Find It Fast
On the information-intensive Web, the trick is finding what you need when you need it. Internet search engines are one-stop shops for every Web resource, from personalized news services to people-finders. Properly used, they'll speed your searches, help you use your Net time more efficiently and maybe even deliver the information you need right to your e-mail inbox. Here's the lowdown on some of the best.
AltaVista (http://www.altavista.digital.com). Digital Equipment Corp.'s AltaVista offers a simple interface with a lot of power. AltaVista's new LiveTopics tool lets you interactively choose words to narrow your search. With advanced search options, you can restrict searches to a particular type of information (images or applets, for example) or a specific domain. You will, however, have to learn sometimes confusing syntax for the command-driven power searches.
Excite (http://www.excite.com). Excite is a perfect example of the modern search tool. You can, for instance, search magazines and newspapers for the latest news on a favorite topic, and sort the results by relevance or by periodical. Customizing Excite's many capabilities is simple. You can set up your own "front page" with information gathered on current weather, stock prices and news flashes. Advanced search tools are powerful-Excite automatically looks for related words and concepts, ranking them according to how closely they match the search criteria.
HotBot (http://www.hotbot.com). HotBot's graphical search interface is among the easiest to use. It offers drop-down menus to let you compose a search, and you can narrow a search by drilling down to the data you need. You can search a specific site or geographic location, find only certain types of files (applications, images, VRML and so forth) and save customized settings.
InfoSeek (http://www.infoseek.com). InfoSeek checks your search terms to see if one of its predefined categories is available, then displays that category along with your search results. With its UltraSeek configuration, you can choose which services to view, from investor information to the UltraShop online shopping service. The UltraSmart search form offers fast, accurate searching and some of the most up-to-date results we found. If your browser supports ActiveX controls, InfoSeek's search tools are accessible from other applications.
Lycos (http://www.lycos.com). One of the first Web search tools, Lycos has been updated to include so many different types of information that its opening screen can be confusing. It offers everything from restaurant reviews to newsgroup searches, with lots of topic-oriented Web-site directories. Lycos is best when you have a general subject in mind, but you're not quite sure what you're looking for.
Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com), WebCrawler (http://www.webcrawler.com), OpenText (http://www.opentext.com) and AOL's NetFind (http://www.netfind.com). These search sites are more specialized or have fewer features than the major engines. Some are particularly good at locating specific types of information; Yahoo, for example, offers one of the most complete computer vendor directories online.
Microsoft's All-in-One (http://home.microsoft.com/access/allinone.asp). If you're not sure which engine suits you best, try them all with All-in-One. It offers single-click access to the aforementioned sites, so it's a good way to quickly try them all.
My Virtual Reference Desk (http://www.refdesk.com). You can use My Virtual Reference Desk to tie all your searching efforts together. This site offers links to over 10,000 different search and reference tools, including 260 search engines.
Find People Fast
Online directories are like a roomful of phone books. If you need names and numbers to expand your business in another region, or just wonder what happened to old college chum, these search sites can help you find them fast. Some of the search tools described above also provide this look-up service. Most do so by linking to popular locator tools such as BigBook (http://www.bigbook.com) or WhoWhere (http://www.whowhere.com)
Some online directories provide additional information, such as e-mail addresses and demographic data-information you won't find in most printed telephone books. But e-mail addresses can be tough to keep current. Addresses tend to change as people switch jobs or ISPs, and there's often no way to determine if an address is outdated without trying to send a message.
InfoSpace (http://www.infospace.com). InfoSpace can provide more than just e-mail, street address and phone information. It will locate your quarry geographically, providing maps and detailing nearby businesses or homes.
Four11 (http://www.four11.com). For nonbusiness information, you can search one of the Web's white page directories, such as Four11. These often offer extra services, such as the ability to call the person you've located via Internet phone or send a card to the person's address.