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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Review: Research Wizard Pro

I was lucky enough recently to be offered a free review copy of Research Wizard Pro, also known as Search Accelerator Pro. So, now I've been using it for a little while, here are my thoughts on this premium research tool.

The first thing to say is that Research Wizard Pro is NOT a search engine or search engine aggregator (a tool that combines the results of a number of search engines in a single list). Rather, it is a software tool that aims to help you use the wealth of research resources on the Internet as quickly and effectively as possible.

The first thing you notice when you launch RWP (as I'll call it from now on) is that it offers a wide array of icons, buttons and boxes. Here's a screen grab of just one set of controls, the search categories toolbar.

Fortunately, RWP comes with a highly professional, 73-page user's manual in PDF form. And for those who learn better visually, you also get a series of instructional videos, including a Quick Start Video to get you up and running as soon as possible.

You start searching on RWP by entering any keyword or words in the box at the top left of the screen. The results of this search in Google (or whatever default search engine you choose) will then appear in the results panel in the middle of the screen.

So far, so unexciting, but with RWP this is just the start. You can refine your search in all sorts of ways. For example, you will see a list of other suggested search terms in the panel down the left of the screen. The terms listed include tutorials, websites, articles, blogs, newsletters, reviews, top tens, and so on. Clicking on any of these then launches a new search for your original keyword/s plus the term in question, helping you to narrow down your search.

Of course, you could do this yourself without RWP, but using the software makes the process much quicker, and it also suggests other search terms you might not otherwise have thought of. You can also set it to show only PDFs or images if you prefer.

Even this, however, is only the beginning. Using the search categories toolbar pictured above, for example, you can access a huge range of search tools.

The way this works is that the top row represents a particular category of search, e.g. the camera represents image search and the film icon is video search, while the RSS icon represents RSS feeds, blogs, blog articles, and so on. The lower row changes according to which item in the top row you have selected, and includes links to specific search tools in the category concerned.

Finally - although this by no means exhausts the options offered by RWP - the Related Searches toolbar features a number of links that will suggest related searches you might also want to try. For example, there is a link to the Overture search term suggestion tool, which will suggest other search terms related to your original one, with stats showing how often these terms have been searched for recently. If you are researching a how-to guide or article, this could be useful for discovering what people most want to know about the subject concerned.

I have been using Research Wizard Pro for about a month now. Although initially I found the huge range of options a bit daunting, it didn't take me long to get the hang of it, and I wouldn't want to be without it now. Although RWP does save me time, even more important to me is the way it suggests search options and resources I would never have thought of myself. I'm sure the quality of my work has improved as a result.

Do I have any reservations about RWP? Well, only a couple of minor ones. One is that when I first downloaded it I got an 'Access Denied' message when I tried to launch it - no other explanation given! After some research, I found out that this was caused by the User Account Control in my Windows Vista operating system. Setting the program always to Run as Administrator solved the problem. I blame Microsoft for this rather than RWP, but it's something to be aware of if you use Vista.

Second, I was a bit surprised to discover that to access some of the bonus videos, I had to provide my name and email address over again. I couldn't see the point of this, since the publishers obviously had my contact details already. I hope they will scrap this requirement soon. You can watch the main instructional videos without having to do this, by the way.

Overall, I am happy to recommend Research Wizard Pro to anyone who does a lot of online research - it WILL save you time and it WILL improve the quality of your research. It's not the cheapest tool you'll ever find, but it is produced to a very high standard, and the instructional manual and videos are exemplary. I also found the company quick and helpful in responding to my queries.

LATE ADDITION: Good news for My Writing Blog readers! Because I like this software, I've managed to persuade the publishers of Research Wizard Pro to give a HUGE discount to readers of my blog. When ordering, just enter WRITER2008 in the coupon code box and click on 'Apply'. The cost will then be cut by a whole FIFTY PERCENT! I'm honestly not sure how long this offer will go on, however; so if you are interested in taking advantage of this discount, please don't delay too long.

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Blogger Nick said...

Just to add, I've discovered (oh, all right, I've been told) that you don't have to provide your details again to access the bonus videos.

Just click on the question mark icon at the top right of the RWP screen and you will be able to access all the help videos, including the bonus ones (some of which are unadvertised). Sorry for the mistake!

6:04 PM  

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