There are three main reasons for wanting to use this sort of software.
I got my first experience of off-line browsing, and monitoring changes to web sites with Smart Bookmarks, and later I tried the first versions of WebWhacker and Freeloader. These tended to be a bit awkward or unstable, and I did not really understand what I was trying to do. There are now lots of programs which have made it easy to make a copy of a web page, or indeed a whole site onto your hard disk, where you can read it at your leisure, free of any telephone charges.
The easiest way to do this costs nothing. When you view a web page in Internet Explorer or Netscape, you can save the HTML source code which generates the web page by clicking on File/Save as File.... on the Browser menu. If you open this file in your browser at any time when you are not connected to the Internet using (File/Open), you will recreate the original web page without the graphics. If you want the graphics, save them all at the same time from your browser into the folder containing the source code. In Windows 95 you just right click on each graphic in turn, and use Save Picture as to copy them to the chosen folder. The latest version of the OPERA browser has this as an option. Off line browser programs do all this for you automatically, but they also bring a lot more tricks and sophistication to the exercise.
It is impossible to say which of the programs is best, and with the speed at which they are all being improved, the situation will change constantly. You need to decide what you want to do, and then make up your own mind. I have tried to set out below the sort of things the better ones can do, so check before you choose. Then I have added the ones I use, and my reasons for choosing them.
File Format and Data Sharing
Software sites on the Internet
There are many freeware and shareware programs available, and they can be found at the mains software sites such as
Which programs do I use?
I like to use specialized programs which can operate independently whenever possible. Equally I don't want my browser to be taken over or branded by other programs. Sometimes my choice is a result of being involved in beta testing the early versions. Here are some the programs I am running at the moment.
Some other programs I have used have also been good, but as I said I am not in favour of plug-ins (WebEx and SurfBot) which can be heavy on memory resources, and Freeloader, WebWhacker, and Web Buddy did not offer more than I already had. The new 3.0 appears to have significant improvements over version 2.0 which I evaluated.
What new developments are coming?
The development cycle continues. Some of these basic features are now built into the new versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. I use Internet Explorer 4 as my main browser, without desktop integration, and Windows 95. IE4 has a much improved offline browsing capability. Combining the new History display, a large cache, and File/Work Offline, allows you to surf your cache of recently visited sites very easily.
Using the new Favorites Subscriptions, IE4 lets you download pages and be informed of updates. This may be sufficient for most occasional users, but I prefer the precision of specialised tools.
If you have problems with your cache, it may be worth looking at Cache Sentry, which claims to improve the way the cache files are managed. I have used it for a long without any problems.
UnMozify is a versatile way of recovering web sites from your cache and archiving them. Web sites in the cache get flushed out on a first in first out basis, once the size of the allocated cache memory has been reached. This software is available for all versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator.
The increased functionality of IE 4 is allowing further developments in this area. I now use SurfSaver as an essential part of my surfing. It runs in the background, but adds features to my right button menu. As I trawl for information I can save a complete copy of any interesting page I find, with a right click on my mouse. When I am offline I can revisit the pages directly or via the built-in search engine, and incorporate any useful information or images straight into any projects I am working on, such as this one.
One of my most useful programs is an enhanced History program called The Internet Tree. This little gem logs every web page, download, news group, gopher and chat file I receive. It then displays the day's or week's results in a convenient tree structure. It has many other features, but it has saved me on a couple of occasions when I suffered a system crash.
Roger Trobridge, The Internet Gopher, email@example.com.