2. Browser add-ons aid navigation
By Mark Alberstat
WE'VE ALL BEEN cruising the World Wide Web for years now, and although the
number of Web sites and pages grows daily, the way we use the Web and view
those pages has remained relatively static. The browser wars of the
mid-'90s are over, with Microsoft's Internet Explorer coming out the clear
winner and the once dominant Netscape trailing far behind in second place.
A few new Web browsers have been introduced over the years, the most
prominent being Opera and Mozilla. Opera is certainly the lesser known of
the two. It's a privately developed browser that costs about $30 US,
unless you don't mind seeing a lot of ads and use the ad-supported
version. Mozilla is basically the open-source version of Netscape, which
is now owned by AOL.
To help people browse the Web more efficiently, several of the busiest
sites have created browser ad-ons to help their users. Many other
companies have also created a wide variety of browser plug-ins that can
aid users in their online surfing.
One of the first, and possibly best-integrated products, is the Google
Toolbar. This ingenious device works as another toolbar line in your
browser window. The bar features quick access to the massive - and quick -
Google search engine and is fairly customizable.
For users with a healthy dose of paranoia, or a shared computer, the bar
also features a "clear search history" button. Best of all, this toolbar
is free and very easy to install and use.
In Yahoo!'s ongoing attempt for you to live at their site they have also
added a browser toolbar to their growing list of Yahoo! downloads. The
Yahoo! Companion is similar to the Google Toolbar but also has quick keys
to your Yahoo!-stored bookmarks and also a button for My Yahoo!, their
customizable portal page.
eBay also has a integrated toolbar for all the auction junkies among us.
The free add-on keeps tabs on your eBay auctions without you having to go
to their site, and through the My eBay tab.
For the student in all of us, Merriam-Webster, the dictionary people, has
an add-on that integrates very well into the Internet Explorer and
Netscape toolbars. Once installed you can highlight any word on a Web
page, or enter it in a search box, and a new pop-up window appears with
the definition of it from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. There's
even a link for an audio clip of the term so you can get the pronunciation
Newshounds, of course, aren't left off the list of target markets for
browser add-ons. MSNBC's free News Alert doesn't actually place anything
on your toolbar but does put an icon on the bottom of your screen. When
the icon flashes a bull's eye, news is breaking. You can then click the
icon for a popup of that news item. The feature is configurable so you can
get breaking-news updates along with those from the entertainment,
business and technology worlds.
There are other ad-ware and share-ware programs with which you can add
buttons to your browser, automatic form fill-in tools and of course,
programs that can suppress those annoying pop-up ads. Remember, not all
Net companies are created equal and some of these add-ons could give you
configuration problems or even increase the number of pop-up ads. With
these tools, and others like them, you will be able to surf the Web
better, faster and maybe save some time for a bit of online gaming.
Here are a few links related to the software mentioned:
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Originally published 9 February 2003