Software Reviews

WebWhacker 3.0 by ForeFront

Reviewed by Laurence Fenn

This is the new version of WebWhacker from ForeFront, which speeds up your Internet browsing by downloading complete sites for you to view later when you are off line. The requirements are Windows 95/NT, Internet connection, web browser, 386/33 or faster processor, 4Mb RAM and 10Mb of hard disc space.

Once installed from the CD-ROM the program works the same way as version 2.0, namely as a proxy server. You configure your web browser to search WebWhacker for any sites, and if it doesn't find them in the database of places you have 'whacked', it then searches the Internet as normal. This means that you shouldn't notice any difference with accessing the sites you want, except that the download from WebWhacker is accessing the data from your hard disc and is faster (and you don't need to be online). There could be a small problem if you have your web browser running and WebWhacker, and you closedown WebWhacker. As your browser is pointing to a proxy server that isn't in memory, it could cause errors. It has been tested for browsers up to Netscape version 4.03 (which is what I used it on), but other browsers could encounter problems.

There have been some new features added to this version, namely:

Share entire Web sites with others via HTML or compressed WIF exports - web sites can now be saved in a format that can be transported to another computer to view in a web browser. The compressed WIF file format is not mentioned in the manual and compresses into a single archive which can be viewed by WebWhacker, but nothing else.

Save Web sites to removable storage - the whacked sites do not have to be saved to a particular directory on your hard drive, but can be saved on a removable storage device, like a Zip drive.

Filter by file size, MIME file type, file extension, and server directory location - you can view the data saved in any order, or file type.

Integrated WebManager facility to allow for easy categorization of "whacked" sites - the sites can be saved into different directories.

Improved Java support - see below

Now downloads background sounds, dynamic images, and Shockwave objects - more item types are saved correctly when a site is whacked (and subsequently viewed) with references kept intact.

Automatic updates via the Internet using Blue Squirrel's InstantX Technology - this is a feature not mentioned in the manual, that updates the program via the Internet, in much the same way as Symantec's LiveUpdate feature. InstantX is a set of six modules, which can be added to a software product.

The InstantRegister module begins gathering registration information from each user. The information that is collected can be stored in any database format. The InstantEval system allows the software evaluator to evaluate the software for a certain number of days, or until a specified date. The InstantKey system allows the user to type in a key to fully enable the software, or extend the evaluation period. The InstantUpdate system handles all software upgrades, complete with an Undo feature, allowing the user to revert to a previous version. The InstantCharge module allows anyone to purchase the software online by simply entering their personal information and credit card number. The InstantCharge system is a real-time credit card clearing system with built in security features. The InstantDelivery module allows the user to download the software or, will send a key to the user to unlock the software.

More than 200% performance increase - this is noted by a small sticker on the box, but not in the manual. The speed it whacks a site is dependent on your modem speed and the connection, but the speed that WebWhacker sends the data to your web browser has increased. A small problem I noticed was when looking at a particular site in this way, was that the browser was still asking for data from the proxy server after the complete page had loaded. This could have been down to the site itself.

Compress sites for easy transfer - part of the WIF format mentioned before. Since starting this review, an update to version 3.2 has been made available from 9/9/97, but I was unable to upgrade to this version. When I tried the update menu item, it first only gave my dial up connection 30 seconds to connect to the site. Using a dial up script to enter my username and password, it takes a little longer than that. With LiveUpdate it waits until it gets a reply from the site, but this program just says it cannot connect if you are not on line by the end of the 30 second counter. When I was on line I tried again, but it said that version 3.0 was the latest one. Perhaps the new version that is mentioned on the web site is not available to U.K customers, so quoting from the site it features:

New Export Function - The new Interlinked HTML Export allows you to export an entire Web site that has been "whacked", including all the links, to HTML files on your hard drive.

Better browser interaction - Now compatible with Netscape Navigator Version 4! Web Browser restarts after launching WebWhacker, returning you to the web page you were at before! Web browser is restarted after closing WebWhacker, allowing you to continue browsing the web!

Enhanced unattended "whacking" - WebWhacker now redials when it encounters a busy signal trying to connect to the Internet unattended.

Other Updates - WebWhacker 3.2 has been made more robust through the inclusion of the latest version of Blue Squirrel's InstantX and other minor enhancements.

If you are a novice user, and you don't mind the slight americanised style of the manual (the example of building a database of information to use in a school project is geared towards sites and practises in America), then this will be an easy program to use. If however, you are an intermediate or higher type of user of the Internet, you might not need the program at all.

Alternatives: Net Accelator from IMSI (£39.99), Webearly from GOTO software (£24.95), Black Widow from Softbyte Labs (£39.95), Secret Agent from Ariel (£24.95).

Review first appeared in ROM Newsletter of the Guildford PC User Group in May 1998 (Vol.8,No.5)