A Fresh Look for a Tired Format
By Jon Kaufthal (08/01/96)
For those who still use Gopher to poke around the Internet, WSGopher32 2.0 is probably the best client application. In this latest beta (the final version is due out later this month), the popular WSGopher has evolved into a 32-bit application whose interface mimics the familiar split-screen view of Microsoft Explorer.
Those who remember when the Web was a text-only experiment will also be able to recall when the bulk of the Internet was found via Gopher. The Web has since grown up and attracted the bulk of the Internet's content, but Gopher still refuses to lie down and die. WSGopher helps make Gopher servers--many of which have yet to make the transition to HTML--more accessible.
To visit a Gopher server, such as Gopher's birthplace, the University of Minnesota (gopher://gopher.micro.umn.edu), just enter the site's address, and WSGopher will present you with a hierarchical list of directories. WSGopher also allows you to choose a home Gopher, which is automatically loaded each time you start the program. Rather than the more common approach of showing one menu-driven screen at a time, WSGopher32 gives you more of the big picture by allowing you to tunnel down to the information you need, while at the same time providing the larger context of where you are within a nest of menus.
WSGopher32 provides a separate window for each Gopher item (such as a page of text), making it possible to view several pages at once. Graphical icons distinguish between graphics files, text, menus, and the like, making it easier to see what you're getting before you click on it. And an advanced bookmarking system helps keep track of your favorite Gopher sites.
While the program's interface is on the whole well designed, it fails to feel fully like a Windows 95 application. The right mouse button is not used at all, and "hints" on the bottom status bar fill in where tool tips would be far more effective. Those shortcomings aside, the program does a nice job of making sense of Gopherspace. A local "find" function--not yet functioning in this beta version--is an excellent idea that should provide powerful searching capabilities.
Of course, the Gopher protocol itself is utterly obsolete, and anything that can be done on Gopher can be done just as easily on the Web, with the added benefit of graphics, hyperlinks, and more. In fact, most Web browsers will also function as Gopher clients, though generally with a bare-bones interface. But for those who need to access data that is provided only via Gopher frequently, WSGopher32 is the way to go.
List price: $14.95. (Available free for a 30-day evaluation.)
Requires: Windows 95 or NT
Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies Company at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL)