Copernic Agent Professional Edition Version 6.1

Reviewed by: Matthew Carson, send e-mail
Published by: Copernic Technologies Inc., go to the web site
Requires: Windows 95/98/Me/NT4/2000/XP with Internet Explorer 4.0 SP1 or later, Netscape Navigator/Communicator 4.x or 6.x, Opera, the system default browser or another compatible browser, Pentium 120 MHz or higher, 32 MB RAM, at least 15 MB of free disk space
MSRP: $79.95

When it comes to programs and software of a category I've never used before, I'm always a little wary. I know it would be very easy to let myself become impressed with a piece of software simply because I don't have any experience with which to make a comparison. However, even jaded caution and inexperience can't take away from a really well-executed program. Copernic Agent Professional is a very sleek, powerful web search program that uses resources from all over the net, principally other online search engines, to gather data and results. I frequently use Dogpile, Google and Alta-Vista and often I find myself in their "advanced search" using specific Boolean operators and keywords to find exactly what I want. So, logically, I figured I'd have a pretty good handle on what that Copernic Agent was all about.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

When I said Copernic was sleek and powerful, I meant it, in the purest sense of both words. The program itself loads up quickly and efficiently, but that isn't the best part. Copernic installs a small search bar at the top of your browser and then takes over the clunky and often useless MSN search pane (in Internet Explorer) which appears at the left side of the browser window. The genius inherent here is that the program uses all the horsepower available to it when doing a search in the browser window, even though the program itself is not running. Copernic allows you to specify which search engines you wish to use for a particular search, but once again, the program goes far deeper than that.

*Deep breath*

Okay, here goes. Copernic searches are divided into 8 main categories: Favorites (searches your *gasp!* favorites list), Business and Economy, Computers and Internet, Encyclopedia and Reference, Government and Law, News, Shopping, and finally a main, general category: The Web. All of these categories are subdivided again into several areas that fit each of the primary categories. Encyclopedia and Reference, for example, allows you to focus specifically on searching for information on atlases, scientific publications and encyclopedias, while Computers and Internet focuses on things like software downloads, programming and computer security. None of the categories have less than five "focus" divisions and most have around ten. If you refrain from selecting any specific category or sub-division, Copernic will just do an ordinary, general Internet search. This seemingly simple interface, friendly and easy to read, disguises the extremely complex and powerful search tool that is the core of Copernic.

During the install, you can define which specific search engines you want to use – for every single search focus. (FYI – there are nearly 60 different topics, all encompassing a huge amount of information). When you click a certain category or sub-division in the program, you are allowed to further alter which search engines you want to use. Some topics have more search engine choices than others, but most are intuitively set up to provide you with the best results from the most relevant search engines. Copernic's advanced search option is no slouch either. As well as providing the regular options above and beyond a normal search (exact phrase match, search for all of these words, search for any of these words, etc.), you can opt to track your results and be notified when they are updated. Another great feature is the search manager – it allows you to save your searches, which then appear for easy access in the top window.

The program windws is divided into three panes – the left pane, which is where you define your search and control the parameters; the main pane which shows the search results; and the top pane right below the toolbars, which holds your saved and recent searches. There is also a fourth pane tucked into the top right corner, which is almost like a directory of your searches. In this pane, you can create various folders and store your searches in the particular relevant folder. For example, I keep all my Canadian information searches and results in my "Canada" folder. Inside that folder are several more – I have government, news, literature and a few others. All of this serves to further enhance Copernic's other basic strength – everything is completely organized in a layout that is very easy and very quick to access and interact with.

The main toolbar is no exception. You can import search files (*.xml, in case you were wondering), annotate and edit your search result, tag notes on certain pages, track the search activity on specific pages and even do periodic searches for search engine updates. Being a junkie for customization, I immediately looked for ways to screw around unnecessarily with the layout and I wasn't disappointed. Everything you need is contained simply within the View option. Your search and results panes can be resized and customized to whatever layout you find appropriate. The toolbar itself can be customized as well, and like the rest of the program, all the options are pretty intuitive.

Overall, I was extremely impressed with not only the scope, but also the execution of this program. Not many people think beyond the obvious when doing simple searches using Google or Yahoo, and those who do often find that they have few other options available to them. Copernic changes all this and does so in a manner accessible even to those with very little experience with these kinds of programs. Copernic is one of those rare pieces of software that can be customized to appeal both to hardcore users and inexperienced researchers and doesn't lose any effectiveness in the process. I would definitely recommend this particular product for anyone looking to do any sort of research, on literally any topic. I know for certain that this reviewer's days of scanning through endless pages of Google results are over.

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