Browseback 1.1 is an application aimed at researchers or anyone who spends a lot of time on the web. The program catalogues your surfing history across multiple browsers, including Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox, and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. You can perform full text searches of previously viewed pages and scroll across an archive of thumbnails representing each page you have recently visited.
When you first run the program, Browseback builds an index of your browsing history. Depending on how far back you choose to go, the initial indexing process could take quite a while. When we first ran Browseback and set it to import an entire history, we had to let it run overnight. However, it took just a few minutes to build an index that covered a couple of weeks. Once the program has created its initial index, it will start more quickly; plus you can have Browseback launch in the background when you log in, giving you even faster access.
Browseback displays three rows of 30 thumbnail pages each, spread like a deck of cards. Moving the cursor over each row causes the thumbnails to spread out. A window in the centre displays information about the thumbnail your cursor is on, including title, URL, and the date you last accessed it. Navigational buttons will move you forward, back, and to either end of the index.
Typing a query into Browseback’s main search box or entering a range of dates brings up a set of thumbnails representing the results of your search. Once you’ve found the page you want, click on its thumbnail to bring up a menu of available options. Choosing the Browse Web option opens a fresh version of the page in your default browser. You can also view, save, email, or print a PDF of the page.
Because it uses AppleScript to enclose PDFs for emailing, Browseback only supports certain email programs, which include Microsoft Entourage, Apple Mail, Bare Bones Software’s Mailsmith, Qualcomm’s Eudora, and CTM Development’s PowerMail.
Unfortunately, Browseback indexes many online ads alongside individual pages. You can cut down on these superfluous pages by excluding certain domains, but for large archives, this process can be tedious. Also, Browseback’s graphics-intensive interface and large index can be a resource drain on your Mac. If you’re running the program on older hardware or with a low amount of memory, it can make your system sluggish. Depending on your browsing habits and the amount of history you index, you may find Browseback using even more memory than your web browsers.
We do question the program’s usefulness for many web users. You can usually locate an up-to-date version of a page about as fast as you can find an archived version using Browseback. It helps you locate pages
that have changed, but even then Browseback is limited: it only archives text and still needs to download graphics from the site in order to create PDFs.
Once we’d finished marvelling at the slick interface, it became clear that we didn’t really need Browseback that much. Although it lets you access pages you can no longer find, that feature comes at a cost in terms of system resources. However, if you’re constantly referring to your browser’s history, or you need full text searching, Browseback 1.1 is worth a try.