THIRD VOICE, Third Voice

What: Web-site commentary on demand. Details: Are you thoroughly ticked off at a Web site? Were you burned by an online retailer and want to warn others? Or maybe offer an alternative point of view to a politician's Web-based bombast? Now you can. Just stick up a note on the site with this browser companion, released May 17 by Redwood City, Calif.-based Third Voice, Inc. Download the software and register at Third Voice's own site; then whenever you're at a page and the muse, or the fancy, strikes, you can add a note, identified by a small marker, that will be visible to all other Third Voice users. It's free, and since the note is stored on Third Voice's server, the page owner can't remove it. (The developer says it will restrict use to individuals, so Hecht's can't trash Macy's.) For this to work, though, Third Voice will need enough serious users, and the signal-to-noise ratio in notes can be a problem. Still, we found notes posted on Microsoft's site, CNN, Salon, the Motley Fool and Marie Claire, a range that suggests fascinating possibilities. Bottom line: Worthy of note.

-- Alan S. Kay

Win 95 (Internet Explorer 4.0 only; IE 5.0 and Netscape Navigator 4.0 and up versions due soon), free at

WEB STUDIO, Sierra Home

What: Web-design toolkit. Details: Finally, someone has come up with a Web-weaving program for people with absolutely no experience in creating Web pages -- or patience for learning the HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) coding that generates a Web page's look and style. Unlike past Web-authoring tools, which have often been as hard to learn as HTML itself, Web Studio minimizes complexity with an easy-to-read menu bar and a drag-and-drop interface: To put text on your page, simply click the text button, then start typing. Likewise, clicking on the graphics icon lets you choose from more than 17,000 clip-art images, background patterns and animations included with the program (or import your own work). And the HTML this program generates is free of the fluff most visual Web design tools add, which means pages built with this should show up a little quicker in browsers. Web Studio also bundles a fairly powerful photo editor for fine-tuning your own photos. Finally, uploading your work requires zero knowledge of file-transfer protocol: Type your site's address, along with your user name and password, and up the files go. Bottom line: Good starter kit for novices.

-- John Breeden

Win 95, $50