June 17, 2008
To Save Time, Take It Offline
By SCOTT A. MAY
Every year we come closer to living in a virtual world. From education to employment, it seems like nearly every aspect of our daily lives requires that we be connected to the Internet. Like any dependent technology, it's only a bad thing if we allow it to be.
For many people, surfing the Web has become their main source of news, entertainment and, sad to say, social interaction. They spend all their leisure time online, either tethered to their desktops or free-roaming and wireless. Others view the Web more as a tool and would rather grab and go - getting more but surfing less. For these people, offline browsing is the ultimate solution.
Offline browsing basically means downloading Web pages to your hard drive - including text, pictures and links - to be viewed at your convenience. Although any Web browser worth owning will let you save and view sites' content offline, doing so easily and completely requires special software.
One of the best I've used is called Offline Explorer from MetaProducts, available in four unique editions: Standard, Professional, Enterprise and Portable. Each product lets you download your favorite Internet sites - Web, FTP, HTTPS, MMS, PNM and RTSP - for later offline viewing or editing.
The reasons for viewing sites offline are many. For those forced to use a dial-up Internet connection, offline viewing keeps your phone line free. Whether you use dial-up or DSL, speed is another huge factor. Offline Explorer lets you download as many as 500 files simultaneously, during off-peak hours, when the connection is fastest. Even if you have a cable connection, viewing files from your hard drive is much faster than off the Internet.
Offline browsing also can be much more convenient and reliable than a live connection. Notebook users without a ready connection also can download their favorite sites for viewing any time, any place. For one reason or another, Web sites can go down, change their content or disappear entirely - making valuable information completely unavailable, unless you've downloaded it to your hard drive.
Unlike standard browsers, Offline Explorer can even download audio and video directly to your hard drive for later use. This can be especially helpful for those with a slow connection, which causes streaming video to constantly stop and sputter. Stored on your hard drive, multimedia content runs seamlessly.
Offline Explorer also lets you export and share downloaded site content with others who might not have an Internet connection at all. You can even burn downloaded Web sites to CD, creating auto- run disks that automatically pop up when inserted into any CD-ROM drive. The host computer doesn't need to have Offline Explorer installed, and it works perfectly with any Windows, Mac or Linux computer.
One of my favorite Offline Explorer features is its ability to schedule Web site monitoring, in which the program goes online to check any specified sites for changed information, automatically downloading and updating your offline files. This can be especially handy for dial-up users, automatically connecting, monitoring for changed content, downloading when necessary, hanging up and even shutting down the computer when finished.
There's a lot more to Offline Explorer than I can possibly mention here. Check out MetaProducts' site, www.metaproducts.com, for a complete list of its myriad features and download a free, fully functional copy to see for yourself. The program is compatible with all versions of Windows, from Win95 to Vista.
If you decide to keep it, the standard edition costs $49.95, and the more feature-rich Professional version lists for $89.95. Network and power users will want to check out the Enterprise edition, available for $499.95, and those on the go will love the handy Portable version - which requires no installation and runs entirely off a flash drive - for $89.95. All prices are for single-user licenses, with volume discounts available.
Scott A. May is a local freelance writer who has been published in Home Office Computing and other technology publications. He is owner of Columbia-based CompuSoft Consulting, specializing in home and small office tech support. Reach him at [email protected]
Originally published by SCOTT A. MAY.
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