Utility Promises Browser Enhancements; Doesn’t Deliver

Win 98Win 95Win NTWin 2K

BrowseAbility 1.0.4

Bottom Line:
Useful bookmarking and multiple-site features are overshadowed by interface problems and occasional bugs.
Price: $29.95; 30-day free trial available

Melanie Systems Inc.
(973) 324-1333

Related Links
Melanie Systems Inc.

WinList: Web

March 13, 2000

Utility Promises Browser Enhancements; Doesn’t Deliver

Thanks to several years of browser wars, most Internet users are stuck with Web browsers that have tons of features — except the ones they really need. For example, neither Netscape Navigator nor Internet Explorer provides many tools to deal with information overload.

Enter BrowseAbility. This utility has a noble aim – to make it easier to browse and keep track of your favorite Web sites. Unfortunately, interface problems limit BrowseAbility’s usefulness.

BrowseAbility runs alongside your browser, in a separate window, although its features can also be accessed by right-clicking on the animated logo in the upper right of your browser. It works with either Navigator or Internet Explorer, but requires Internet Explorer 4.0 or later to be installed on your system.

BrowseAbility  1.0.4

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PicMarks provide small visual thumbnails of bookmarked pages — in this case Alta Vista.

BrowseAbility lets you access Internet Explorer Favorites and Navigator Bookmarks from a single window or menu, which is a valuable feature if you regularly use both browsers. In addition, BrowseAbility offers PicMarks — enhanced bookmarks which let you save thumbnail images along with a page’s URL and title. I didn’t think the thumbnails were especially useful, but some people might find them handy in providing visual cues about the content of graphics-rich sites.

More interesting are BrowseAbility’s WebTriggers, which let you attach Post-It style notes to specific Web pages or trigger certain actions whenever you open a Web page.

BrowseAbility  1.0.4

(click to see larger image)
BrowseAbility uses non-standard browser windows when opening multiple pages.

BrowseAbility’s BrowsePath feature is the most promising for heavy Web users. Using this feature, you can create lists of several Web sites you regularly visit — or use existing folders of bookmarks. When you run a BrowsePath, BrowseAbility will open each of the specified pages in sequence, so you can then use the Back button to review them. Alternatively, you can open all of the pages at once, each in a separate browser window. But I didn’t like the fact that BrowseAbility uses a non-standard browser window when opening multiple BrowsePath pages simultaneously.

Other aspects of BrowseAbility’s interface were annoying or puzzling. Attaching the program’s right-click menu to the browser logo seems unusual. You can also access its features through the main window, or a smaller, floating “controller” window. But when you turn on the controller window, it remains in front of all of your applications; you turn it off by going back to the BrowseAbility menu in your browser or using the icon in the System Tray.

I also experienced occasional glitches and crashes when testing the software — for instance, BrowsePaths didn’t always open every site on the path. And BrowseAbility appeared to skip some of my IE 5.0 shortcuts, listing only the first twelve in my top-level folder. That’s because the program will open a maximum of twelve browser windows for performance reasons.

In all, I like the features that BrowseAbility promises — but the program, in its current form, just doesn’t deliver.

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Utility Promises Browser Enhancements; Doesn’t Deliver