If it's on the Internet, NetFerret will sniff it out-fast and for less than $30

NetFerret Suite's six search bots will do the sifting for you, retrieving World Wide
Web pages, e-mail addresses, programs downloadable via File Transfer Protocol, UseNet
messages, chat users and even telephone numbers.


You can buy NetFerret Suite on a $29.95 CD-ROM or as a $24.95 download from http://www.ferretsoft.com. A time-limited
version lets you try before you buy.


Installation is fast and simple. Those who dislike documentation will be delighted to
see that the only printed information is on the CD jewel case sleeve. Documentation of
program operations appears in the help files on disk.


After installation, the suite components appear as selections in the Microsoft Windows
Start/Find menu, such as Find/Web Pages or Find/Email Addresses.


WebFerret interrogates leading Web search engines to find Web pages that match your
search criteria. You initiate searches by entering a key word or words. Unfortunately,
this version of WebFerret doesn't accept Boolean operators such as "not."


If you've ever used a Web-based metasearch tool with multiple engines, you know the
value of looking at more than one site. The biggest difference between WebFerret and a
metasearch site is speed. Relying on Windows' multithreading capability, WebFerret queries
multiple engines simultaneously, and results begin appearing on your screen in one or two
seconds. Duplicate results are discarded.


You can get a longer description of a page by holding the pointer over the name of the
page in the search results box. This brings up an abstract in Tool-Tip format.


Although WebFerret uses most of the Web search engines, it doesn't let you configure
additional search engines of your choosing.


EmailFerret does just what the name implies. You can limit searches for e-mail
addresses by first and last name, geographical location and organization. The program
simultaneously queries databases such as AccuMail, Bigfoot, WhoWhere and MIT UseNet
Address.


FileFerret is very useful for searching Web-based file databases and Archie protocol
databases to find shareware, public-domain and other freely available software. I can't
count the number of times I've gone to a Web site that lists files to download, only to
find that the link to the file is no longer current.


With FileFerret, you limit the search by listing the file you're looking for and a
geographical area, such as North America. The list box displays the filenames discovered,
folder, server, size, type, date last modified and the search engine that returned the
results.


When you find a file you want to download, just double-click on the filename. WebFerret
will retrieve the file with its own FTP client. Then choose where to save the file.


NewsFerret is the bot I find most useful and most frustrating. It will go to your
selected news server and hunt for any key words you specify, limited by subject and group.
My local news server has 30,000-plus newsgroups, so I find it difficult to guess which
groups to search.


If you don't put anything in the group delimiter, the program will search every group
on the server. Even with a local news server, this can take quite a while. Aside from the
slowness, though, I haven't found a better way to ferret out items in Internet newsgroups.


PhoneFerret serves a dual purpose. It's designed to find a phone number quickly by
simultaneously accessing multiple search engines, like the other programs in the suite.
Search fields include first and last names, and you can limit the search by state or city.


When a match is found, PhoneFerret lists the person's name, address and phone number.
If you're running Windows 95 dialer software, you can dial the number automatically by
right-clicking the name in the name field and selecting Dial from the pop-up menu.


The final component of the suite is IRCFerret. If your colleagues like to hang out on
the Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channels, this is the way to find them.


Enter a name, e-mail address and/or channel and IRCFerret will simultaneously search
numerous IRC networks. The results show the target's name, channel, e-mail address and
network. You can join the chat by double-clicking the name.


NetFerret Suite is an exceptional product. I doubt if you'll find a quicker, easier set
of Internet search utilities on the market today, at least at this price.


William M. Frazier, a PC hobbyist, is the postmaster of Ocean Shores, Wash.

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