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A Better Search Tool for Finding Needles in Haystacks

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The NeedleSearch toolbar lets you capture the basic search functionality from any search engine, site search tool, or specialized database and put it at your command with a single click.

In a nutshell, NeedleSearch operates like other toolbars -- with one very big, important difference. NeedleSearch allows you to easily (and I do mean easily) harness the search functionality of any search engine directly into the NeedleSearch toolbar. No need to wait for a developer -- you can do it yourself!

Once you've downloaded the toolbar, NeedleSearch installs quickly and easily. When installed, you'll see that a few search engines have been "pre-programmed" for you. You can edit them, remove them, or add new ones. Editing or removing these choices is easily accomplished by selecting the "edit" button (second to last button on the toolbar).

Here's all that is required to add a rapidly expanding general web engine, Gigablast, to the NeedleSearch toolbar.

  • Go to the Gigablast home page and turn on the NeedleSearch auto-adder (button with the "plus" sign on it).
  • In the Gigablast search box type "NeedleSearch" -- all one word, as shown. You should see a message that Gigablast has been added to NeedleSearch. That's it, you're done!
  • The next time you want to run a basic search with Gigablast, simply enter your search terms into the NeedleSearch toolbar, use the pull-down to select Gigablast, and click the search button.

Once you've installed your favorite tools, you're able to run basic searches directly from your browser while viewing any web page. My favorite reason for using NeedleSearch is that in addition to searching general web engines, such as Google and Teoma, you can also use it with specialized databases.

Here's an example.

I'm always searching Peter Scott's wonderful Libdex database of library web sites and online public access catalogs. With NeedleSearch I can search the database without having to first go to the Libdex site. Now, no matter where you are on the web, you can search Libdex without first having to find the Libdex site.

NeedleSearch has many other features, as well. For example, you can open results in a new window, highlight search terms, and more. A button is also available to find your search term(s) on the results page or the underlying web page.

You can also enhance the power of NeedleSearch by "hacking" URL strings to set up more sophisticated queries.

The only issue in trying NeedleSearch is that it only works with the open-source web browser, Mozilla. Don't think of this as a drawback. If you've never tried Mozilla, by all means do so. It's free, and offers many compelling features, in addition to being largely unburdened by the all too frequent glitches that require patches to Internet Explorer.

Like NeedleSearch, the Mozilla browser offers all sorts of features, including integrated email and newsgroup access, and a pop-up blocker. Mozilla also allows you to open and view multiple pages in tabbed windows. Very useful! Mozilla is available for several platforms, including Windows, Macintosh, Linux and more.

As with most web tools, the best way to learn about NeedleSearch is to download a copy, have the documentation nearby, and experiment. It's also a good reason (if you need one) to download and try the Mozilla browser. I think you'll find both of these free tools easy to use and very useful.

Gary Price is the publisher of ResourceShelf, a weblog covering the online information industry.

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