Life Beyond the Internet: Part II
Part of the Internet's lure is the opportunity it offers businesses -- inexpensively -- to get closer to their customers. Witness the proliferation of corporate World Wide Web pages replete with fill-in forms and the host of software designed to support end users. Amid the potpourri of recent offerings, here are three completely different packages (for Windows) -- InContext Spider, allCLEAR and askSam -- that you should seriously consider as you delve deeper into cyberspace, either as a user or information provider.
InContext Spider (URL: http://www.incontext.ca/)
Determined to profile your company on the Web with your own home page? Have valuable information you need to make easily available to customers and prospects? Want to make sure your tags are A-OK and your page appears as you intend? Here's one of the more sophisticated page editors that should mature well as hypertext markup language continues to develop and you continue to learn. For first-time users, this program presents both a logical and a content editor -- the former to create and edit the structure of your document, the latter to make content changes. An especially nice feature for new Web authors is guided page creation, that is, InContext Spider lets you know what tags are legal and prevents you from inserting illegal ones, thus, ensuring that all your pages will be valid HTML. Also valuable are the support for forms and the so-called InContext SDK, software developer's kit, which allows developers to customize the program.
allCLEAR III for Windows (3.06)
Here's an indispensable tool for those who work with end users to help them grasp the arcane dynamics of the Internet. The program allows you to painlessly create flow charts that visually unravel the steps of what are, to new users at least, complex Internet procedures. One example might be uuencoding and uudecoding an image. A second would be retrieving multiple binary files via file transfer protocol. Yet a third would be using a news reader to browse the body of messages in search of a specific character string. The manuals are clearly written and contain practical examples that should help.
askSam for Windows 2.0b (URL: http://188.8.131.52/
Billed as a database, word processor and text retrieval system rolled into one, askSam is a Swiss Army knife for those who need to manage the mass of Internet data. Bundled with the software is an excellent example using recipes retrieved from the Internet and then stored in a database -- complete with hypertext links, proximity searching, Boolean logic and more. There is also a database that contains the names, addresses, committee positions, phone numbers and fax numbers of the 103rd U.S. Congress on both the House and Senate side. An extremely valuable feature is the report tool. Searching in the recipe database on the character string, "garlic," I retrieved a sorted list of recipe titles. With that list before me, the software allowed me to click on an anchor and go directly to the recipe. The strength of this package, like the others, is the ease with which you can get up and productively run with minimum effort.
John Makulowich writes, talks and trains on the Internet. You can reach him at makulow@clark.
net or firstname.lastname@example.org. His home page is http://www.cais.com/makulow/verbwork.html