Organized Chaos


       As I sit down to write this story, I look around my desk and think, "Isn't it ironic that I'm writing a story about organized browsing." Bad Alanis Morissette references aside, (memo to myself: stop listening to the so-called alternative radio station) I don't just need programs that help me organize Web sites I've been to; I wish someone would develop something to help me organize my cluttered desk.
       The newest bookmarking programs -- for lack of a better catch-all, that's what I'll refer to them as -- offer many neat bells and whistles from offline browsing to Web site monitoring. Even though finding info that you once saw on the Web is relatively easy by doing a search with Yahoo!, Lycos or AltaVista, it's most satisfying to have a storehouse of your favorite picks close at hand.
       For purposes of this story, I picked six of the more interesting bookmarking programs available today. Most browsers do have built-in bookmarking applications, but the programs reviewed here are exciting additions due to their pure focus on actually enhancing your organizational skills.
       It's amazing how lazy I can be when I surf sometimes. The very act of bookmarking a site seems a monumental effort. If you sympathize, you'll love the ZooWorks Personal Edition, Hitachi's new effort at taming the jungle of cyberspace. ZooWorks works within your browser as a search engine. All you need to remember is a vague detail of any site you've ever visited and ZooWorks will pull it up. You can search by keyword or date. You can also organize URLs into folders so you won't have to search your entire database each time you want to find popular sites. Another file management technique also allows you to label sites "confidential" so your boss or spouse won't be able to follow your virtual footsteps.
       HotPage from DocuMagix operates like a file cabinet built into your browser. Considering my ineptitude at filing, the deck was loaded against HotPage. A major asset of the program is its installation of a command right into your Netscape toolbar that allows users to simply drag down a menu for immediate filing of a URL. From the menu you can also "HotPrint" a Web page, essentially making a virtual hard copy of the page that you can later read while offline. If you're not in the mood to file the instant you save a page, URLs go into an "In Box" (just like the cluttered ones on my desk) for future filing. Another feature allows you to combine HotPrinted pages with live links to other Windows documents created with Word or Excel. While HotPage may work well if you're organized in the real world, I found it cumbersome; all too soon the virtual file cabinets and In Box became hopelessly cluttered up.
       Like the TV show of the same name that some lame brain at Nick at Nite pulled from the schedule this year, Dragnet from OnBase is solid, workmanlike and no-nonsense. This is bookmarking at its very best, simplistic cataloging and categorizing of one's favorite Web sites. While it may not live up to the hyperbolic subtitle "the Ultimate Net Address Book," Dragnet is easy to use from the get-go, employing a simple drag-and-drop interface not unlike the original and oft-copied Mac OS. Other features included are a search feature for your bookmarks and the ability to make hotlist windows for your favorite URLs. The only drawback is that the product is not fully integrated with your browser, meaning extra mouse clicks between programs.
       As faithful as good ol' Rover, DataViz's WebBuddy aims to be your browser's "best friend." If you have a big monitor, you'll love WebBuddy's easy access toolbar, which makes bookmarking a breeze. For smaller monitors, you can choose to use WebBuddy Central, just a separate program that results in more mouse clicks. Beyond the straightforward bookmarking function, WebBuddy offers some interesting features. Rather than fetching your pipe, slippers and the evening paper, WebBuddy has the ability to retrieve pages and sites for offline browsing. You can even schedule the program to download sites at off-peak times. Additionally, WebBuddy allows you to convert Web pages into Word documents. While WebBuddy was definitely not a "dog" of a program, at times it was ploddingly slow -- but that may have been more a result of its beta status than anything else.
       The granddaddy of all bookmarking programs, however, is SmartBookmarks from FirstFloor. SmartBook marks 2.0 starts with the simple bookmarking premise familiar to those users of the FirstFloor's Smartmarks plug-in for Netscape. In the latest version, a bunch of new features makes it simply the best program for organizing your browsing. For instance, you can now choose to monitor sites with "agents" that will check URLs at a pre-determined time (say start-up) to see if any new info has been added to the pages. I use the agents to see if there's any new news at the Camp Nebagamon or Michigan Daily alumni sites. The agents also can retrieve the sites they check for offline browsing. Another great innovation is a built-in search feature that allows you to choose numerous directories to comb the Web. These searches can be saved in the program, allowing you to run them again and again to see if Yahoo! has added any new X-Files sites. On top of it all, SmartBookmarks is fully integrated with Netscape's and Microsoft's browsers, making it the easiest to use of all the products tested.
       Hindsite, so the saying goes, is 20/20, and that's the premise of ISYS's entry to the bookmarking market. The program works on the same premise as Zooworks by keeping a searchable record of every site you've visited. The query feature of the search is quite advanced with "and," "or" and "but not" options. For non-Booleans, there's a plain English search option. One shortcoming of Hindsite is that you have to manually update the index of sites you've visited. While you only have to press a button to do so, it's an extra step nonetheless.
       Nobody likes a smarty pants, yet it's hard to resist Grasp Information Corporation's Know-It-All. While the name may imply omniscience, the program can only know as much as the user. So say you were browsing the Web, collecting Mentos information. Rather than bookmark all of the Mentos sites you've come to, Know-It-All lets you grab specific snippets from the sites. All you have to do is highlight the passage you want to save and click on the category where you want to save it on the toolbar. If, when going through these snippets, that are on pages in the program like little Post-It Notes, you want to revisit a site, you just use the "source link" option. Know-It-All also allows you to grab snippets from any other source such as e-mail or newsgroup postings. You can also edit snippets and use them to create new documents. While the program has a high "gee-whiz factor," in terms of overall usefulness, cutting and pasting seems a lot simpler.
       After testing all six programs, I've chosen to continue using SmartBook-marks with ZooKeeper. I'll also keep Hindsite as a back-up. However, I encourage you to download the programs' free test betas and try them for yourself, since each program is based on a different model, and will speak to different peoples' strengths. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to dig out a missing invoice from my desk.

The full break-down.


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