Down memory lane
Agent’s syntax options are a little disappointing compared to the brute strength of something like dtSearch or ISYS, but its basic Boolean operators work well enough. This is because the emphasis isn’t on focusing too tightly, but rather on getting as much related info as possible and then refining it locally. This enables you to quickly follow strands that sit at a tangent to your original search, without paying the penalty of starting all over (and all your searches can be saved for later reference anyway). However, it’s the refining and filtering process that’s most impressive, as well as the removal of duplicates. Copernic can detect the language of each result, compare pages for similar concepts, validate all the URLs contained within the results, and much more. By the time it’s finished doing this – and for a large generic search you’ll have time for a cup of coffee – you’re left with a well-indexed database that you can filter any way you choose, by date range, domain, relevancy, conceptual content, author or further keyword searching. You can add annotations wherever you like, share results, let Copernic Tracker flag searches for automatic monitoring across an unlimited number of pages and be notified whenever the content changes by way of an email report summary.
Talking of which, I haven’t yet mentioned the final part of the triumvirate – Copernic Summarizer – which uses basic AI techniques to extract key texts and produce summaries of various lengths within a second or two. These can be as long or short as you require, and you can export, print or email them. It even understands a swathe of foreign languages. Nevertheless, Summarizer is probably the weakest part of the suite, as too many of its summaries simply consist of the first paragraph of text from the web page rather than any clever conceptual extract. When it does get it right, it’s a fantastic technology; the rest of the time, it’s still helpful to be able to just scan 25 words rather than click through a whole site.
So is the whole suite worth a shade under £100? That depends on how important information is to you or your business – it’s probably not an impulse buy for the average consumer, but may be for PC Pro readers. Copernic was acquired by Canadian meta-search giant Mamma.com in late December and it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so there’s nothing to lose and rather a lot to gain.
Jetbrains To The Rescue
Another search application, or ‘Integrated Information Environment’ as I’m supposed to call it, that didn’t fit the Labs brief is Omea Pro 2. This is quite unlike anything else I’ve seen, in that it merges Desktop search with RSS feeds and wraps the whole thing up inside an email client. If that sounds confusing, it is. It synchronises with Outlook for email messages, contacts and tasks, and happily works with all office apps, but for me it’s too much of a mish-mash of content collection, almost the opposite of Copernic Agent.
Yes, it will search and categorise information feeds based upon your rules, handle multiple RSS feeds and allow you to save clippings directly from within IE or Firefox. Yes, it supports podcasting and provides intelligent links between associated resources, but by relying upon Outlook for its email handling, and on .NET Framework 1.1, it’s already lost me as a potential user. I no longer feel the need to tow the Microsoft line on either count, and most certainly don’t want to sacrifice the power of The Bat! Professional and Voyager now that I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into getting that solution to work the way I want. The Czech development company has managed to produce something innovative and different, but on this occasion it’s not for me. Your mileage may well vary, and an evaluation version can be downloaded from www.jetbrains.com. If you find it useful, or not, I’d be grateful if you’d email me with your thoughts to aid my ongoing evaluation.