Search Utilities Go Beyond Metasearch
From The Search Engine Report
September 2, 1998
Many people love metasearch services, because they make it easy to send a query to several search engines at once. If you're a metasearch fan, now is a good time to consider going a step beyond by using a search utility.
Search utilities have the ability to send queries to multiple search engines. In addition, they offer the ability to sort results in various ways, such as by URL, page title or search engine. Another common feature is the ability to automatically download the actual pages that appear in the search results. These pages can then be further analyzed or viewed individually, offline.
The timing is right for those wishing to experiment with search utilities. A new program called BullsEye is now available, while updated versions of other utilities have recently been released.
I took a brief look at each of these utilities, to gather some initial impressions. However, I did not exhaustively test them, so don't consider this a review of what's best. Each of the utilities is available for trial before purchase, so I recommend experimenting with them to see which is the best fit for your personal tastes and needs. All are available for Windows 95/98/NT.
BullsEye is a powerful utility that will likely appeal to professional and advanced users, though I suspect novices may find it a bit too intimidating. It offers a wide range of searches, such as news, business, software and, of course, web searching.
Nice touches include the ability to spell check a query or display related words and homonyms. I also liked the way it will highlight the search terms on pages, if they have been downloaded for viewing. It also will attempt to group downloaded pages in similar categories.
BullsEye is an 8 MB download, and the basic version sells for US $49. Also, the program is unrelated to the notorious BullsEye bulk email program of the same name.
In contrast to BullsEye, novices should feel more comfortable with Copernic 98. I found the interface to be elegant and easy to use. Power options are available, but they remain hidden unless you invoke them, which makes getting started easy.
I was also pleased with the breadth of specialty searches offered. Music, Movies, Jobs and Sports are just some of the categories offered, and the sources in each category appear to be of good quality.
The free version of Copernic 98 offers web, newsgroup and email searching. The $29.95 "Plus" version includes specialty search options. Both are 2 MB downloads.
Mata Hari is supposedly designed so that you can learn one set of power search commands, which the program will then translate for each search service, as appropriate. I didn't test this, and I suspect it is something other search utilities will also do, especially BullsEye. But if you perform complex queries often on multiple services, then this may be another program worth investigating. It is definitely not a package for novice users.
Mata Hari is a 1.6 MB download and sells for $34.95.
Looking for fast and simple? Then WebFerret is a good choice. It does only web searching, via an extremely simple interface. Unlike the other packages, there is no page download option.
WebFerret is free and a quick, 760K download. The same company also offers WebFerretPro, which has additional features, for $26.95. Unfortunately, no trial version of WebFerretPro is currently available for download.