capsule review

Browseback 1.1

Browseback 1.1, an application aimed at researchers or anyone who uses the Web regularly, provides a visual way to browse your Web-surfing history. The program catalogs your surfing history across multiple browsers, including Apple’s Safari (   ; November 2005 ), Mozilla’s Firefox (   ; November 2005 ), and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. You can perform full text searches of previously viewed pages as well as scroll across an archive of thumbnails representing each page you have recently visited.

Setting up Browseback

When you first run the program, Browseback builds an index of your browsing history. Depending on how far back you choose to go, the initial indexing process could take quite a while. When I first ran Browseback and set it to import my entire history, I had to let it run overnight. But it took just a few minutes to build an index that covered a couple of weeks. Once the program has created its initial index, it will start more quickly; plus you can choose to have Browseback launch in the background when you log in, giving you even faster access to your history.

Browseback displays three rows of 30 thumbnail pages each, spread out like a deck of playing cards. Moving your mouse over each row causes the thumbnails to spread out. A window in the center displays information about the thumbnail page your cursor is on, including title, URL, and the date you last accessed it. Navigational buttons allow you to move forward, back, and to either end of the index.

Typing a query into Browseback’s main search box or entering a range of dates brings up a set of thumbnails that represent the results of your search. Once you’ve found the page you’re interested in, you can click on its thumbnail to bring up a menu of available options. Choosing the Browse Web option opens a fresh version of the page in your default browser. Other options include viewing, saving, emailing, or printing a PDF of the archived page. Since it uses AppleScript to enclose PDFs for emailing, the program supports only certain email programs, including Microsoft Entourage (   ; August 2004 ), Apple Mail (   ; September 2005 ), Bare Bones Software’s Mailsmith (   ; November 2003 ), Qualcomm’s Eudora (   ; January 2004 ), and CTM Development’s PowerMail (   ; October 2002 ).

A few annoyances

Unfortunately, Browseback indexes many online advertisements, such as banner and Google text ads, as their own individual pages. You can cut down on these superfluous pages by excluding certain domains, but for large archives, this process can be tedious.

Also, Browseback’s graphics-intensive interface and large index can become a resource drain on your Mac. If you’re running the program on older hardware or with a low amount of memory, it can cause your system to become sluggish. Depending on your browsing habits and the amount of history you choose to index, you may find Browseback using even more memory than your Web browsers.

I also question the program’s usefulness for many Web users. With all of the search engines out there, I found that I could usually locate an up-to-date version of a page about as fast as I could find an archived version using Browseback. Sure, it helps you locate pages that have changed, but even then, Browseback is limited: It only archives text and still needs to download graphics from the site in order to create PDFs.

Macworld’s buying advice

Once I finished marveling at the slick interface, I found that I didn’t really need Browseback’s features that much. Although the program lets you access pages that you can no longer find, that feature does come at a cost in terms of system resources. However, if you are constantly referring to your browser’s history, or you need full-text searching, Browseback 1.1 is worth a try.

[ Matt Vance is a technology consultant, Web developer, and freelance writer living in Austin, Texas. ]

Browseback provides a visual interface for searching through multiple Web-browser history pages.
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