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Watznew
Watznew: build your personal information portal on the Internet (4/4)

Flexible – for people who are not afraid of a little code

The number one advantage of Watznew is its flexibility. It is you, the user, who decides in each case what information sources to monitor, and how the software should behave. If you want to be kept informed of changes in your text-based site statistics, or an online software repository, or any other type of information, you can do so with Watznew. Each channel can be associated with one or more actions, such as automatically sending the retrieved information by e-mail, or exporting it into another application. It is possible, with a little effort, to create a fully personalized tool, a mini-portal based on multiple information streams.

As you will have gathered, it is important to be comfortable with HTML when using Watznew. While it is not difficult to write good search patterns and message templates, using the examples given in the help files, some familiarity with HTML is required. Even then, configuring each source with the appropriate code can be somewhat fastidious and repetitive, especially when you wish to retrieve multiple headlines. A channel Wizard that could help write the search patterns would be an appreciable addition.

On the downside, there are few possibilities for hierarchizing and organizing retrieved information. Although channels can be grouped in different folders, visualizing the information can become difficult when you have a lot of channels running. The basic options for archiving or sharing information are initially somewhat limited. Certainly, the registered version enables you to export information to text or HTML files. But if you want to send headlines to your collaborators, to save data to an Excel file, or to keep an archive of site headlines for indexation on your machine, you will need to program the action yourself. True to its general philosophy, everything is possible with Watznew – as long as you are prepared to do it yourself!

Watznew occupies a somewhat hybrid position. It is not a dedicated news aggregator, such as NewzCrawler. Nor is it generalist software for monitoring multiple Web pages, in the style of WebSite Watcher. Instead it is somewhere in between. Its strong points are its flexibility and simplicity – on the condition that the user masters the basics of HTML. This program would be useful for people that want to receive regular news updates from a wide variety of sources; for professionals that want to keep up to date with information on their sector of activity; and above all for people who like playing around with the code in order to create something truly unique that perfectly meets their own information needs.

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