A number of search engines provide search toolbars that let you search from any Web site without having to make a trip to the search engine. A recent entry is Teoma, a free navigational tool that lets you search Teoma's database from any Web page, providing convenience and useful information at your fingertips.

The most popular of these tools is the Google Toolbar, but several other engines also provide free navigational aids for loyal users, including Alexa, Excite, Lycos, Teoma, and Yahoo!. It's possible to download several toolbars if you wish, one will simply appear below the other. Or try the new UltraBar, which allows you to search your own menu of search engines from a customizable toolbar.

Below is a summary of the various toolbars available and their features. Excite is an old one that goes on the desktop, probably designed with "push technology" in mind. Back in 1997, PointCast introduced "push" marketing methods for sending information directly to computer desktops, to one prospect at a time -- counter to the traditional "pull" techniques of broadcasting new information to thousands, waiting for them to take the desired action. The desktop was rumored to replace the browser, not.

Toolbar Utilities for Browser and Desktop

The Alexa Toolbar enables you to find useful information about the site you're currently viewing very quickly. From "Site Info," you get contact information, site stats and user reviews at your fingertips. "Related Links" is a good way to discover similar sites. This list is updated constantly with information about where other users visit. There's a link to the Google Toolbar and Dogpile. You can use the "Search" button to search from Alexa, Yahoo! and Google. If you can't access your favorite site or want to see what it looked like a while back, use the "Wayback" button to see archived copies in the Way Back Machine.

The Excite Assistant, still available at download.com, gives you a toolbar on your desktop from which to search Excite and access a variety of online information such as stock and news updates. Listen to Internet radio and get personalized news without having to open your browser. Available for Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.

The Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer downloads very quickly and is probably the most widely used (several million downloads). This toolbar gives you a Google search box in your browser so you can access Google's popular database from any Web page. Search the Web, the site, or the Google Directory. You can also access "PageRank" for the site's link popularity. "Page Info" gives you a cached snapshot of the page, similar pages, backward links, and will translate foreign pages into English. "Highlight" will highlight your search terms in different colors as they appear on the page. "Word Find" lets you find your search terms as they appear on the page. Google collects info when PageRank is enabled, but not if you've selected the option, "Install Without Advanced Features."

Lycos SeeMore for Internet Explorer 4 or 5 is a little different. It lets you search Web pages quickly by simply right-clicking on a word, phrase or graphic. You'll get a menu from which to select "See More With Lycos," then the utility will come up with more information links on your topic, allowing you to click for more information. For instance, if you wanted more information on "airport security" while reading a page describing a recent airport security breach, it will refer you to several text links from which to select relevant information. It can be handy because you don't lose your place by going to a search box.

The Teoma Search Bar for Internet Explorer gives you instant access to Teoma's search technology from anywhere on the Web. "Results" provide links to relevant Web pages, "Refine" gives suggestions for narrowing your search, and "Resources" provides links to specialized directories. It downloads and installs quickly, appearing every time you open a new Internet Explorer window. Features include a dictionary look-up, and a highlight button that will highlight your search terms in six different colors as they appear on the page.

Yahoo Companion puts a personalizable toolbar in your browser, allowing you to customize with buttons for Yahoo! services, saves your bookmarks for access from any computer, provides alerts on Yahoo! Mail, and allows you to search Yahoo! from any site. Available for Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator.

UltraBar IE Toolbar is probably the handiest because it allows you select your most frequently used search engines from a menu within one toolbar, and it incorporates the latest search toolbar features. You can customize the order of search engines, highlight search terms within the page, and go directly to your search terms or phrases. It's not limited to major search engines, you can select any site that has a search function. There are three versions, and two are free (Ultrabar IE Toolbar and Ultrabar Co-Brand). Ultrabar Pro is for ISPs and larger Web sites, offering added features and starting at $500 per year for unlimited downloads/installs.

Why Use a Search Toolbar?

Search toolbars are convenient because you can search from any site, saving the time it takes to go to a search engine and place a query. The newer toolbars offer additional information by highlighting your search terms throughout the page. With Lycos SeeMore, you can also link to relevant information from the text you are currently reading. For the times when you need to search multiple search engines or sites, UltraBar gives you complete flexibility.

While there are many positive benefits of the above tools, a major shortcoming is that all but the Excite Assistant and Yahoo Companion are available only for Internet Explorer, and none are available for Macs.

For Macs Only

There is a built-in toolbar in the IE Mac browser that can search MSN, Overture, AltaVista, Lycos, Excite, Yahoo, Euroseek, Bigfoot, Infospace, Worldpages, MSN Yellow Pages, Expedia, Mapquest, Encarta, Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, Thesaurus.com, and Corbis.

Additionally, Apple provides Sherlock 3, which can search the Internet in different "channels" of information for you. Most major search engines and directories offer plug-ins for Sherlock.
July 24, 2002

Paul J. Bruemmer has provided search engine marketing expertise and consulting services to prominent American businesses since 1995. As Director of Search Marketing at Red Door Interactive, he is responsible for strategizing and implementing search engine marketing activities within Red Door's Internet Presence Management (IPM) services.

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