UK Mac users can now access UK shopping channels using Apple's Sherlock technology, thanks to developer Barney Hilken.

No UK or European channels have yet been released by Apple. Hilken's Shopping 1.2 is a freeware solution that offers search channels for DVD/Videos, Books, Popular and Classical music.

Demonstrating Sherlock in Paris in September 2002, Apple CEO Steve Jobs apologised for the lack of European content in the application, promising such content "soon". None has appeared yet.

Like Apple's own channels, Hilken's UK Shopping 1.2 channels let users search UK online retailers simultaneously to compare product prices, and jump to the Web page of the purchase they want to make.

Hilken told Macworld: "I started coding UK Shopping on January 8 this year, and had the first beta ready by January 16. The fourth channel was added February 2."

The developer said: "I am planning to add a console games channel, and possibly channels for computer hardware and software."

Hilken said: "Developing Sherlock channels is not too hard once you're used to coding in XQuery. This is totally unlike the languages most programmers are familiar with - it takes some getting used to. However, it is very powerful and just right for the task of extracting information from Web pages."

Apple hasn't made it easy for its international users to add functionality to operating-system component Sherlock, Hilken feels. He said: "I found a lack of adequate documentation: Apple's implementation of XQuery is not the same as that described in the XQuery draft spec, but the differences are not listed anywhere."

He added that some shopping Web sites are "set up in the most baroque fashion". It can be a "real effort" working out what's going on, he said.

The software is available for download courtesy of VersionTracker.