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Search tools: new developments

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List generation services help access relevant subject sites with minimum effort

SEARCH TOOLS form one of the most active segments in the on-line arena. NetSpeak readers have been introduced to several search products in the past. A few of the new additions are discussed here.A distinct feature of the rapidly growing search solutions space is the numerous search services that let users create/store lists of sites pertaining to a specific subject or area. In such services you can find several site-lists on diverse subjects. Before initiating a general search service, a preliminary scan of such services may help in accessing relevant resources with minimum effort.For instance, a netizen who intends to start a blog on a free blogging site requires information on various free blog-hosting services. Directly hitting on the appropriate ones with the help of a general search engine, though possible, may take time. But on a web site list creation service, someone might already have created/hosted a list of free blog hosts.We have already seen list generation services (such as Squidoo (http://www.squidoo.com/) and Rollyo (http://rollyo.com/). Listible is the latest of this kind encountered by this author.Listible (http://www.listible. com/) provides tools for creating web link lists on any topic of your choice. Besides helping you start a list, the service allows other users to view it as well. In addition, they can comment/vote/add new content on to it. Also, the service provides web feeds for each of the lists. Top free anti-virus software (http://www.listible.com/list/top-free-anti-virus-software), "Best PC security sources'' (http://www. listible.com/list/best-pc-security-sources) and "Free Blogging hosts'' (http://www.listible.com /list/free-blog-hosts) are useful lists available here.When we invoke a search engine for a specific query, the output comes from different types of web sites. It may contain pages of diverse kinds such as journal articles, web pages of research institutions, subject-specific journals and so on. If we can get the output clubbed on the basis of web page sources, it will be more valuable.The newly launched search service Kosmix (http://www. kosmix.com/) seems to fulfill this requirement. Here, together with normal output, the service displays source-specific clusters alongside. If you access its Health search engine for information on `breast cancer,' Kosmix will display results under categories such as medical organisations, blogs, message boards and so on. This vertical search service currently deals with three subjects — health, travel and politics.

DumbFind

DumbFind (http://www. dumbfind.com/) is another search engine trying to gain some foothold in the highly competitive search tool market. The salient feature of this search service is the `related tag' input box, provided for refining the search query. That is, if you are looking for tutorials on `google search,' you may get better output by entering the tag `tutorial.' Another search service worth a try is the multimedia search engine Tveyes (http://www. tveyes.com/), created for finding TV news clips (from MSNBC, CNN and the like). And those of you who prefer to read search results in big fonts may find the search service Big.com (http://big.com) rather amusing.

Free audio books

Books in the public domain are copyright free and can be used by anyone without restrictions. Tens of hundreds of such books are now available. As discussed earlier, the famous project `Project Gutenberg' (http://www.gutenberg.org/) is an effort to digitise and distribute such books in text format.The availability of such books in digital format is quite useful as we can read them anytime with our computer or an e-book reader. But, if such a book is available in audio format, we can enhance its reach. Thus, if the famous Aesop's Fables is available in audio format, we may enjoy listening to them while travelling or doing some mundane task. Here lies the significance of the free audio book creation project LibriVox (http://www.librivox. org/). LibriVox offers free audio version of books available in the public domain. The books are provided in both MP3 and OGG formats. Audio version of several famous works such as Pride and Prejudice, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Aesop's Fables and The Communist Manifesto are available.

Ajaxwrite

In the past this column has featured several web-based word processors (such as Goffice Writely). Google's recent acquisition of Writely (http://writely.com/) underlines the importance of this product segment. The latest entrant in this fast changing area is Ajaxwrite (http://ajaxwrite.com/), an MS-Word compatible web based word processor. This platform-independent product can be used to create Word documents with your browser (Firefox 1.5+) from any computer. Though it has some basic word-processing features, the current version of the product lacks facilities (such as spell check) commonly found in mainstream word-processors.You can open a Word document from your machine and save the document on to your local storage in Word, RTF, Text and PDF formats. However, when this author tried to save a document as PDF it failed. An additional feature worth a mention relates to opening multiple documents in the same window on separate tabs.

New on-line worksheet

An on-line worksheet lets you create a worksheet with your browser and allows you to invite others for collaboratively working on it. NetSpeak has featured a few (like Irows) in the past. Numbler (http://numbler.com/), the latest one intercepted by this author, though not a full-fledged Worksheet package, contains some basic features. When you click on a PDF link, generally the document gets loaded on to the default PDF viewer. But, if you want to control the PDF document loading process, check out the PDF download extension available here: http://tinyurl.com/bfkpy. With this Firefox extension you can either download the document on to your machine or get it loaded on to your browser. If you do not want either of these, you can convert the PDF into an HTML file.

Idiomsite

Idioms and proverbs are quite important in any language and a good understanding of them will enhance your communication skills. Here is a good site (http://www.idiomsite.com/) with several idioms in the English language. J. MURALI

He can be contacted at: jmurali@gmail.com


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