Every now and then a piece of technology comes along that bumps up the evolution of the Internet an extra notch. Hotmail did it for email, Google for searching and Skype for phone calls over the net. Quintura is a clever and well-executed application that may well grow to reach this ‘killer app’ status. The aim of the program is to make searching the web an easier and more intuitive process.
Quintura works by allowing you to type a search term then displaying a series of words related to that phrase that ‘float’ around the original term, then subsequently displaying further related terms whenever you roll over one of them – rather like a computerized stream of consciousness. All the while, the application is querying the search engine of your choice and displaying relevant search results in a panel on the right of the interface. This makes for a wonderfully original and logical way of browsing the web, especially if you’re interested in exploring all avenues of one particular topic, or aren’t completely sure what it is that you’re looking for. Once you’ve found a link to a site that you like the look of, you simply click the link and the page will open in a new browser window.
The process of searching the web in this way is a little unusual at first, rather like driving an automatic car when you’ve been used to a gear-stick. It feels very strange not to be able to enter additional keywords or perform boolean operations, plus the absence of an obvious ‘Back’ button is also a little unsettling. The melée of words that are flying all over the screen only serve to add to the confusion. But guess what? It actually works. Within a few minutes of surfing the web in this way you start to develop a feeling of liberation, and you can sit back and enjoy the view without having to worry about the traditional restrictive tools of search. It feels as if new areas of the web are opening up to you, as you continue to slide down the stream of consciousness. Backtracking seems cumbersome at first, but the fact that the search terms you’ve clicked on are highlighted in red means you can simply ‘unclick’ them to head back the trail of information.
Although the program isn’t flourishing with features (it’s still only limited to searching Google, Google News, Yahoo!, and MSN), the few options that are present are very useful. For instance, if you’re not ready to be bombarded with a wave of different tangents from your original search term, you can alter the scope of the search using a simple scroll bar. The accuracy of the results can also be tweaked in the same way. If you’ve been pursuing a particularly interesting area of research, you can save your Quintura search with the click of a button, to come back to another time. One minor gripe we had with the interface was the absence of a Search window. Thus, whenever you want to make a new query you need to close down the search you’re doing and start a new one, with a ‘save current search’ prompt appearing every time. Perhaps this is just another of those search conventions you have to leave at the door when you use the program.
Ultimately, Quintura is a fascinating and original application, which delivers a geat research tool and moreover, gives rise to a completely new and immersive way of surfing the web. Just like the feeling I got the first time I used Google or downloaded Skype, I sense that using the Internet will not quite be the same again after installing this innovative program.