Plug away. Sometimes, plug-ins and add-ons are the curse of the Internet world.
Web sites that require plug-ins or offer downloadable toolbars often stop visitors dead in their tracks. Unless visitors want to spend time downloading and installing the special code, they may not be able to see all there is to see on a site. That fragments an audience into haves and have-nots and increases the risk of losing viewers along the way.
But plug-ins and add-ons can still serve a purpose. If these special additions are designated as standard equipment across a government intranet, managers can be sure all desktop PCs have the special added features. This means they can freely disseminate files in special formats, knowing that employees can use their Web browsers to view them. This can include specially formatted text documents, computer-aided design files and other specialized file formats that a Web browser can't use without a plug-in.
There are hundreds of plug-ins and toolbars available on the Net. Here are some that government agencies might find particularly useful for internal use:
Third Voice. This is a remarkable tool that lets you add notes to any Web page you visit. You can also read notes left by others. Notes are designated public, group or private and are indicated by small icons near the sentence where you leave the note. Just click to read. There's also a voting option, a reply notification service and new security features. Designed for use with Microsoft Internet Explorer, this tool from Third Voice Inc. of Redwood City, Calif., is great for collaboration or is just a neat way to comment on Web sites.
Users must sign up for a free account.You
can download Third Voice at www.thirdvoice.com
Esgear. If it's important that you find sites, documents and references related to the page you're viewing, you might be interested in esgear from Essential Surfing Gear Inc. of Pittsburgh. It's a downloadable browsing companion available at www.esgear.com/web
Esgear recognizes the page you are visiting and checks to see if related content is available. If it finds any, its gears rotate, showing pointers to additional information. Other gears allow you to translate a site to another language and define words. Users can even create their own 'etrails' for other esgear users to follow. The tools work with Internet Explorer and Netscape Communicator.
Autodesk Whip. If your agency needs to share CAD, computer-aided manufacturing or design files over your intranet, check out Autodesk Whip from Autodesk Inc.of San Rafael, Calif. Available at www.autodesk.com/products/whip/index.htm
. Autodesk Whip is a great way to share files stored in the Drawing Web Format, which preserves the look and precision of original AutoCAD drawings. It lets those who don't own AutoCAD software use their Web browser to pan, zoom and print the CAD drawings.
Floating portal interfaces. Most of the major Web search engines and portals offer specialized notifier services that float in specialize windows. Here are three popular ones:
MicroPortal from AltaVista Technology Inc. of Campbell, Calif., started last month.
To participate, visit microav.com/about_mportal.html
and sign up. Details on how to download the software are e-mailed to you.
MicroPortal creates a small, always-open window with news, weather and other features, including a search window.
Lycos Inc. Personal Notifier from Lycos Inc. of Waltham, Mass., offers similar features, plus special alerts you can set for news or stocks. Available at www.dealtime.lycos.com/notifier/lycos/lycosnotifier.htm
, Personal Notifier has a tabbed interface that lets you set up a profile for information or products you seek and select the types of news you want to receive.
The Yahoo Companion from Yahoo Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., is a personalized browser toolbar that gives you instant access to Yahoo features. The preference settings are stored on Yahoo, so you can access them from other computers.
NetMeeting. Microsoft NetMeeting is a wonderful addition to Internet Explorer. It lets you hold collaborative text chat, audio, video and whiteboard meetings with up to eight people.
NetMeeting used to be a stand-alone system, but it now interacts directly with select Explorer functions.
You can download the software from www.microsoft.com/windows/netmeeting
Macromedia plug-ins. Check out the Authorware Web Player from Macromedia Inc. of San Francisco at www.macromedia.com/
software/authorware/productinfo/webplayer. It makes streaming intranet functions viewable in your browser when you connect to Authorware-empowered Web sites.
It's often used for corporate or government training applications or interactive kiosk displays. 'Shawn P. McCarthy
The author designs products for a Web search engine provider.