Search Toolbar Roundup

The latest search engine to offer users a free search toolbar is Teoma. This free navigational tool lets you search Teoma’s database from any Web page – it’s a useful information resource at your fingertips.

Several search engines offer similar utilities that provide convenience and save time. The most popular of these is the Google Toolbar, but several other engines also provide free navigational aids for loyal users, including Alexa, Excite, Lycos, Teoma, and Yahoo! It is possible to download several toolbars if you wish — one will simply appear below the other. For instance, if you’re a fan of Google and FAST, you might want the Google Toolbar and Lycos SeeMore (powered by FAST). Or try the new UltraBar, which allows you to search your own menu of search engines from a single customizable toolbar.

Below is a summary of the various toolbars available and their features. Excite is an old one that goes on the desktop, probably designed with "push technology" in mind. Back in 1997, PointCast introduced "push" marketing methods for sending information directly to computer desktops, to one prospect at a time — counter to the traditional "pull" techniques of broadcasting new information to thousands, and waiting for them to take the desired action.

Alexa Toolbar

The Alexa Toolbar enables you to quickly find useful information about the site you’re viewing. From "Site Info," you obtain contact information, site stats and user reviews. "Related Links" is a good way to discover similar sites. This list is updated constantly with information about sites that are visited by other users of the site you’re on. There’s a link to the Google Toolbar and Dogpile.

You can use the "Search" button to search listings from Alexa, Yahoo! and Google. And if you can’t access your favorite site, or want to see its previous incarnations, use the "Wayback" button to view archived copies of sites on the Way Back Machine.

Excite Assitant

The Excite Assistant, still available at download.com, inserts a toolbar on your desktop from which you can search Excite, and access a variety of online information such as stock and news updates. Listen to Internet radio and get personalized news without having to open your browser! Available for Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.

Google Toolbar

The Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer downloads very quickly and is probably the most widely used (having clocked several million downloads so far). This toolbar implements a Google search box in your browser, allowing you to access Google’s popular database from any Web page: search the Web, the site, or the Google Directory. You can also access "PageRank" to reveal the site’s link popularity.

"Page Info" gives you a cached snapshot of the page, similar pages, backward links, and will even translate foreign pages into English. "Highlight" will highlight your search terms in different colors as they appear on the page. "Word Find" lets you find your search terms as they appear on the page. Google collects information through the toolbar when PageRank is enabled, but not if you’ve selected "Install Without Advanced Features."

Lycos SeeMore

Lycos SeeMore for Internet Explorer 4 or 5 is a little different. It lets you search Web pages quickly by simply right-clicking on a word, phrase or graphic. You’ll get a menu from which to select "See More With Lycos," then the utility will come up with more information links on your topic, allowing you to click for more information.

For instance, if you wanted more information on "airport security" while reading a page describing a recent airport security breach, it will refer you to several text links from which to select relevant information. It can be handy because you don’t lose your place by going to a search box.

Teoma Search Bar

The Teoma Search Bar for Internet Explorer gives you instant access to Teoma’s search technology from anywhere on the Web. "Results" provide links to relevant Web pages, "Refine" gives suggestions for narrowing your search, and "Resources" provides links to specialized directories. It downloads and installs quickly, appearing every time you open a new Internet Explorer window. Features include a dictionary look-up, and a highlight button that will highlight your search terms in six different colors as they appear on the page.

Yahoo! Companion

Yahoo! Companion puts a customizable toolbar in your browser. It allows you to personalize with buttons for Yahoo! services, saves your bookmarks for access from any computer, provides alerts on Yahoo! Mail, and allows you to search Yahoo! from any site. Available for Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.

UltraBar IE Toolbar

UltraBar IE Toolbar is probably the handiest of all. It allows you select your most frequently used search engines from a menu within one toolbar, and it incorporates the latest search toolbar features.

You can customize the order of search engines, highlight search terms within the page, and go directly to your search terms or phrases. It’s not limited to major search engines, either — you can select any site that has a search function.

There are three versions, and two are free (Ultrabar IE Toolbar and Ultrabar Co-Brand). Ultrabar Pro is more for ISPs and larger Websites, offering added features starting at $500 per year for unlimited downloads/installs.

Why Use A Search Toolbar?

Search toolbars are convenient as they allow you to search from any site, which saves you the time it takes to go to a search engine and place a query. The newer toolbars offer additional information by highlighting your search terms throughout the page. With Lycos SeeMore, you can also link to relevant information from the text you’re currently reading.

So if you use any of the above search engines exclusively, it might not be a bad idea to go ahead and download the appropriate toolbar utility. And for those times when you need to search multiple search engines or sites, UltraBar gives you complete flexibility.

While these tools deliver many positive benefits, a major shortcoming is that all but the Excite Assistant and Yahoo Companion are available only for Internet Explorer, and none are available for Macs.

For Macs Only

The IE Mac browser contains its own built-in toolbar that can search

  • MSN
  • Overture
  • AltaVista
  • Lycos
  • Excite
  • Yahoo
  • Euroseek
  • Bigfoot
  • Infospace
  • Worldpages
  • MSN Yellow Pages
  • Expedia
  • Mapquest
  • Encarta
  • Merriam-Webster
  • Dictionary.com
  • Thesaurus.com
  • Corbis

Additionally, Apple provides Sherlock 3, which allows Mac users to search the Internet in different "channels" of information. And most major search engines and directories offer plug-ins for Sherlock.

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