capsule review


Watson, the new Web-searching program from Karelia, complements Sherlock and Web search engines by providing specialized tools for specialized searches. Watson's slick, uncomplicated interface makes finding specific, detailed information much easier, and that will save you significant searching time.

A Cocoa application (for OS X only), Watson 1.1 includes tools for finding eBay items, airline arrival times, phone numbers, television listings, package-tracking information, and recipes.

Watson remembers your preferences for each search tool, so you don't have to redo searches every time you use a tool. Once you enter your zip code and how far you're willing to travel, the Movies tool displays local theater listings, including movie titles, show times, movie posters and summaries, and even QuickTime movie trailers. Or you can reverse the search by choosing a particular movie from a list, and Watson will tell you where in your area that film is showing.

Using Watson is easy. When you use it to search for information, Watson queries one or more Web sites. In effect, Watson doesn't do anything you couldn't do on your own; the program just does it a lot faster than you could, and then consolidates and presents search results in an efficient and easily understandable form.

For example, you can use the TV Listings tool to retrieve the program grid for local broadcast, cable, or satellite TV, at times you select, as far as two weeks in the future. Watson also displays program descriptions and, better yet, lists alternative times and channels for programs. Getting the same information from (which is the source of Watson's TV listings) takes quite a bit longer and requires opening multiple browser windows.

Improvements to Come

Watson does have some minor drawbacks. One of them is a relatively limited selection of search tools, but this will most likely be resolved in time. Karelia offers a developer's kit so Cocoa programmers can create their own Watson search tools; the company is also developing additional search tools, including dictionary information, local weather reports, and access to street maps.

Some of these tools would be more useful if you were able to drill down a bit deeper into your retrieved data or if you could manipulate data; for example, finding eBay auction listings is easy with Watson, but you can't sort those listings by bid price.

Macworld's Buying Advice

The ability to find information in a flash is the key to effective Web searching. Watson 1.1 provides this and more, using an eye-pleasing interface. Even though its tools are somewhat limited, it will make a valuable addition to your searching toolbox.--tom negrino

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