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6/96 Reviews SW: WebAnalyzer 1.0

Complete listing of June 1996 reviews

Web Watcher Offers Site Insight

By Cynthia Morgan

The number of Web sites, and pages on those sites, is increasing geometrically. Unfortunately, the tools to manage them haven't kept up. Now InContext's WebAnalyzer, one of the first of this coming generation of maintenance utilities, can save webmeisters hours of tedious link-checking and page organization.

The program checks every page, file and link on a Web site. It traces broken links, missing images and redundancies, and makes sure "mail tos" really do send e-mail somewhere. It automatically generates a map of the site, and can build a hypertext report detailing its findings.

The program can be useful even if you're not responsible for maintaining a Web site, since it can also be employed as a kind of "superbrowser" for Internet data mining. Mapping a site with WebAnalyzer first lets you view the entire site graphically. Simply click on a node or related link to see a thumbnail sketch of its contents without actually downloading the page.

I examined the beta 2 version of WebAnalyzer, testing it on small, homegrown pages and WINDOWS Magazine's own Web site, Once properly set up, the program performed without problems. It was surprisingly fast when checking the thousands of elements and tens of thousands of links on WinMagWeb. Still, traversing every node of a large Web site can take hours, even with a fast connection, so this isn't something you'll want to do for every site you visit.

At first, the program couldn't find the Internet using our proxy server. The company's excellent tech support quickly provided a simple fix; I added a line to WebAnalyzer's initialization file. Since proxy servers are a common way for large networks to access the Internet, WebAnalyzer really needs to be able to diagnose the problem and automatically request the server name.

You start a site analysis by entering its URL into a browser-like form, then wait while the program builds a skeleton diagram of the site and starts filling it in. WebAnalyzer works from the home page out, arranging subsequent pages in concentricClick on a link and you can filter out unresolved URLs, text pages, and image or audio elements from the view.

The display, known as a Wavefront view, shows all relevant page elements. Clicking on an icon brings up its URL and an opportunity to examine its properties and content. A barred red a broken link, while an envelope signals a mail-to link. The interface is extremely customizable, and you can zoom into specific sections of the site for a closer look and use your own browser to examine pages. If you have permission to access the affected files you can edit pages using any HTML editor.

A second window to the left of the Wavefront view, the Link view, displays links to and from selected nodes. Below, a third window lists document locations, sizes, associated links, content type, title of page and its depth in the site hierarchy. Clicking on an item in the list highlights its associated icons in Wavefront and Link views.

After completing its analysis, WebAnalyzer lets you save its Web inventory as a completed project. You also can suspend analysis to save partial site maps. A project can be viewed offline, although you won't be able to see individual components of the Web site unless you also choose to download the entire site. This can be a powerful tool for Web site backup and duplication (mirroring), or provide a fast way to check large sites. It's also a great way to "test drive" a Web site before it goes live on the Internet. However, remember you'll be saving everything in the site, which could load your hard disk.

The program builds an exhaustive hypertext report of a Web site. Each aspect of the inventory, from broken links to disk-wasting duplicated documents, is a link letting you scroll through a list of problems, jump to the affected area and fix it very quickly. The report also lists excerpts from the tops of connected pages, which can be very helpful by providing orientation within the site.

The report's summary statistics tell you what files and links you've included in your site. More importantly, it lists the size of nearly every site element. It's very easy to see where a site needs to lose a few kilobytes to speed download times.

You can download a 30-day evaluation version of WebAnalyzer from the InContext Web site, If you're interested in efficiently managing a large Web site, or if you frequently have trouble navigating an info-rich location, I predict WebAnalyzer will be a keeper.

Info File
WebAnalyzer 1.0
Pros: Price; Web site management
Cons: Complete analysis is lengthy
Platforms: Windows 95
InContext Corp.
800-263-0127, 416-922-0087
WinMag Box Score: 4.5
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