While most heavyweight search-engine tools aren't available for the Macintosh, users say the handful of Mac-based search engines can deliver sufficient power and sophistication for small and medium-sized Web sites.
Many of the search engines now at hand were created to fill a void opened when Apple discontinued development of the Apple e.g. search and indexing tool. Happily for Webmasters, there are now at least six commercial options, with various price points and feature lists, and Apple e.g. may be back on the development track.
Performance, both for indexing and for end-user searches, is one of the foremost considerations in choosing a search product, users said. In addition to faster hardware, search-tool vendors are tweaking their existing engines to run faster and in some cases planning ports to Rhapsody to take advantage of OS enhancements.
In the meantime, what they lack in brute strength Mac-based search tools can make up in ease of use and administration.
"Most industrial-strength [search] solutions go along with industrial-strength prices, hardware and administration costs, and that is the opposite of what we wanted," said Ignacio Rodriguez, Webmaster at an Internet service provider in Santiago, Chile. Rodriguez said he expected to use a Unix- or Windows NT-based search engine, but he found that the Phantom engine from Maxum Development Corp. of Streamwood, Ill., required none of the custom programming other solutions would entail.
With Phantom, Rodriguez said, "In a few hours I had [it] set up and running on some Performa that we had sitting around." Phantom's filtering features came in especially handy for the Spanish-language content on Rodriguez's site. "Phantom allows us to easily set up a robot so that it only crawls content in Spanish," he said. "I haven't seen other commercial products with this capability."
To each its own
Phantom's strength, according to Maxum President John O'Fallon, is its dual capability as a search engine and crawler capable of functioning in a multiserver set up. In a future update, O'Fallon said, Phantom will support Portable Document Format files, and provide options for placing banner advertising on search pages.
While no other commercial product offers Phantom's multiserver crawling, each offers special features to meet different Webmasters' needs.
Search Server from Social Engineering Inc. of Berkeley, Calif., is closely modeled on Apple's e.g. product. Search Server's distinction is its low price - it's free to users of the company's Quid Pro Quo Web server and costs just $25 for others. Social Engineering President Chris Hawk said Search Server will be ported to Rhapsody when Apple makes its Apple Information Access Toolkit available for the new platform.
As suggested by its name, Boolean Search from Limit Point Software Inc. of New York is a plug-in for StarNine WebStar that can interpret complex Boolean search expressions. Limit Point said the next upgrade to Boolean Search will have improved index files to allow end users to do so-called fuzzy searches for information.
Mango, from Metasys Inc. of Tokyo, and iHound, from Icatt Tools Group of Amsterdam, both help with searches of Web server content in languages other than English. Mango, which works in tandem with EveryWare Development Inc.'s Tango Web development tool, supports two-byte characters to facilitate searches of Japanese and Chinese content. Version 1.5 of Mango, released this month, also supports ad banners displayed according to keyword searches.
Icatt's iHound includes templates that help Webmasters set up search engines to find content in any of eight languages. Icatt said the next upgrade will include support for Arabic and Cyrillic alphabets, and it will also improve multihoming support.
WebSonar from Virginia Systems Inc. of Midlothian, Va., is a Web search engine that is part of the company's Sonar Professional document management system and can also be purchased separately. Daniel Miller, CEO of MTS Group Inc., a Boston recruiting service, uses Virginia Systems' document management system and said he naturally gravitated to WebSonar in order to offer clients Web-based searching of MTS content.
Miller believes WebSonar's features rival those of the bigger non-Mac Internet search engines, and he has been happy with WebSonar's performance.
"There is a learning curve because of its unique syntax," Miller said, "but once you've mastered it WebSonar is incredibly robust - stronger, I think, than products like [Digital Equipment Corp.'s] AltaVista. For our purposes I can't think there would be any reason to switch."