For a second consecutive year, Powhertz wants to celebrate the most brilliant software releases of the ending year, no matter if they are #1 or #10 of their market. These selections are based only on thesoftware effectiveness and not on a readers vote or any selling or download statistics. Ladies and gentlemen, here are the champions for 2001.
A complex category again this year since the operating systems are not something we can try a lot every year, but all of the bigger than SuSE had to be rejected and all of the smaller are not quite ready yet, so SuSE Linux almost gets a victory by default for 2001! Still, it remains a pride winner because it is secure, extremely complete and more and more user-friendly. Note that the title of the review of SuSE 7.3 by the site The Register was "The XP killer".
Finalists: Mac OS X 1.1 (MacOS 10.1), Linux Mandrake 8.1 .
Rejections: The top 3 operating systems have all got their major update
in 2001, but they were all seen as rubbishes:
Let's mention that BeOS and QNX Realtime Platform didn't get any important update in 2001 and that FreeBSD 4.4 and OpenBSD 3.0 look very effective in their functions (although I didn't have the chance to give them a try) but are not as versatile as an SuSE Linux. Let's also mention the presence of Mandrake 8.1 which knows a strong success with the public (judge by the 97% of appreciation ratio on download.com...) but it not a very major update compared to 8.0 (not saying that they still haven't been able to build a real credibility as a Linux distribution) and WinLinux 2001, which doesn't worth any particular attention. TurboLinux 7 was also born in 2001, but it was simply unnoticed. Finally, there is AtheOS which was in people's mouth in 2001 but which still doesn't have its installation program, as well as SkyOS which also had fair reviews but is not very ready yet for the public at large.
Maybe the easiest-won category in 2001. For a 2nd year in a row, Opera comes out with the lead in Web surfing. The main responsible for its reach of the peak is its mouse gesture recognition function that Powhertz considers as the biggest revolution in Web browsing interfaces since the beginnings of the wide audience Internet. This functionality allows you to navigate without toolbars, doing the "Back", "Forward", "Stop", "Reload", "New window" and other functions only with mouse gestures and right-clicks, rendering unuseful the toolbar that was one of the most basic concepts of all graphical browsers since at least Netscape Navigator 1.0! When you get use to this, it becomes very difficult to switch back, believe me! Let's not forget also all of the other numerous advantages of Opera 5.11 over Netscape or Internet Explorer like, for example, resumable transfers, the multi-window interface (MDI), the much smaller software size and the counter of seconds of a site loading instead of a less-representative progress bar.
Finalists: Opera 6.0 for Windows, Galeon 1.0, Netscape 6.2
Despite the low hesitation Powhertz had to hand this award, there was some very proud competition. Opera 6.0 was also excellent with its numerous improvements like its awesome contextual menus when a word is selected in a page (allows to search directly for that word on Google, make an encyclopedic search or an instant translation from one language to another for the selected word!), Mozilla is really becoming a serious alternative to Netscape since its version 0.9.5 (we are at 0.9.7 today), and Galeon 1.0, though not very flashy for the look, is very efficient, fast and audacious. It is very good to see that there are some Opera's and Galeon's who continue to innovate in Web browsing without being discouraged by the popular domination of the conservative Internet Explorer. Oh, and I was almost about to forget Netscape 6.2 and 6.2.1 which, despite Netscape still being on its endless sinking, brought major improvements over the revolutionary Netscape 6, released in 2000, which was rejected from the title of best Web browser of 2000 only for performance reasons.
Rejections: Everybody's good so it's tough to eliminate some! There would be, maybe, Konqueror 2.1.x, which is not bad at all but really didn't manage to impress me neither (which deceived me a bit since it has become, in 2001, a very tough competitor to Lynx as the 4th most popular browser) and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 which, in summary, is a 5.5 with removed functionalities (Sun Java and the Netscape plugins like QuickTime aren't anymore supported by default!) and a copy of Netscape 6.x's sidebar.
Best archiving utility
Now here's a category in which Powhertz does'nt have as much easy as by the past to declare the winners since there hasn't been a Powhertz archiver test in 2001. Under these circumstances, you go logically; amongst the 3 archivers Powhertz recommend the most (PKZip, IMP/WinIMP, RAR32/WinRAR), WinRAR is the only one who had major (or relatively major) update in 2001. So here he is champ of the year in the archivers category!
Finalists: Karchiveur 2.0.4, ZipitFast 2.0
Rejections: WinZip 8.1 which merely managed to get about where PKZip was
over a year ago, and 7-ZIP Archiver 2.21 which I didn't have the chance
to try but which will definitely be part of an eventual Powhertz archiver
test 2002 in order to get to know its value.
Best Internet utility
gtk-gnutella 0.16 / 0.18
Really a close one! There were several good candidates, but with the death of Napster and the advent of numerous alternatives, it couldn't have gone to anything else than a file-sharing program, and in this category, gtk-gnutella is probably the one with the most simple, clean, direct and efficient interface of them all. The multiple-tab search, the active searches, the download statistics, the informations on the remote user, everything is there! Do not judge by its low version number, gtk-gnutella is very functional already. All this without mentionning that its installation is a charm. Really an excellent tool for finding both music and video. For Linux only!
Finalists: Audiogalaxy Satellite, MusicCity Morpheus, SmartFTP 1.0.963
Rejections: MusicCity Morpheus and KaZaA Media Desktop will often (if
not generally) find your even more results than gtk-gnutella, but although
I do take this into account, I think it is important to focus more on the
software itself than the quantity of people using it. In that perspective,
I quickly uninstalled KaZaA because it was way too much the exact same
thing than Morpheus (by the way, they are using the same network, FastTrack,
as well as their competitor Grokster), and Morpheus' interface it not always
perfectly clear and efficient (not bad but there would be for sure many possible
improvements). Speaking of the Morpheus phenomenon, here is a list of the
main points, positive and negative, that I retained:
So, a very practical tool, but there is still a long way to go. As for Audiogalaxy Satellite, it does a very great job, but only with music, no videos, which makes it a little bit less useful. iMesh, for its part, is a real reject! OK, right, it has the cutest icon, but nothing transfers (we select our files to download but almost none really downloads!?!), it constantly makes Explorer crash (that it Windows' shell, not Internet Explorer, which is a little bit more dramatic) and installs a bunch of nasty unwanted third-party programs, which includes HotBar and Gator. LimeWire is also pretty bad with its unuseful bundled third-party software installed without asking, its integrated ads, its help that doesn't work in some browsers such as Opera, its total absence of right-clicks and no really interesting functionality except the multiple-tab search, which is also available in gtk-gnutella. And there we speak of the Windows version, because for the Linux one, good luck! You'll have to have the JAVA environment already installed on your Linux, and the way LimeWire wants it!... Finally, I could have a quick word for BearShare, which I don't consider as totally bad, but which is definitely not as good as gtk-gnutella as a Gnutella client.
In conclusion, notice the nomination of SmartFTP. Personally, I remain a fan of the good old standard, command-line FTP, but still, I feel the need to show to everybody who are still losing their time to crack CuteFTP or Bullet Proof FTP that SmartFTP is entirely free and will allow you to do anything you usually do with CuteFTP, which sells for US$40...
The category "Internet utility" being very vast, many other good software
could have also made their way in but didn't by lack of space. Homage to
Best e-mail client
Microsoft Outlook Express 6
I got to admit it, except for the fact that almost all e-mail worms attack strictly Microsoft Outlook, this one is still the simplest, fastest and more efficient of them all. It remains the reference in this field would be highly recommendable it wasn't of these numerous viruses who constantly attack it. A tip: do never activate the option for automatic saving of all e-mail addresses in your address book and never naïvely open an attachment in .EXE, .VBS or any other suspicious format. Ultimately, never open an attachment other than a text (.TXT, .NFO, etc...), image (ex.: .JPG, .BMP, .GIF), sound (ex.: MP3) or video (ex.: MPEG, no EXE-saved Shockwave applications!) file unless you were expecting it. This way, you won't be any more sheltered, but at least you'll have taken the minimal precautions.
Finalists: IncrediMail Xe, Evolution 1.0
Rejections: The rejects, in this small category, are pretty much the finalists!
IncrediMail is for sure the most original e-mail client of 2001 and the
one with the highest increase of popularity, but many reported important
stability problems, not to mention that rare are the e-mail clients that
will correctly interpret the enhanced e-mails sent with IncrediMail. So,
not that far from the top, but there is still some work to be done here.
As for Evolution 1.0, it is undoubtly the most anticipated release of the
year in this category, but this copy of Microsoft Outlook (non-Express) loses
us in its software requirements and leaves me the impression that it tries
to use Microsoft-like practices by making us download their whole Ximian
Desktop only to use a simple e-mail client... Let's mention also KMail, which
has probably became the 2nd most popular e-mail client under Linux in 2001.
I like it very much the first days (so much that I thought to give him the
honor of best e-mail client of 2001), but then it hasn't stop to drop in
my esteem, so much that I'm about to retransfer my e-mails to Mozilla.
KMail is clear and simple, surprises with some interesting small gadgets
(like replying only to a certain portion of the text selected in the original
message or an excellent import utility for MS Outlook Express messages),
but it also has major lacks like no support for enriched text and HTML-formatted
e-mails as well as the append of the signature completely at the end of a
reply instead of right after the reply itself (most people do not even notice
that the message is signed).
Best search engine
How not to proclaim Google seach engine of the year again this year? 2001 was for him a rewarding year for its exceptional work, finally becoming the Web's 2nd most popular search engine. This fast increase of popularity did not have only good effects, since it gives them have less resources than before to do index cleanups and find themselves with more and more broken links, but still, it remains by far the best search engine available. Let's also mention that Google did a master stroke in 2001 by managing to index the content of the Acrobat (.PDF) files it finds, which he is the only one to do and, personally, gave me twice better results than the search results of ordinary Web pages. Google is the indisputed leader.
Finalists: Vivisimo (http://vivisimo.com), Wisenut (http://www.wisenut.com)
Rejections: Yahoo!, although still the most popular search engine, is
still completely out of competition in terms of quality, AltaVista
has fallen out of the top ones (the news even came out recently that it didn't update its index since this summer...) and Excite, as well as Go, are in bankruptcy... So, the bottom line is that the competition is not very tough coming from the big ones since the only ones left are Lycos and the false search engines like AOL, MSN and Netscape Search! The title is easily won by Google, and instead of nominating Lycos (which is OK but no much more than that, and didn't really evolved in 2001) or Northern Light, Powhertz told himself: "let's support the good prospects that are well-started and asks for nothing more than being seen"! In that philosophy, Vivisimo is an original and certainly recommendable one (although it is a meta-engine, so not a 100% real search engine), while Wisenut is a bit too much of a Google wannabe but, with its index of over one billion and a half pages (already!) and its direct and adless interface à la Gogole, it could well become the #2 (behind Google) within a year or two. A little bit deceiving however that a so young search engine already has that much broken links...
Best PC game
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Finalists: Black & White, Aliens v. Predator 2, Microsoft Flight
Notice that this category doesn't ha s the Powhertz award 2001 stamp. The reason is simple, the author and administrator of Powhertz played only one PC game released in 2001! It is the hockey game NHL 2002, which for sure is captivating, but which was way too much deceiving to get a title like "game of the year". In fact, the most disappointing about it is that it's the same thing than NHL 2001 with very minor improvements and the picture of Mario Lemieux on the cover to boost the sales. Powhertz then has no other choice than referring to external sources to hand out this prize, the main ones being GameSpot (http://gamespot.com) and the www.pcgamereview.com .
The 3rd in the Wolfenstein series was definitely the most anticipated
game release of the year it met the expectations, which is an exceptional
thing. As for the 3 other finalists, they all got excellent critics no matter
the source. Apart the winner and the finalists, let's also mention the much-anticipated
sequels Commandos 2 and Civilization III which both also came out in
Coup de coeur
The "Coup de coeur" (sorry, I think it doesn't really translate in English!)
is a new category for a software that particularly impressed Powhertz during
the last year and couldn't fit in any of the other categories. This is for
what Nautilus, for its versions 1.0 (May 2001) to 1.0.5 today, becomes the
first ever "coup de coeur" winner. It is the most spectacular file manager
on the market, easily beating the Windows Explorers of this world. Now integrated
to the GNOME environment (on X-Window, so for Linux or other UNIX-like operating
system only), it allows you to see your files for what they really are instead
of being represented by meanless icons. If your file is an image, you'll
see, at the file listing, a thumbnail of this image. Move the mouse over
it and this thumbnail image will enlighten. If your file is a text file,
it is the first words of this text, on a white background, that you'll see.
If your file is an MP3, move the mouse over it and a sound preview of it
will automatically play. The contextual menus are very well-made and easily
configurable (even easier than in Windows!...), the Netscape 6.x-like panels
are sensational (mostly for the document- opening menus for the different
compatible applications as well as the "notes" and "history" panels) and
the universal zoom function (even works for the file listing of directories,
which generates many different interesting display possibilities) is totally
genial. Really, this description is only made of words, but experiment Nautilus
and you'll easily understand my enthousiasm.
Finalists: Acoustica MP3 CD Burner 1.1x, KDE 2.2.x
Many other are certainly real close from ending up here, these are the
ones that I instinctively thought of. Acoustica MP3 CD Burner really impressed
me for its simplicity and should really be in the software collection of
any weak or average PC user with a CD burner at home. The Windows application,
which is not at all unrecommended to experts neither, allows to create your
own music CDs from MP3 files, in only one step and without any special care!
Acoustica will automatically find all of your PC's MP3 files at a blazing
speed, no matter if they are spread on one or twelve partitions (by the way,
you make your tracks selection from this generated list), tell you in advance
by how much minutes and seconds you are over or under the capacity of a blank
CD according to your selections and even warn you, before burning, if one
of the chosen songs ends abruptly so that you know that this song is
maybe incomplete! Very good piece of software. And finally, Powhertz chose,
as the last finalist, KDE 2.2, the X-Window graphical environment that improved
the most in 2001, even if it was already excellent in 2000! Congratulatoins
to the KDE team! Let's also drop a note about the site www.lasoo.com which
is very cool and useful but not included in this category because it is not
Best travel Web site
I'm sure you're wondering what the heck is this category! Well, last year, the author and administrator of Powhertz was working in the field of data storage and gave a Powhertz award for the best "storage media technology". In 2001, Powhetrz has worked in the travel Web sites industry, so a new category that will change each year is born and this year it is "travel Web site"! On this, it is tough to remain impartial, but I believe that the combined work of the Web design company Worldnet and the highly qualified people from Softvoyage Inc. (and now OpenFares Inc.), which includes the author of Powhertz, resulted in a very nice consumer-oriented online booking Web site. However, do not go there to plan your family vacations in departure of New York or Toronto; its competitive prices are on the cities of Beirut (Lebanon) and Dubai (United Arab Emirates). UFlyonline is based on the top "GDS" system, Sabre.
Finalists: Thomas Cook, Expedia
It is certain that the months of intense development for Thomas Cook at Softvoyage (hi to Jo and Mathieu!) will worth them a 2nd place, if I didn't steal them the #1! Cook is a complete and well-made site. We complete with what is still a reference in this field, Expedia, based on the GDS WorldSpan.
So, that's it for 2001! Don't wait any longer, go immediately download Opera make yourself sure to use Google in the future!... Funny, this strangely looks like last year's conclusion! ;)
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