional version indispensable, but I also spend a lot of time doing the kinds of things that this tool automates. If you're just a casual user, the free Agent Basic might suffice. The feature comparison chart linked below may help you decide.

The bottom line is that Copernic Agent, in all three versions, is an exceptionally useful tool for searchers. With the ability to selectively search multiple resources (including many invisible web sites), and its powerful sorting, analysis, and tracking tools, it's a worthy and nearly essential addition to your web search tool kit.

Copernic Agent System Requirements (all versions):
Minimum equipment: Pentium 120 MHz, 32 MB of RAM, 15 MB of disk space.
Operating system: Windows 95/98/Me/NT4/2000/XP.
Browser: Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or later, Netscape Navigator/Communicator 4.x or 6.x.

Copernic Agent Basic
Browser toolbar, free

Copernic Agent Personal
Browser toolbar, $29.95 US/Euro

Copernic Agent Professional
Desktop software and browser toolbar, $79.95 US/Euro

Copernic Agent Family Feature Comparison Chart
This chart highlights differences between the three different versions of Copernic Agent. A complete feature list is also available.

Copernic Offers Rebate to Users of BullsEye Software
Intelliseek has discontinued sales of its BullsEye software. BullsEye users can upgrade to Copernic Agent Professional at 50% of the regular price.

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