With the release of OS 9, Apple has added new features and updated previous incarnations of existing applications. One such offering is the new and improved Sherlock 2 search utility. Further blurring the line between the OS and a separate' application, Apple just may have caught on to a revolution in the way users find what they're looking for on the Net.
It seems that Apple is shaping the Sherlock tool to be one of the easiest ways to locate information online. Expanding on its original file find ability to search local drives, Sherlock 2 now features customisable content channels. You are presented with the integrated Files Channel, allowing for searches of files on your hard disk. Using an index of your drive, Sherlock can find files by title as well as written content inside the file - and do it quickly. There are also Internet, Shopping, People, News, Reference and Apple channels, the latter giving search access to information like Apple's technical support pages or information about new products.
Bringing the Internet to your desktop, the Internet Channel allows you to use default plug-ins to search sites such as AltaVista, Infoseek, Excite and Lycos, amongst others. You can add your own plug-ins to search other sites. Your results are displayed with information like the title of the page which has been found, its URL and how relevant the page should be to the keyword entered. Sherlock 2 lives in the Apple menu. To search the Internet, click on the Internet Channel, enter your keyword, check the box next to the engines you want to use and press the magnifying glass button to begin.
This all comes from the same, stylish interface on your desktop, which remains consistent and simple as you move around and use the different channels.
Sherlock's good points
There is competition on that front, however, with products like copernic99 (www.copernic.com) available on both Windows and Mac platforms. The free version for the Mac includes features both similar to and different from those of Sherlock 2, and is definitely worth a look. For the moment, I'll focus on the various facets of Sherlock 2.
Sherlock 2 gives an easy online shopping experience. For example, Amazon.com can be searched for that CD you've been looking for, with your results listed in terms of price or availability. Sorting by price is a terrific feature and is only strengthened by the additional ability to search auction sites like eBay and have the particular item's bidding finishing times also displayed.
Another plus is that Sherlock 2 supports LDAP servers, which means you can search for people over the Internet using such defaults as Yahoo! or Bigfoot. This makes the People Channel potentially quite useful. With a wealth of Sherlock 2 plug-ins available for more comprehensive searching, finding that long-lost friend's e-mail address may not be so hard after all.
No longer is all your time spent learning how to find the information, rather than learning about that information. The news channel features the latest in sports, sourcing its material from CNN, ESPN and more. This, in conjunction with the Reference Channel - essentially an Internet encyclopedia, dictionary and thesaurus searching tool - makes for great educational uses.
Sherlock's bad points
Sherlock 2 does have its drawbacks. For example, Sherlock can't search a page without a search engine, and when you perform your search, content found is listed - predictably - in US currency. This problem of lack of localised searching is being fixed by the myriad of plug-ins I've already mentioned exist. The Sherlock Resource Site (www.macineurope.com/sherlocksite/) offers a description of the different plug-ins before you download, as well as Sherlock 2 utilities and links. Once you've got the plug-in file for a search site downloaded to, say, your desktop, extract it if need be and just drag it to the channel of your choice.
While Sherlock 2 isn't the be-all and end-all of Internet searching, it definitely is a big step in the right direction. This application is bound to get the attention of both advanced users and those who had always considered that searching the Internet was a specialised skill in itself.