XL2Web is one of those software titles that describes its purpose in techie shorthand. VARs can entice its customers with this service by enabling them to publish an interactive version of Microsoft’s Excel spreadsheet to the Web.

If you are a financial analyst or adviser, a bank wanting to

make standard calculations available to its customers, or even a college, you might want to set up spreadsheet routines that allow someone at home to punch in the numbers and arrive at some advice or conclusion. The client might want to know how long it would take to save enough for retirement, or the children’s education, for example. The answer, of course, depends on how much you start with, how long it’s invested, the rate of return, the rate of tuition inflation, the school selected, etc.

As clients punch in the numbers, they can see how changes in the various categories will alter the results. They can then decide whether or not to shoot for a higher, but riskier rate of return, or make larger cash infusions, or start earlier.

That’s a very simple example. If you’re a financial adviser posting a spreadsheet to the Web, you would probably want to set up proprietary formulations that would let customers make the most of their investments. XL2Web allows clients to save any scenario from an online demonstration, but they would still need your advice for new situations.

XL2Web is a hosted service, charging $100 a month for each spreadsheet. More info at www.xl2web.com.

LOST HORIZONS

We recently found a new search engine that scours the Web by country. There are others that do this, too, and what an interesting (and cheap) way to travel.

For instance, we found an apartment locator site in Romania that offered a 50 per cent discount if the apartment had no electricity. Where else are you going to find a deal like that?

Browsing with BlueMagic (www.bluemagic.dk), the latest of the “”country of origin”” search engines, we found lots of Web sites, but unfortunately, they usually came up in the native language. The apartment service in Bucharest was an exception.

You also can search Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) by country. First click on “”Countries”” under the heading “”Regional”” on the home page. That gets you a list of more than 100 countries. Click on one and select a category: news, culture, travel, etc. You get lots of news and cultural information, but not much on shopping. What’s the point of traveling if you can’t shop?

We were working up a lather trying to find the best glycerin soap we ever used, and we knew it came from Spain. But maybe you’re looking for something else you found when you were abroad and can’t find anywhere. Where can you get those custom-made tiles you saw in Holland? And what about ostrich wallets from South Africa, or the blueberry wine from Nova Scotia? These are important questions.

You can go to Google (www.google.com) and click on “”language tools.”” Then choose the language (English, Spanish, etc.) you can read and click on a country from a drop-down list. Select a search topic, like “”glycerin soap,”” and this actually produces Web sites for stores and other businesses.

Oddly enough, depending on your search term — soap, leather, tile, whatever – it also comes up with businesses in the U.S. that sell similar products. But at least you get country-of-origin sources, too.

We got slightly better results using Vivisimo (www.vivisimo.com), our favourite search engine and the one with the worst name (try typing “”vivisimo”” a few times without making mistakes). We got straight through to country-specific sites for any topic. We simply typed “”Spain glycerin soap”” in the search box and the very first site was a Spanish supplier of a wide assortment of products, including soap. Like other search engines, however, Vivisimo does not confine itself to sites in a particular country; it also brings up sites that contain the country’s name.

The advantage of Vivisimo is that it’s a clustering engine. That means the search results are grouped by category. It helps cull the lists.

So, for example, typing “”Norway,”” produced a list of nearly a hundred categories, though few were commercial. A search on “”Morocco”” produced lots of categories as well, but none of them listed a supplier for that neat fossil rock you can find in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. But … that’s entertainment.

INTERNUTS: GUIDES FOR THE PERPLEXED

While surfing check out www.answersthatwork.com. It has lots of tips and tricks. Make Windows XP look and work like Windows 95/98/ME, which many people find faster to manipulate than Windows XP. Create toolbar buttons for macros in Microsoft Word.

Speaking of Excel, http://software.lifetips.com has help with Excel, PowerPoint, AutoCAD, Word, Outlook and Windows. You can submit questions to online gurus. They may or may not know the answer.

If you remember and more importantly enjoy working in Windows 98 then www.pureperformance.com is the Web site for you. You get tips and tweaks for Windows 98 and up. How to remove Windows Messenger, spyware, update the video driver, defrag the disk, disable error reporting in XP, etc. How to create a bootable CD that will install XP unattended (otherwise it’s going to take an hour or more).

More tips and some simple tips for techies at www.onecomputerguy.com. For example, would you like to know how to create a batch file to print the contents of a directory in Windows? At this site you can. But how to fix unclickable Web links in an e-mail was easy.

Internet may have gotten rid of disk, but not at this site: www.acronis.com. Acronis makes disk imaging and backup software and is a new entrant to the tips and tricks category. Many of the tips suggest buying the company’s software, but there is plenty of other good advice.

BOOKS

“”eBay Strategies”” by Scot Wingo; US$20, Prentice Hall (www.phptr.com).

A straightforward, practical guide to selling on eBay: How to do pricing, promotion, control costs, dealing with deadbeats, etc. The author is a consultant who has provided auction sales advice to IBM, Dell, Best Buy and many other companies. His aim is for a seller to generate a million dollars or more in sales each year.

Share on LinkedIn Share with Google+