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November 1996 Reviews TOC

11/96 Reviews SW: EchoSearch 1.01

Rake In a World of Information

By Cynthia Morgan

If information is the lifeblood of the World Wide Web, EchoSearch must be the equivalent of a cybertonic. This very cool metasearch aid from Iconovex ranks right up there with browsers for usefulness, especially if you spend most of your time paging through the blizzards of documents returned by popular search engines.

Written in Java (this should put a stop to those sneers about neat-but-useless Java applets), EchoSearch routes queries to multiple search engines on the Web or Usenet. It analyzes its finds and builds a topic-specific HTML document, complete with comprehensive table of contents, Web page summaries, index and search statistics.

EchoSearch hotlinks keywords and relevant headings, which can jump within the document or directly to the Web page. You can save an EchoSearch session document to your hard drive, or to the corporate intranet, for offline viewing with any browser. It's a great way to start an online reference library.

The program hits all supported search engines simultaneously-thanks to Java's multithreaded nature. On a fat pipe with lots of bandwidth (in the case of our tests, a T1), EchoSearch pulled in 100 documents from six engines in about four minutes. The same search conducted with my 28.8Kbps modem took considerably longer-29 minutes. In addition to download time, you'll also wait for the documents to be analyzed and indexed, which took about three minutes for the 100 documents in my tests.

Once EchoSearch signals that it's done, you'll have a browsable index to everything it found during the current session. You refine your initial search by restricting subsequent searches to the EchoSearch document. Initial searches can contain so much extraneous text that you'll want to do that. The resulting HTML file can be edited just as you would any Web page, so you can manually eliminate extraneous material, add new sites you've come across and provide annotations for especially good references. In mytests, everything that could have been a keyword, including unusual nouns, proper names and, of course, the keywords you entered for the search, was listed in the index, with subheads below giving the context(s) in which each was found.

Unfortunately, EchoSearch's advanced search features are limited to OR, MUST INCLUDE and CANNOT INCLUDE unless you insert these Boolean commands manually. EchoSearch automatically drops the connection to any engine that doesn't support your search terms.The program can restrict searches to a bookmarked list of URLs, which would be particularly powerful if it didn't need a separate URL for every page in the site. I'd love to be able to index an entire Web site by topic, so I hope Iconovex adds this feature.

EchoSearch currently works with six engines: AltaVista, Lycos, Open Text, WebCrawler, Excite and Infoseek. It will post updates to this list on its Web site, which also provides the first line of technical support and some excellent links to Web tutorials. The first update, to the HotBot search engine, should be available by the time you read this. A preliminary version was online when I tested this product, but unfortunately I was never able to download it properly.

The program requires a 32-bit browser and some patience, especially if you're retrieving lots of documents across a slow modem line. It can be used with CompuServe and America Online. You can download a time-limited evaluation copy-compressed to 3.5MB-from Iconovex's very busy Web site, at http://www.iconovex. com/ECHO/CHOICE.HTM.

-- Info File --
EchoSearch 1.01
Pros: Prefilters search results into an offline document
Cons: Needs advanced search tools
Disk Space: 15MB
RAM: 8MB (16MB recommended)
Platforms: 95, NT
Iconovex Corp.
800-943-0292 x37, 612-896-5100
WinMag Box Score 4.5

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