Most educators are familiar with filtering software that can block access to web sites containing inappropriate material. However, there are other obstacles to a satisfactory web-surfing experience, too, including long delays in downloading web sites, annoying advertisements, and duplicate information. Affordable software has been developed to address these problems.
One category of software is called “web accelerators.” As the name implies, these programs improve the speed by which web information can be accessed. These packages work by storing on a teacher’s computer the web pages visited frequently, thus saving time in downloading them each time they are visited. Four competing titles in this field are inexpensive and reputed to save up to half of download time: Webcelerator (free; http://184.108.40.206/webcelerator/index.html); NetSonic Pro ($39.95; http://www.web3000.com/products/netsonicpro); PeakJet 2000 ($29.95; http://www.peak.com); and Surf Express Deluxe ($39.95; http://www.connectix.com/products/sed.html).
Another method of accessing often-used sites is to use “offline browsing” software. These programs actually store the desired web site on a user’s computer. If the site does not have many links or other features, storage is extremely effective as an efficiency measure. Two products in this field are WebReaper (free; http://www.otway.com/webreaper); and WebWhacker2000 ($49.95; http://www.bluesquirrel.com/products/whacker ).
Advertisements on the web can seriously slow browsing, as well as distract students from the task at hand. Two products on the market today that claim to solve this problem are Adfilter ($24.95; http://www.adfilter.com), which kicks out both advertising banners and pop-up advertisements, and WebWasher ($29; http://www.webwasher.com), which eliminates banner and pop-up ads, animation, and Java applets. WebWasher can be customized to filter just the types of information you want eliminated.