Capturing and Recording Web Sites to CD

By Jacso, Peter | Information Today, May 1998 | Go to article overview

Capturing and Recording Web Sites to CD


Jacso, Peter, Information Today


New grab-and-record software can make presentations a breeze

The Web undoubtedly has been stealing the show from CD-ROM lately. Everyone and his/her aunt are surfing the Web, and they're all busy creating home pages. Depending on the theoretical modem/network speed and the prevailing traffic, surfing and home page editing can be frustrating. You must surf to explore new sites, and finding good ones is worth the trouble. However, when you want to revisit a site to show it off in a presentation to clients or to students in a classroom, getting there in front of a dozen people waiting to see it can put a damper on your presentation.

Wouldn't you like to have some of the sites on your desktop? You probably would, but you don't want to go to hundreds or even thousands of pages to save them one by one, babysitting the process. Downloading even a smaller site with just 200 MB of images would take its toll on your hard drive's capacity, and you can't just cart your hard drive along with you to your presentation. A parallel-port Zip drive with 100-MB cartridges is a good alternative, but it is a tad slow, and that cartridge is relatively low in capacity. Enter Web grabbing and recording software.

Reach Out and Grab a Site

Programs that can copy a Web site, or part of it, have been around for nearly 2 years, and include such products as Web Buddy, FlashSite, Weblicator, and Web-Whacker. I have used some of them on occasion. They have continually been improving, offering more options such as scheduling of downloads for the wee hours and being selective as to how many levels of the Web site should be downloaded, how many pages or images may be downloaded, or how large a file size may be downloaded. They worked acceptably but had deficiencies, such as the proprietary format for storing the Web sites. This made it necessary to install the software on the host computer where you made the presentation in addition to the set of Web pages. The downloaded Web pages could not be browsed from a browser directly. Copying these sites to a portable medium and ensuring that all the directories, files, and pointers were there was not a walk in the park, either.

Now, however, Elektroson's GEAR WebGrabber makes this process much more convenient.

Elektroson's GEAR WebGrabber

Elektroson has made its name with GEAR, a capable CD-ROM premastering software package. It has been extending the GEAR family to include audio recording, CD-ROM copying, and DVD-ROM premastering. And now WebGrabber offers a smart solution for downloading Web sites and recording them on compact disc.

Actually, WebGrabber is not Elektroson's own development; it just licensed it from Forefront, Inc., which developed WebWhacker, and added important extra functionality. Although from the ads it may seem that sites are directly recorded onto a CD, this is really a two-step process: downloading to hard disk, then recording to CD. You still cannot both download and record sites while you sleep, but you can do one or the other. WebGrabber installs itself automatically on the tool bar of your browser(s), so it is immediately available from the browser, and need not be launched. When you visit a site that you want to download, you just choose the WebGrabber option on the menu bar, which, in turn, initiates the Grab-A-Site program.

Downloading

WebGrabber's Grab-A-Site offers to create a new directory to store the Web site's content and a GAS file for administrative purposes. You may open an existing GAS file and directory. For example, for my puny home page and associated pages, the PJ-HOME.DIR and PJ-HOME.GAS files will be created. The next step is to specify the URL to be downloaded. Several URLs may be specified, and for a hierarchical site you may designate the first level anywhere in the hierarchy. For example, in my case the files to illustrate the process for this article are to be downloaded from my elder son's home site (http://www2. …

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