A filter for the information ocean

The Internet is a grand resource, but it's a vast ocean of disorganized data; search sites like AltaVista, Magellan, and Yahoo! are essential for finding specific information. Yet, even casting an intelligent net retrieves thousands of dubious hits, and you must often fish on many sites.

Symantec's Internet FastFind (IFF) is among the first meta-search products (Quarterdeck's WebCompass is another), and other companies are hard on its heels. Meta-search tools query many search engines at once, remove duplicate hits, and organize the results.

Other Bundled Modules
IFF includes other Internet tools. A nice one is LiveUpdate, Symantec's new standard automatic product updater. When I first ran IFF, LiveUpdate automatically retrieved IFF 1.0a, which added the HotBot search site and updated some features. Another tool is PatchConnect, which retrieves system driver updates from company Web sites.

Other tools are EasyFTP, a Windows FileFind, for finding particular files in Archie/FTP space; EasyZIP, which incorporates zip and unzip features into Explorer; and WebLaunch, which puts program-access icons for all these tools on the Windows taskbar.

Testing and Usage
IFF installed quickly from its CD-ROM, registered the program via the Internet, and displayed the IFF console. Two clicks later, I was searching for "OpenGL video cards"; I watched as IFF submitted the search across the various engines. By default, the program organizes the results by site name and saves the summary as an HTML document. You can peruse the document in your default Web browser.

The search respondents' speed limits the speed of IFF; if you want to wait for more hits to download, IFF has a button to add 30 more seconds per click once IFF starts. Sorting the retrieved hits for display takes less than a minute on a 120MHz Pentium. Too often, hits you want to visit are unavailable; IFF offers the option of eliminating unavailable sites that it finds.

  IFF has several search limitations. It will retrieve only 250 hits per search engine--a serious limitation when AltaVista can generate thousands. IFF won't add secondary or refined searches to existing lists; you must restart each search. And IFF won't search Usenet (net news) space. EasyFTP doesn't support resumable FTP, a process that continues a file transfer after a break.

A Good Start
To stay competitive, Symantec will have to add more local intelligence to the program to make its seine net both finer and wider. But as a first release, IFF is immediately useful to many people, whether computer professionals or regular users, for expanding their Internet searches.

Internet FastFind
Web: http://www.symantec.com
Price: $49.95