Download Wonder

You're downloading a 10MB file, and when you have 90 per cent of it, you suddenly lose your connection. Argh! You reconnect and start over, hoping you'll get the whole file. When you're finally finished, you move on to something else and forget where you put the file (or what it even was in the first place).

Sound familiar? Download Wonder 1.50, a free utility from Forty Software (http://www.forty.com), can help minimise the frustration, simplify the download process, and help you manage downloaded files once they're on your hard drive.

Download Wonder works with your default browser, replacing the standard download interface with a more robust, database-driven system. Although some of the program's functions are already supported by most Web browsers, what this program does well is combine several key download-specific features in a single interface. Download monitoring, file management, and links to antivirus and compression software are in one easily accessed place.

Unlike many browser-related utilities, this one is multiple-platform friendly -- you can use it with Internet Explorer, NeoPlanet, Netscape Navigator or Opera. The program automatically launches itself if you use Navigator, but it must be manually activated with other browsers. Or you can simply set the program to run itself in the background every time you boot up. However you put it to work, if you regularly download a lot of files, this program is worth your while.

No interruptions, please

Three of Download Wonder's key capabilities -- to continue browsing while files are being downloaded, download multiple files simultaneously, and continue downloading even after you close your browser -- are already available from your browser's built-in download system.

A fourth feature is more unusual: you can resume interrupted downloads from the point of interruption -- as long as the server you're connected to also supports this feature. While the latest versions of both Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator also can do this, I found Download Wonder was successful more often. In my tests, I consistently found that when downloading files, I could interrupt transfers part way through and then pick up where I left off after reconnecting. (Download Wonder alerts you if the server you're downloading from supports this feature.)Download databaseDownloading files is a snap with this program, but it's after you've retrieved a file that Download Wonder really departs from browser functionality and shows its unique strengths. Since I review a lot of software, organising my many downloads is a continuous chore. But Download Wonder lets you construct a searchable, sortable file database, so you'll never lose a download in the haystack of your hard drive.

During setup, you're given the option to direct all future downloads into a single directory (C:\download, for example, but you can assign or create any directory). The program also enters all downloaded files into the separate Download Wonder database for easy management. This works like a mini file manager just for your downloads.

As you download files, you can assign each one to a separate category (games, business, drivers and so on) and enter your own description, notes and keywords to define the files. Download Wonder also automatically records the file size, the origin of the download, and the time and date of the transfer.

During setup you can choose to associate Download Wonder with any separate compression or antivirus utility you use. Then you can scan or unzip files directly from within the Download Wonder database if you want.

Bring your own zip utility

I was a little dismayed that Forty Software's promotional materials do not make it clear that the unzip and virus-scan features are simply links to third-party software. When I first read the company's promotion, I was left with the impression that compression and antivirus software were built in.

Download Wonder provides adequate help files and pop-up help menus within the interface itself, so you won't have any trouble getting the hang of its functions. And the company throws in a trace of whimsy, with a robotic female-voiced audio alert that solemnly informs you of your download status: "Download started ... Download complete."

But that's not what has earned Download Wonder a permanent place on my hard drive. This is a useful, free utility that makes file downloading easier and more productive. If you want a version without ads, you can purchase it for $US30.

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