The computer helper: Taking the internet offline (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty Jul 27, 2010, 3:06 GMT
Washington - Almost all of the information you need is online today. The only trouble is that you're not always connected to the internet. So how can you take the internet's information with you to enjoy while you're not connected? Offline tools are the answer. Read on to learn about a few.
Q: How can I download an entire web site to read offline in an airplane?
A: There are a number of programs that will download web sites and store them on your local drive so that you can view them offline. These tools are a great way to save content, too, that you don't want to see lost as web pages get updated.
Backstreet Browser (http://www.spadixbd.com/backstreet) is among the best of the offline web site downloaders and readers. Install this free utility, click the New button on its toolbar, and specify the web site you'd like to download. Pay special attention to the 'Maximal link depth' setting, which controls how many levels deep into the web site your download will go. The deeper into the site you go, the longer it will take to download and the more disk space will be required to store the site's files. You'll also find settings to control whether to update the web site when you're reconnected to the web and where to store the files locally. Once you've set the utility up, just click the Start button and sit back and wait as the tool copies the site's files to your drive.
Other free tools that do essentially the same thing as Backstreet Browser include PageNest (http://pagenest.com) and HTTrack (http://www.httrack.com). You might want to try all three to see which you like best.
The power of a site downloader or offline browser is impressive when you consider the growing number of free e-books available today. Point your site downloader to Project Gutenberg (http://bit.ly/hIL0w), for example, and you can quickly have enough reading material to last you for many airplane rides. Just be careful: downloading the contents of a large site can consume a lot of disk space.
Q: I'm addicted to several blogs and would like to be able to read these on vacation when I'm not connected to the internet. What's the best way to do this?
A: You could always use a web site downloader, such as one of those discussed earlier. But those tools are probably overkill for what you're trying to do.
Instead, consider a traditional news aggregator or reader that has an 'offline' mode. Many of the better ones do. For instance, the free Feedreader (http://www.feedreader.com) allows you to download selected articles or an entire blog for offline reading. The 'download selected articles for offline reading' option is available via a right-click menu. Another option is RSS Reader (http://www.rssreader.com).
If you'd like an offline reader for your mobile phone, check out Newstouch (http://www.newstouch.com), which is available for BlackBerry, Nokia, and Motorola. Byline (http://www.phantomfish.com/byline.html) is a nice iPhone app for storing and synchronising your Google Reader feeds for offline viewing.
Q: Are there any tools out there for downloading podcasts so that I can listen to them offline?
A: Yes. Keep in mind that podcasts are nothing more than audio files, so any audio player can handle them once you have them stored locally. However, it's worthwhile having an application that allows you both to search for, download, and play podcasts from one interface.
The popular iTunes application will also allow you to search for and store podcasts for offline listening - and sync those podcasts with your smartphone as well. It's the one must-have tool for podcast surfing because of its immense catalog of podcasts, many of which are free.
But iTunes isn't for everyone, partly because it's a huge application with plenty of interface quirks that have prompted as much criticism as praise. So it's worthwhile checking out alternatives.
Miro (http://www.getmiro.com) is perhaps the best open-source option these days for aggregating a bunch of podcasts for offline listening. Install the application for your operating system - it's available for Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu - and use the Miro Guide Audio search feature to locate the podcasts you like. Once you find a podcast series, just click on it, and then click the Download button next to each podcast you wish to store. You'll find that you can quickly scroll through podcast episodes, clicking Download next to each, and store dozens of files quickly. Downloaded podcasts will be placed automatically in your Miro Audio library, where you can listen to them at your leisure, whether you're online or offline.
Juice (http://juicereceiver.sourceforge.net) is another cross-platform podcast aggregator and offline player, and it is enjoyed by many. But users of Windows Vista and Windows 7 have reported compatibility issues with this venerable software, so you may need to run it in compatibility mode if you're using one of the newer versions of Windows.
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