Mata Hari Pro
Type of Program: Web Search Agent
Supported Platforms: Windows 95/98/NT
Company Name: Visual Metrics Corporation
Installed Size: Approximately 5 megabytes
My searching needs on the Web are very specific. They have to be; I get paid to find previously unknown pieces of technical information hiding out there in the universe of data (that's too polite - universe of "noise" is more like it). Much of what I'm looking for won't even be indexed by a mainstream search engine. Consequently, I've been looking for a search agent that can not only search multiple engines, but dozens of them at a time, including highly specialized, site-specific ones at universities and government installations. I also want it to remove duplicates, eliminate meaningless matches with good filters, and use elaborate Boolean expressions precisely to make certain that the right stuff comes up on top.
Meet Mata Hari Pro. It found material in highly targeted searches that I would never have come across on Yahoo, Altavista, or even a meta search engine like DogPile. Phenomenally good. It comes with a database of 600 engines that it can search (to be fair, time would prevent you from choosing all those at once, but you could) and it meets all of the above criteria for Boolean interpretation, duplicate removal, and so on. It can also search previous results stored locally. (I store my searches on a CDROM - they do take up enormous amounts of space). In addition, it has re-sorting features, an annotation function, excellent instructions on formulating a good Boolean query, the ability to run two queries at a time, elaborate "score" information, and considerable control over how the search is conducted. For the less skilled user, there is a default set of good basic settings on a simple slider bar.
The company encourages submission of new and unusual engines for inclusion in their list, and people must be responding; the list has several searchable resources I had no idea existed. (Full list is here: http://thewebtools.com/engines.htm). The list is subdivided into groups for convenience, and you can make your own groupings as well. Actually, the only problem I found with the program is in this list; somewhere in the science and technology group there is a search engine that crashes my particular computer system. If I go in and cherry-pick forty or fifty engines by hand, there's no problem - only when I try to use the whole sci/tech group as a group do the error messages appear. I started working with their tech support people (who responded quickly to my initial inquiries with instructions on what kind of information they needed), but eventually I got around the problem as described and so did not follow up with them.
Mata Hari is a little on the expensive side, and the company is sticky about multiple installations (you're supposed to pay the whole price again if you just want to load it on a second computer that only you use), but if you need more than the average search engine can give you, this is definitely the program to try.
Ease of Installation:
Reviewed by Gail Marsella
The program can be purchased with Mastercard, Visa, Discover, or American Express from a secure server at the main product site: