recent phenomenon on the Internet is the appearance of search toolbars.
These are usually made available by the major search engine companies.
In essence, a toolbar lets you to use the search engine in question
without visiting their website.
Well-known toolbars include those from
Yahoo, though not all of these are
called “toolbars” (Yahoo’s is called the Yahoo Companion, for example,
while Lycos call theirs the Lycos SideSearch).
As search toolbars have many features in common,
today I need devote myself just to the most popular one — which happens
to be that from Google.
The way it works is as follows.
First you go to a special Google site and download
the Toolbar software (for free), and then install it. It then attaches
itself to your browser as an extra bar, usually at the top of the page
(under the Address bar), and you're ready to go. Bear in mind that it
works only with Microsoft Internet Explorer version 5.0 or greater, and
only in Windows (Win95 or later).
As I mentioned, the main purpose of the Toolbar is to
give you access to Google, no matter which Web page you happen to be on
right now. The software can even remember the last twenty searches you
have done from the Toolbar.
In addition to allowing you to search Google at any
time from anywhere, the Toolbar also provides a means of searching the
text of the site you are currently at. This latter feature is very
useful for those sites that do not offer a search function themselves.
An even more helpful aspect of this site search facility is the option
to highlight each occurrence of your search terms in the results.
If you want information about the page you’re on, you
can look at the following:
Cached Snapshot of Page (the snapshot that Google
took of the page when they last crawled the Web.);
Similar Pages (pages that are related in some way to
the current page);
Backward Links (pages linking to the current page);
Translate into English (obviously of use only for
foreign language sites).
Detailed information on these and other features is
available from Google.
Another useful, though often misunderstood, option is
the display of the current page's PageRank. Here is Google’s description
of this feature:
PageRank performs an objective measurement of the
importance of web pages and is calculated by solving an equation of 500
million variables and more than 3 billion terms. Google does not count
links; instead PageRank uses the vast link structure of the web as an
organizational tool. In essence, Google interprets a link from Page A to
Page B as a “vote" by Page A for Page B. Google assesses a page's
importance by the votes it receives.
Google also analyzes the pages that cast the votes.
Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily
and help to make other pages important. Important, high-quality pages
receive a higher PageRank and are ordered or ranked higher in the
results. Google's technology uses the collective intelligence of the web
to determine a page's importance. Google does not use editors or its own
employees to judge a page's importance.
You may be interested to know that most of
Bikwil's pages are ranked in the 4 to 6 range (out of 10). In the
universal scheme of Internet things, this ain’t bad at all.
O.K., so most of the above features are optional, and
can be turned on or off by clicking on the Options button. Altogether,
there are around thirty options for changing the Toolbar’s behaviour and
layout options, many of which you will find it useful to try out. But
even if you were to turn off most of them, the essential search
functions would still be a bonus for your Internet browsing.
I recommend the Google Toolbar.