iZito

  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Ability to ‘park’ finds is both innovative and useful
  • quickly scrolling through retrieved sites can save a lot of time

Cons

  • Requires Internet Explorer
  • toolbar and deskbar could both use further development

There are many Web search engines available, although with market leaders like Google getting most of the press it's easy to overlook the alternatives. As Microsoft begins work beta testing its own MSN search offering, this is a good time to examine a relative newcomer, iZito. This product has arrived with little fanfare, yet offers some useful features for the serious searcher.

There are three elements to iZito: the in-browser search tool itself, the deskbar and a toolbar with newsreader.

The Deskbar simply sits on your Windows Toolbar and offers access to search facilities without having a Web browser open. There's nothing special about the Deskbar, but it's handy to have around.

The toolbar incorporates a search window and pop-up blocker. You can also put regularly visited Web sites onto it, providing one-click access, and can enable an additional bar offering an RSS feed from any source you choose. None of this is groundbreaking, and there are limitations. For example, personal URLs are limited to a single toolbar line, and you can only have one RSS feed at a time. But the deskbar and toolbar are both optional extras, and it's the iZito search engine itself that interests -- and impresses -- us the most.

iZito is a meta search engine: rather than maintain its own indexes or reference data sets, it queries a group of other search engines and aggregates what it finds. iZito works with Google, Alta Vista, Yahoo, Alltheweb, MSN, Teoma, WiseNut and Kobala. Visit www.izito.co.uk and you can choose to search either the whole of the Web or just UK Web sites by clicking the relevant button.

Results are ordered depending on the number of search engines retrieving a given result, and its position in each of the engines. The theory is that you should get a wider range of results than from a single search engine, and be more likely to come up with precisely what you're looking for. Meta search engines are used by those looking for both breadth and depth in searching.

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The iZito home page states that it has been designed for Internet Explorer with Flash. Certainly, we were unable to access all of its features with Firefox 1.0, even with Flash installed.

There are lots of meta search engines around, but iZito offers some unique features. Do a search and you often turn up several sites of interest. How do you make sure you can get back to these easily later? Firefox allows you to open any linked URL in a new tabbed window, which is one way of addressing this issue. iZito has another, and this is where Flash comes into play.

You can open Web sites retrieved either within iZito or in a new window. Do the former and you are presented with a bar across the top of the window that allows you to move to the previous or next site in the retrieved list without needing to return to the results listing. You can get through a lot of sites very quickly using this technique -- assuming, of course, that you don’t need to go beyond the retrieved page to decide whether a site is relevant or not. If a site is clearly not of interest, you can delete it from the retrieved list.

On the other hand, if a site appeals, hitting a star icon opens a dialogue box that lets you to add it to your favourites in whichever folder is appropriate. You can also ‘park’ a Web site ready to return to later. Parked sites are accessed by tapping a tabbed bar to the left of the screen.

Parked sites are saved across browsing sessions, which has its positive and negative consequences. You could get confused between parked sites and favourites if you aren’t strict about how they are used. Parking is ideal for short-term research activities, but it's vital to clear the list and save anything really useful to favourites before moving on to a new project.

We can see great potential if iZito's developers want to take the idea of parking further. For example, parked sites could be organised into groups, and users could access their parked sites from any computer, effectively providing a mobile favourites listing.

The ability to ‘park’ your finds is one example of the lateral way in which iZito is approaching Web searching. Another, which we like, is the ability to tweak the way results are displayed. There are three elements to this.

Altering the text size between 9- and 16-point using a simple drop-down menu is the most basic adjustment. You can also choose the level of detail about each find, 'min' offering simply the Web site name, 'max' providing the usual descriptive information plus the URL. Finally, you can organise finds into one, two or three columns. These features allow you to optimise your screen space in a way we’ve not seen any other search engine do.

iZito makes its money via keyword-related advertising. This means that some search results are marked with a ‘sponsored by:’ notification before a URL. We have not found this intrusive, mainly because there are very few sponsored results as yet. Perhaps as iZito gains ground, the volume of sponsored finds will grow, but presently it's not an issue.

iZito is still in development, and the Web site indicates that there's more to come before the end of the year. Based on our current experience, this is definitely worth watching out for, as iZito is a clever set of tools that we have found useful on a number of occasions. We are impressed with the lateral ways in which iZito functions, but urge the developers to work on Firefox compatibility as a matter of urgency.

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