Top 10 specialty Web browsers you may have missed

These oddly useful alternative browsers offer such advantages as 3-D searching, social networking, easy scriptability, and powerful page manipulation

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Specialty Web browsers: Browse Web tables into spreadsheets with Kirix Strata

There are few tools today that surprise me, but Strata from Kirix is one of them. It's a browser first and foremost, but the fun begins when you open a page that contains a table full of numbers. Then a click of the mouse turns the static HTML table into a dynamic spreadsheet.

Many people won't have any need for this. If your Internet connection is mainly a pipeline for cat videos from YouTube and updates from Facebook, you'll never be able to take advantage of any of its power. But if you work in a business where the bosses repeat mantras like, "You can't manage what you can't measure," then this is an ideal tool.

The sorting and reporting features aren't much better than any of the other related tools on the market, but the integration with the browser makes all of the difference. Suddenly you don't need to beg the back office to give you the numbers in the format that your boss requires. You can take any table and start manipulating it.

As soon as I popped open the Strata browser, I knew where I wanted to turn. One of my websites has a tool that digests all the log files and dumps out a table full of data. The table is adequate, but it's not grouped the way I want. So every day, I would think that I should just dig into the source code and reprogram it to sort the table better and group some of the columns. No more -- there's no need to reprogram because Strata sorts the table for me in a few clicks.

Many of us must deal with imperfect reports on Web pages all of the time. Reprogramming the reports or getting someone in the IT department to do it is often more time consuming than the data demands. Strata costs $250, but it's worth it if you're in such a situation.

The only downside to the Strata browser is that it's starting to age. The company blog posts are fewer and further between. The reporting tool is merely adequate, not fancy or impressive. The plug-ins are clever -- such as a tool for reading data directly from Digg -- but they're all dated in 2008. These are all warning signs, but not deal breakers. The tool is a real time saver, extremely handy if the boss wants those numbers right away.

Kirix Strata brings ad hoc reporting and spreadsheet-like functions to tables on Web pages. It can also draw data directly from back-end databases and other data sources.
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