Bob and Joy
                                      
 
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach
                                                                        

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June 2004, Week 2 -- Lost in the Internet Latitudes

 

 

  

   First there's searching the web; then there's searching a web site.

   Every web site doesn't need a search engine, but every web site deserves a search engine. A commercial web site almost has to have one; you just can't get along without it. The frustration of finding something you wanted and not getting it is so frustrating that most web site visitors will just click off at that point. We'd had the experience, and we're sure some visitors have had the experience at our own site.

 

The view from the bridge

 

   First of all, you can search within any web site by going to google.com  and clicking on "advance search." Put your search terms in the blank boxes, then put the site's web address in the box labeled "domain." Boom, it will search the site.

 

   While this works, it's doubtful many visitors to a site will either be aware of this technique or willing to bother. If there's no search button on the site, they'll move on. So will we.

 

   There are several companies that provide search engine software for personal and business web sites, but we're not going to bore you and eat up our limited space by going into all of them. You can find a pretty good article on the subject, though a little out of date, by going to www.vivisimo.com and typing in "adding search to site." The article is the first result that pops up.

 

   The program we selected, however, isn't in that article. It's "Zoom Search," from WrenSoft in Australia; web site: www.wrensoft.com. While we had some initial difficulty getting it installed on our site www.oncomp.com, we did get it done, and a recent revision of the software solved our earlier problems. Once in place, it worked beautifully.

 

   There is a free edition of Zoom Search that is intended for personal web sites that have less than 50 pages. It has no ads and doesn't bug you with messages to upgrade. (All other free search engine downloads do place ads on your site.) The standard edition is $49 and can search sites of up to 100 pages, the pro edition is $99 and provides searching for an unlimited number of pages. There are no ads and no ongoing costs or fees. Company support is through email, and we found no problems with that.

 

   This search software, like many but not all of its competitors, can search many types of files on a web site, including PDF files, Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The advanced features allow you to analyze how your visitor searched your web site and it generates statistical reports. A lot of bang for the buck. You can form your own opinion of it by going to our web site and seeing how it works. Our site has over 400 pages and continues to grow so we liked the one flat fee and no monthly charges, plus free support by email.

 

   Our site, like many others, was created using Microsoft FrontPage, by far the leading web site creation software. But the search engine that comes with FrontPage is primitive. What we got from switching to Zoom Search was not only far better searches but results that include the all-important context around the words being searched. That way you can tell if the search result is what you were actually looking for. Zoom, like most search engine software, can be installed on CDs and other media as well as web sites. This makes large amounts of material searchable offline.

 

Internuts

 

-- www.metacritic.com We really liked this one. Ever wonder what other critics are saying about that movie, video, music or game? We mean other than the critics in your local paper. Metacritic lists current reviews from dozens of newspapers and magazines and color codes them for favorable or unfavorable.

 

-- www.younginvestor.com  How Wall Street works, how to save for college, what kind of investments can build up your savings, etc. Also has information on unusual stock market and general economy indicators. For instance, aspirin sales go up when the market is bad; lipstick sales go up when the economy is bad.

 

-- www.write4kids.com  This site has a lot of nagging comments prompting you to buy their newsletter, but if you can ignore those there is lots of good advice here about writing books and stories for children. They have a message board with questions from aspiring writers. The site provides word lists for different children's grade levels, and lists upcoming writer conferences.

 

Books

  

 

 

   We found two new books for owners of handheld PCs, $25 each from Osborne/McGraw-Hill www.osborne.com.

-- "101 Killer Apps for Your Pocket PC," and ...

-- "101 Killer Apps for Your Palm Handheld." by Broida and Johnson.

   "Killer aps" is an over-used term these days, since there practically are no more new killer applications. But the kicker here is that the CDs that come with each book contain a few of the 101 programs for free and a link to the others. Many of the links are to shareware program producers, so there is often a small fee involved, usually less than $10 and nearly always a free trial. Some free apps: a converter for metric to English and other measures, a pocket blackjack game and video poker.

 

NOTE: Readers can search more than three years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@aol.com and Joy Schwabach at joydee@oncomp.com.

 

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