From the February 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

But I can't find anything useful on the Web!" That's the lament of ever more users as Web pages multiply like kudzu in a Carolina summer. Search engine HotBot (http://www.hotbot.com) now scans more than 50 million pages in a search, and millions more are added monthly. So it's no surprise that even a simple hunt with a standard search engine can return huge numbers of hits.

But there is a smarter way to find information on the Web--new software that can simultaneously access the main search engines, sort out duplicate hits, even rank sites by likely order of usefulness. The best of this breed is Symantec's Internet FastFind (about $50, for Windows 95 and NT 4.0). It rushes through AltaVista, Yahoo!, Excite, InfoSeek and more, then sorts and displays results as "hot links"--click on one and off you go to the site for a look.

Quarterdeck's Web Compass (about $50, also for Windows 95 and NT 4.0) does much the same--a bit more slowly, but with a more muscular comprehensiveness. Web Compass taps into as many as 20 search engines and directories simultaneously, and also provides capsule summaries for most of the hits it locates.

Both products are available for free testing--and they'll likely win a permanent place on the desktop of any Web researcher. Check out (http://www.symantec.com) or (http://www.qdeck.com/iff/).

Just The Fax

Send lots of faxes abroad or cross-country? Save money by checking out Faxaway (http://www.faxaway.com), a service that takes an e-mail document and transmits it--usually very promptly--to any fax machine you designate at prices that may be lower than you pay your phone carrier.

Faxaway can also be used for broadcast faxing to groups so your business fax line won't be tied up. There's no monthly service charge; fax costs (calculated in six-second increments with a one-minute minimum) are debited on your prepaid card as they are sent. Better still, Faxaway allows a free test of its service--just log onto the Web page and try it out.

Public Knowledge

Even casual followers of the stock exchanges know that initial public offerings (IPOs) are white-hot--and the Net makes tracking this fast-moving market simple. Even if you don't play the stock markets, news about IPOs is still valuable for keeping you informed about which competitors are going public and for how much.

For a database of IPOs recently filed with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), visit Hoover's IPO Central (http://www.ipocentral.com), a free site filled with plentiful information about soon-to-be public companies. But for truly effortless information about IPOs, there's Alert-IPO! (http://www.ostman.com/alert-ipo), a service that delivers a weekly e-mail report on companies that have filed for IPOs with the SEC. For an annual subscription of $34.95, you have access the fastest and easiest way to keep tabs on who's going public and for how much.

Alert-IPO! is an example of a business that exists only because of the Net. "To give subscribers this information on paper through the mail we would have to charge over $100 monthly," says president Nenita Ostman. "The Net and e-mail are what allow us to price our newsletter affordably."

Don't Bug Me

Having problems running newly installed programs? Join the club. Today's software programs have gotten huge--programs routinely exceed 1MB, and giants bigger than 10MB aren't uncommon. And the more computer code required, the higher the likelihood of bugs that can put programs in conflict and cause systems to crash.

Whenever a program misbehaves, visit Bug Net (http://www.bugnet.com) for the latest reports about bugs--and for "work-arounds," proven techniques for patching up glitches. Subscribers (annual fees start at $29.95) gain access to more goodies, but the site features plentiful freebies.

Contact Sources

Alert-IPO!, (888) OSTMAN-8, (310) 530-6700, info@ostman.com;

Bug Net, (360) 988-2801, (http://www.bugnet.com);

Faxaway, fax: (206) 301-7500, info@faxaway.com;

Hoover's IPO Central, (800) 486-8666, (512) 374-4500, info@hoovers.com;

Quarterdeck Corp., (800) 354-3222, info@quarterdeck.com;

Symantec Corp., 10201 Torre Ave., Cupertino, CA 95014, (800) 441-7234, (541) 334-6054.