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December 8, 1997

Getting around in Web land with the help of readers' tips

My readers have always supplied me with my best information, in the form of secrets and work-arounds that they've discovered. Here is some input from readers on recent topics.

Rank this, Web surfers

Last month, I wrote about Search Engine Watch, a service that analyzes the methods of search indexes, such as AltaVista and HotBot. (See "Site offers all you need to know about Web search engines," Nov. 3, and "More on finding, or not finding, your special Web site," Nov. 10.)

Jeffrey Fishbein, owner of Riverweb Commercial Web Services, in Selinsgrove, Pa., wrote to rave about Rank This, sort of a rating service that rates rating services.

Rank This ( lets you enter any search phrase and the URL of a particular Web site. Clicking a button shows you how eight different search engines handle the query.

In my own experiments I found that the same query might be ranked as the No. 1 result by one search engine but wouldn't even show up in the top 200 in others. Anyone who maintains a Web site or uses search engines would benefit from using Rank This.

The best virtually free software

After I made a variety of comments about using Notepad, an anonymous reader sent along high praise for a much better, and virtually free text editor, called EditPad.

This editor, unlike Notepad, can open multiple files, save separate parts of a file to disk, and insert disk files into a document. It exports Macintosh and Unix text files, converts from Windows ANSI special characters to DOS characters, and converts tabs to spaces (and vice versa for all of the above). It supports numerous options, including selection of fonts to display and print text files.

EditPad may be downloaded from

Oh, and about its being virtually free -- the software author requests that if you like the program, you mail him a postcard saying so. Well worth it, in my opinion.

WinHelping the Web

I wrote in my Aug. 18 column about WebTwin, a program that lets you automatically convert just about any Web site into a Windows Help file that you can peruse offline at your leisure. (See "Convert Web sites into Help files you can download or read offline.") Reader Bill Bercik wrote in to praise the tools of Des Moines, Iowa-based HyperAct. The company produces a variety of tools for the HTML and WinHelp developer. For details, see

Browser and server on a floppy

Bercik also had a big "two thumbs up" for QNX Software Systems, which has created a free, bootable floppy disk that contains an operating system, a Web browser, and a Web server in only 1.44MB.

Go to and click the Create a Demo Disk icon. This downloads the files you need for a real-time, 32-bit graphical OS, a Web browser (in 400KB of code) that supports frames and animated GIFs, a 14KB Web server, TCP/IP, and more. Try this on your old laptop.

Why can't Microsoft make a bootable disk like this to bring up Windows 95 (not DOS) when your standard installation won't start, for example?

Brian Livingston is the co-author of several best-selling Windows books, including the most recent Windows 95 Secrets (IDG Books). Send comments to Unfortunately, he cannot answer individual questions.

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