SAN FRANCISCO (06/12/2000) - Your basic Web search is not an exact science--in fact, it is anything but. And while plenty of new search engines, applications, and browser utilities claim to refine the process, a precise Web search is still a pipe dream. Zapper Technologies Inc. is the latest company to attempt to make the dream a reality, with its new Zapper application.
This free search tool offers some nifty features, but it's not going to revolutionize the way you search the Web.
Zapper works with Internet Explorer 4 and higher--but not IE 5--and Netscape Navigator 4.5 and higher. Once you've downloaded it, you can access it as an icon on your desktop or in your task tray. Zapper can search from a variety of documents, including Microsoft Word and Excel, as well as Web pages.
You can fire up Zapper by highlighting the word or phrase you want to search for, pressing the Control key, and right-clicking your mouse. Zapper launches your browser and appears on your desktop in the form of a small window, with the highlighted text ready to go in the search field.
But ready to go where?
I expected Zapper to conduct some sort of super-refined search of the highlighted word, either contextually or by accessing numerous engines and crawlers. But initially nothing happened.
That's because you need to tell Zapper which sites to search by specifying categories called Zap Packs. Within each general category, like sports or health, are more specific topic breakdowns. In the Zap Pack Sports, for example, you have Sports News, Major Sports, Facts & References, and Sports Shopping. Behind each of these subcategories is a list of related sites--both content and electronic-commerce sites.
Zapper doesn't do much to decrease the time-consuming task of conducting a Web search, as you still have to refine the search yourself by deciding which Zap Packs to use. But it may provide you with a list of related sites that you may not have thought of by yourself.
A patent-pending feature called IntelliZap responds to your query based on the text surrounding the word you've "zapped."
I used IntelliZap to search for "St. Louis" in a paragraph that also mentioned the Rams football team and toasted ravioli. I ended up with an extensive list of links to Rams sites, a few to someone's personal Coca-Cola bottle collection and others to general St. Louis information. The results are gleaned using several different search engines.
Certainly IntelliZap is the most useful element of Zapper. The least useful is that you can't minimize, or even resize the Zapper window, and it floats intrusively on top of every other open application. The best you can do is drag it out of the way--or close it down after each zap.
While Zapper isn't exactly a revolution in searching, it's full of features that make it easy to use. You can customize Zap Packs, share them with other Zapper users, change the keyboard shortcut used to access the application, and keep a history of the words you've "zapped" and the results.