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Web Tools That Make Life Easier

By Donna Fryer and Dale Tincher - 2003

When doing research on the Internet, do you ever feel like you get lost in the "World of Too Much Information"? It can be a daunting feeling. It is even normal to feel like everyone else knows more than you do about the different tricks to harness the power of the Internet. How can you tame the Internet, be more proficient, and spend less time spinning your wheels? A few Web tools that can help you be more organized and make you feel more in control. Most of what is talked about today is software downloads. Not all are free but many are relatively inexpensive. There may be similar product offerings but the products mentioned are the ones with which we are familiar.

Capturing Information

Ever have a presentation to do and need screen prints in your Power Point Presentation? You have to capture the whole screen and do a lot of cropping because of extra, unwanted portions of the document! Fortunately, TechSmith's SnagIt came along and allows you to easily capture only the part of the screen that you want captured and removes the extraneous additions such as sidebars, extra spaces, and advertisements. SnagIt is one of our favorite finds! It is so simple to use. When you find a document where you want to capture a portion, just drag a box around that area, copy it and then paste it to the final document. No cropping needed!

If you are a small company that wants to look like a major corporation including the budget, TechSmith's Camtasia might be the product for you. Camtasia's motto is "Show them How". This tool "creates videos of onscreen activity from any application , allowing you to easily show people how to use software and web sites" according to Camtasia. There are quite a few of these products on the market but according to some trainers that regularly use these type of products, Camtasia compacts the information better than others, resulting in a smaller document. Trainers, sales, marketing professionals, software developers and product managers may find this tool useful. Camtasia allows you to record video files of a screen, window or particular region with a single click. You can then embed this into a PowerPoint presentation or other targeted document. Once you have developed the video you can add text, drawings, and cursor highlights. You can even narrate the video during or after recording! This would be helpful for sales calls or technical help to clients.

Less Annoyances

Do Spam and Pop-ups drive you crazy?! It seems like you cannot go to a website nowadays without getting two or three ads popping at you --singing, making noises, resulting in you feeling like you just been assaulted by the 'Advertising Bullies'. How about receiving annoying Spam? According to research from Executive Summary Consulting, Inc. and Quris anywhere from 28% to 37% of all e-mail is Spam. If you wanted to know about a certain product, you would have contacted the company yourself! Again, there are several products that would like to eliminate these annoying problems. Let's mention a few:

MailWasher is a good product for managing Spam. MailWasher gives you control of which e-mails get passed through to your inbox. It is different from other Spam eliminators in that you have control of the e-mails that are passed through to your inbox as opposed to an "automatic elimination" from unrecognized e-mails. In addition, you can bounce back an e-mail to make it look like the address is invalid therefore, possibly, eliminating future spamming from the same Spammer. This download is free however the MailWasher owner is not against a "donation" for the software if you like the product.

Besides Spam, Pop-ups leave you feeling like you have lost control! They are like a bad dream that you cannot wake up from. Several products out there that address this issue and try to help. None of them are perfect. However, one product that was named "PC World's Best Bet" and c/net's Editor's Choice is AdSubract Pro. AdSubtract Pro stops pop-ups, pop-unders, flash ads, standard banner ads, freezes GIF images, blocks spying cookies, and erases browsing history, enabling better privacy. The result of all this blocking will speed up surfing time because you will not have to wait for these annoying ads to download!

STOPzilla is another Pop-up blocker but cannot be used while searching on the AOL search system. You must use another browser to stop the pop-ups with this product.

Information Organization

There are two products that aid with information organization that are so great, it is hard to believe that someone actually developed these products!

The first one that I'll talk about is AskSam's SurfSaver. SurfSaver is a browser add-on which lets you store valuable web pages in different 'cabinets' and folders for future referencing. It allows you to save text, graphics, frames, and the best part - hypertext links. Not only can you save the original page but you can request several layers of links to be saved. When you save the web page, you have the option of adding a title, keywords, and notes so when you want to retrieve the information, it is easily found. Search terms are highlighted when you open a results page. AskSam has two versions of SurfSaver. There is a free version that has good functionality but is not as versatile as the lower cost version. The low cost version called SurfSaver Pro, additionally allows you to save multiple pages at once, store SurfSaver folders in any drive including CD ROM drives, and directly import HTML and text files into SurfSaver folders.

CatchTheWeb is similar to SurfSaver yet has a different flair. The first difference is that they do not have a free version but you can download a trial version. CatchTheWeb is priced relatively low considering the feature functionality of their product. CatchTheWeb is designed for anyone who has to deal with information management not only from the Web but in pulling together information in general. CatchTheWeb enables the researcher to capture critical web content into a database, annotate pages, add sticky notes, include Word docs and spreadsheets, and finally compile an entire project into a single file for presentation or archiving purposes. The presentation can easily be e-mailed to a client or posted to an intranet site. Additional features include full text searching of all collected documents, time and date stamped pages including original URL or document location and highlighting important text in documents. For those who give presentations or do training, CatchTheWeb makes creating your presentation from your database fast and simple and CatchTheWeb Player, a freely distributed software program, enables you to deliver your presentation either on-line or off-line.

Since both SurfSaver and CatchTheWeb date and time stamp their documents, these can definitely be used for archived and litigation purposes.

Web Tool Uses

Whether you are doing research and need to find a better management system than just using your browser's bookmarks or your responsibility includes presentations or training, it is important to use the most cost effective, efficient processes. Just think what future technological developments can do for work productivity!

About the Authors

Donna Fryer is a Research Consultant and owner of Global Information Research & Retrieval, LLC in Greensboro, NC. She has developed training CD's on how to search the Internet efficiently and CLE CDs for attorneys - SEARCH IT RIGHT PACKAGED TRAINING. She also does secondary Competitive Intelligence research for businesses. Her website is: www.SearchitRight.com.