Internet search engines dredge up such heavy loads of junk that they have limited value in serious research by companies. A new, free search engine called 1Jump takes a different approach. It searches exclusively for information and news about companies, with an emphasis on technology firms, though some retailers are included.

The interface is a little hard to comprehend because it has so many buttons to push. If you aren't careful, you end up searching for news in the wrong locations.

My review copy apparently had its default setting tuned to Canadian companies, and I could not find anything about Microsoft Corp. on my first couple of tries. Once I reset the options menu to look for U.S. companies, it worked fine and pulled up an impressive volume and range of information.

The primary function is to find news items, but there are many extra features. For example, click on the "Company Officers" button to see a list of executives, their ages, titles and published e-mail addresses.

Clicking on the "Patent" button brings up a list of every patent a company owns. Microsoft's is 31 pages long. Besides being interesting reading, it gives you an idea of what a company plans or is capable of doing.

Clicking on the "Peers" button produces a list of companies associated in some way with the firm you are researching. You can jump to their Web pages or have 1Jump cull information about them.

A "See Also" button goes to other Web pages relevant to the company. For example, the Chinese Software Industry Association came up as a "See Also" page when I was reading news items about Microsoft's battle against software piracy in China.

Say you want to buy specific information technology services and need the names of nearby companies that might provide it. So you would search for all companies within a certain area code or Zip code. When I told 1Jump to search for companies with a 301 Maryland area code, I was given 59 pages of data. A search for all businesses listed in Chicago brought up 95 pages.

For obscure companies, the information provided is rather basic. You might not get a list of the officers, but you can click the "Contact" button to see how to reach the company and where it is located. You can also go to its Web site.

Many companies or government agencies that need specific information about prospective business partners will find 1Jump invaluable. Once all the buttons on the interface have been mastered, information such as Dell Computer Corp.'s annual report and Bill Gates's e-mail address are only a few clicks away.

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1Jump Web Search Engine for Company News

1Jump LLC, Woodstock, Vt.

Telephone:

802-457-3803

Web site: www.1jump.com

Price: Free

Grade: B+

Pros:

+ Extensive company databases

+ Contacts, links and

news displayed

+ Updated through Web

Cons:

-- Slight learning curve

Real-life requirements:

Windows 95, 98 or NT, Internet connection