- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2001

There are several ways of finding things. One is to bring in a professional organizer as I've done recently. The other is to use a "search bot," or little piece of software, to probe the Internet for you. A third way is to use a search engine, but in this case a very specific one that I'll mention in a minute.

Each method has its advantages. The professional organizer helped me sift through the detritus of my writing life. Sometimes, having another set of eyes (and hands) makes all the difference: together we found all sorts of stuff I'd been looking for, and far more quickly than I would have done it solo.

The "search bot" "bot" being short, I guess, for "robot" is of a similar stripe: another set of (digital) eyes and hands to plow through a (digital) landfill of stuff. There are, I believe, several billion Web pages floating around out there; good luck going through them individually. What the "bot" does is employ several search engines at one time, and then sifts through the results to toss out Web pages that are no longer active, or are otherwise meaningless to your research.

Finally, the search engine I'm thinking of, Google, is not only at the heart of Yahoo and a bunch of other sites, it's also one where you can add a menu bar to your Web browser, or invoke a search with a right click of the mouse after highlighting a word or a name or a phrase. This usually yields a good range of initial results, and sometimes there are real diamonds that pop up.

To find a good personal organizer, check out the Web site of the National Association of Professional Organizers, www.napo.net, and submit a referral request. Another Web site with information on organizers and directories is the Professional Organizers Web Ring, www.organizerswebring.com, which is extremely comprehensive.

My "search bot" of choice these days is the recently released Copernic 2001 Pro, produced by Copernic Technologies, Inc., a Quebec software firm, at www.copernic.com. This $80 program has several new features, its maker says, including access to more than 1,000 information sources an increase of 400 compared with previous versions. Specialized search categories, having undergone considerable improvements, and now numbering 93, the firm says, allow users to better target their queries and obtain results that are markedly precise and up-to-date.

The "Pro" version also takes in the enhancements found in the basic and free Copernic 2001 software: faster start-up; accelerated search engines update; a new Quick Search bar; a more powerful search results browser module; Web page previews; better integration of results, language translation features and highlighting of search terms in the search results.

But it's the refinement and export features of the "Pro" version that I like the most; when someone asks me for information, I'm able to produce a research report in little time, and can take the information Copernic generates for me and easily incorporate it into a Microsoft Word document. Oh, and language translation, called "Gist-in-time" (cute, huh?) is often helpful to get a sense of what a non-English Web page says.

Whether it's the free version (which is ad-supported) or the Pro version, Copernic has its fans: the firm claims 10 million users worldwide. You can add me to the list; this program is an indispensable part of my working day.

Of Google, what is there to say? It's a great, fast, easy search engine; the toolbar you can add to Internet Explorer is another plus. You won't get the analysis and verification you'd find with Copernic, but for quick-and-dirty searches, there's little better.

In short, finding things whether in your physical office or on the virtual office known as the Internet is getting easier all the time.

• Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; send e-mail to [email protected], or visit the writer's Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk back live to Mark every Thursday from 8 to 9 p.m., Eastern time, on www.adrenaline-radio.com.

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