There are search toolbars and then there is Viewpoint Toolbar. It does what an average search toolbar does and takes it one step ahead. It uses Yahoo! search engine technology to display results but the difference is the visual representation of the search results. The toolbar shows the usual search result as a web page but in addition to it, it fetches thumbnails of the shown search results in a very Mac OS X style with zooming in and zooming out on mouse hovers. Very yummy indeed.
The good thing about the thumbnails is that you can make out if it’s a content rich site or just another keyword spammed site filled with advertisements. Since the generation of thumbnails is done in real time, the process can be quiet painful on a normal dial up connection so they do let you disable the thumbnail display and use the toolbar as a regular search toolbar.
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And it does the other functions of a search toolbar pretty well too. There is the usual popup blocker with one interesting extra option (allow non ads popups) which sounds pretty ambitious. Would need some more tests before I can actually fall for that claim. Then there is a search saves features as visual bookmarks, where your searches are saved as clickable thumbnails! Very interesting indeed.
Shortcomings? Pretty apparent. It is supported only on Internet Explorer. Not surprising considering all the popular ones out there are IE only. It needs a good fast connection to properly exploit the features. Should not be a big problem now considering broadband is cheap. And it eats a big chunk of your browser window while displaying the thumbnails. Though it offers you three sizes to choose from.
Is the technology revolutionary? I beg to differ. I don’t know how old this toolbar originally is, but I remember using an Internet Explorer utility way back in 1999 called girafa. It showed you the thumbnails in the sidebar. The website still exists so does the tool and the technology is apparently used by MSN to show search previews. So, it’s a good idea implemented well which works fine for people like you and me who want more than just results as links!
Download: Viewpoint Toolbar