SearchPad's Internet metasearches improve as you search
- By William M. Frazier
- Apr 20, 1998
Web search engines such as InfoSeek and Yahoo were revolutionary when they appeared.
Next came the metasearch sites that transferred a query to several different search sites
at once. Then client-side metasearch programs such as WebFerret from FerretSoft LLC of
Pickerington, Ohio, speeded searches even more [GCN, June 16, 1997, Page 40].
But there are still too many uniform resource locators to check out and too few hits
with the exact information you want. SearchPad, a utility from Satyam Spark Solutions Ltd.
of India, puts a new twist on client-side metasearches.
It works through Netscape Communications Corp. and Microsoft Internet Explorer
Besides accepting complex queries with Boolean operators, SearchPad learns from your
reactions as you view its hits. When you restart a query after specifying new rules,
SearchPad gets better and better at finding the answer.
Unfortunately, my first attempt--on a 200-MHz Pentium Pro system with 48M of
RAM--failed, although no problems ap-peared until the results of my initial search began
to show up in the classification window. When I clicked on a site to view it, SearchPad
crashed, citing a page fault in the module mfc42.dll. This led to my second problem.
SearchPad is written in India but has U.S. sales and technical support through
Technocratix Inc. of Phoenix. I sent several e-mail messages to Technocratix tech support
but still hadn't gotten a reply two weeks later.
I then gave up on the 200-MHz system and installed SearchPad on an old 33-MHz 486 PC
with 20M RAM. The program installed flawlessly and this time ran fine, though slowly.
I installed the program on a third machine, a 100-MHz Pentium with 16M RAM. Again
SearchPad installed and ran without problems.
I don't know what happened to tech support or why the program wouldn't run on my main
computer, but two out of three isn't bad.
The documentation, a 16-page booklet in the CD-ROM case, was sufficient only for
installation and basic use. The online help went into greater detail.
Aside from initial problems, SearchPad is a definite step up in searching for data on
the Internet. It figures out what you want based on feedback and eliminates what you don't
All SearchPad queries are assigned a topic, which contains everything discovered and
classified for a given subject. A topic might consist of nothing more than a title, or it
might be defined further by rules, feedback, crawl URLs and key phrases.
As you view the Web pages found by the initial topic query, you tell SearchPad what you
like or dislike about them. Not only can you specify whether a certain word should be
present or not, you can say whether the word should be near or not near other words.
As you supply these details and specify new rules, SearchPad begins to display just the
information you want rather than every single page where a couple of search words show up.
A few features maximize search efficiency and minimize time online. If you have a
dedicated Internet connection, you can schedule searches for off-peak hours or over the
weekend. This doesn't apply to dial-up connections, however.
If you wish, SearchPad will download all pages found, up to a user-specified limit on
disk space per URL. Then you go offline to view and classify the returned pages, saving
After proper installation, SearchPad ran as promised and was a definite help in looking
up relevant information.
Its price is fairly high for a single-purpose Internet utility, however. For $19.95,
you can download a less capable package, ZurfRider from Zurf Inc. of Novato, Calif., at http://www.zurf.com.
After reviewing ZurfRider's initial results, you select common terms related to the
subject and then relaunch the search. ZurfRider doesn't filter or classify hits as
extensively as SearchPad, but it might be all you need.
Here's a postscript on my tech support dilemma. A contact eventually put me in touch
with the Satyam Spark Solutions programmers in India. They advised me to update a Windows
Dynamic Link Library file, oleaut32.dll. Once I did so, the Pentium Pro ran SearchPad just
William M. Frazier, a PC hobbyist, is the postmaster of Ocean Shores, Wash.