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technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
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Free search programs for Web sites, e-mail addresses, files and more

Bit Player for June 27, 1999

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1999, The Syracuse Newspapers

Finding information on the Internet can be a pain. If you'd like a free way to make it easy, get WebFerret.

WebFerret is one of many Internet "ferrets" from FerretSoft LLC. All the FerretSoft programs come in two versions a free version that shows an ad and an ad-free commercial version that has more features.

You can download any of the ferrets by going to the company's Web site at All the ferrets run under Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows NT. A version that runs under Linux is being considered. There is no Mac version.

Seldom have I seen Internet programs designed so well. They're all easy to install and just as easy to use. I tried all the latest free versions and didn't mind the advertising at all. The basic approach is marvelously simple: You type a search word or term into a window and hit the Enter key. In a short time the ferret lists its results 500 is the maximum number of hits by default, but you can make it as large as you want and you can get a summary of each result by holding the mouse pointer over the single line for each hit. Double clicking on an entry or highlighting it and hitting Enter opens that page in your browser. (In some cases, your default text editor, such as NoteTab Light or, if all else fails, Microsoft's brain-dead Notepad, will be used instead of your browser.)

Be sure to download all the ferrets, not just the Web-search program. In addition to WebFerret, you can get free versions of these other search programs:

  • InfoFerret, which finds news and current-event information
  • NewsFerret, which searches news groups for any topics and keywords
  • EmailFerret, which finds e-mail addresses
  • PhoneFerret, which locates phone numbers and other personal information
  • FileFerret, which finds files by name (partial searches allowed)
  • IRCFerret, which looks for information on the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels.

If you've never searched outside the standard range of Web pages, NewsFerret and FileFerret could turn out to be real gems. NewsFerret can locate help on practically any topic in a few seconds, and FileFerret searches through Internet ftp (file transfer protocol) servers very quickly, too.

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