HotBot’s Swiss Army Knife Deskbar

HotBot has released its Quick-Search Deskbar, which not only provides instant access to the search engine, but is jam-packed with other useful tools and goodies as well.

The HotBot Deskbar provides instant access to the four major web search engines HotBot queries (FAST, Google, Inktomi and Teoma) without the need to visit HotBot’s home page. Beyond searching HotBot, however, the Deskbar provides scads of functionality that makes it exceptionally useful as an all-around search and ready reference tool.

“The missing pieces in search today are flexibility and personalization,” said Lincoln Jackson, senior director of search products for Terra Lycos. “Our strategy with HotBot has been to create an open platform that provides access to the four largest search catalogs on the Internet, as well while providing an interface that can be completely tailored to the users’ preferences. With the HotBot Deskbar, we’re extending this concept further with an open platform that leverages the strength of the search user community.”

Beyond searching HotBot, the Deskbar provides instant access to more than 200 deep and invisible web search sites largely inaccessible by Web crawlers. “We’re providing a lightweight interface into the deep web,” said Tom Wilde, general manager of search services for the Lycos Search and HotBot search engines.

These search sites run the gamut, ranging from technical computer sites to entertainment, reference, shopping and travel sites. They’re available either through a pop-up menu to the right of the Deskbar, by pressing the F1 key while you’re entering search terms, or through shortcut codes.

It’s relatively easy to add your own additional shortcuts (called “aliases”) to your own favorite search engines. You can also save complex searches, and execute them at any time by entering their simple alias.

And unlike most search toolbars, which are browser plug-ins, HotBot’s Deskbar installs into the Windows task bar, which gives you the ability to create aliases to virtually any desktop computer function.

As examples of this functionality, Jackson says these features are built in to the Deskbar:

  • A calculator
  • Popup alarms
  • A calendar that pops up when you right click in the search box
  • An RGB to hex conversion utility (useful for web developers)
  • A Roman numeral calculator (crossword puzzle junkies, take note!)

Jackson says you can also run any DOS command from the Deskbar.

The HotBot Deskbar is an adaptation of “Dave’s Toolbar,” an open source project that can be extended by users. It was a natural fit for the open-source approach of HotBot, says Jackson, and also because of its power and extensibility.

“The more I looked into it and wished it would do xyz, the more I found it could do it,” he said. “The key point is that if it doesn’t do what you want it to do, you can make it do it.”

Despite its extensive functionality, the Deskbar is very easy to use. Typing a question mark as a query pops up a help screen that describes all of the search engines available, and examples of some useful specialized searches.

For example, you can look up phone numbers and email by using # and @, respectively, at the end of your search terms, as in “Piper Smith (Ithaca, NY)#” or “Bob Jones@”.

You can translate between English and other languages (en, zh, fr, de, it, ja, ko, pt, es) by putting the language codes at the end of the query. For example, “to be or not to be en-es” translates Hamlet’s immortal phrase from English to Spanish.

You can convert between currencies: “100 usd>gbp”, or calculate mathematical expressions: “4*(pi-3)”, “pow(1.06,30)”. The possibilities seem almost limitless.

The community aspect of the program is also an important consideration to Lycos. Rather than limiting search to HotBot, users of the toolbar can contribute shortcuts to additional search engines and web resources. “Let the community control where the traffic flows throughout the web — I think that’s an important notion,” said Jackson.

Lycos plans to continue to improve and enhance the Deskbar, with frequent updates. When updates are available, users are notified automatically by the Deskbar. And some of these features might migrate onto the web version of HotBot, as well.

“If this is successful, we’ll look to bake a lot of these functions into the search box on HotBot itself,” said Wilde.

Download the HotBot Quick-Search Deskbar

Requires Windows 95 or later and Internet Explorer 5.5 or newer.

HotBot Quick Search Deskbar FAQ

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