How to Search Better:
Sherlock, the forgotten hero

Sherlock, once the darling of the search world for Mac users, is still a very handy utility for making searches across multiple search engines.

If you're not a Mac user you may as well skip to the next page, unless you're curious...
If you were a Mac OS 9 user you’ll probably remember this, but OS X users will be more accustomed to using Safari’s built-in Google search box and have probably forgotten all about Sherlock. It lives in your Applications folder, and it will perform regular Internet search engine queries, find pictures, check flight departure and arrival times for just about any airline you can imagine, do dictionary and thesaurus lookups, perform language translations, and sift through AppleCare Knowledgebase documents for support advice.

There’s certainly an argument that Sherlock tries to do too much, but that’s no reason not to use it. Yes, the latest versions of the Mac OS offers some of these services in other forms; the Dictionary application is clearly a better tool and the Translation Dashboard widget is more convenient, but Sherlock still has an edge in other areas. For example, the flight tracking is much more complete, and the Internet search aspects are still superb.

Sherlock’s original and still main task is to send search queries to multiple search engines and present you with the aggregated results. The sites it uses are About, BestSiteFirst, LookSmart, Lycos, and Overture. Thanks to the differences in the way different search engines work the results these give are generally rather different to the results you’ll get from Google.

All Sherlock does is send off search requests in the appropriate way for each search engine and present the results in a logical, unified way. The result is a surprisingly effective way to trawl the Internet. It avoids the mess of adverts and distractions presented in most regular search results, helping you get to the pages you want with less fuss. The searches Sherlock presents can be sorted according to relevance, the site the results came from, or the sites the results are for. If you find a set of results you’d like to go back to later you can’t save the search results as they are, but you can drag and drop individual results into the Finder as a web location clipping, ready to double-click and open at some other date.

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