For some people, Web searches are second nature. They're comfortable jumping from a basic text search to using Boolean terminology to navigating a minefield of open-ended results. It's hard not to appreciates the depth of material available on the Internet, but parsing 75,000 results can be daunting to even seasoned searchers.
ChunkIt for Firefox and Internet Explorer aims to streamline your query results into a manageable list by surfacing the relevant blocks of content directly below the appropriate link. This may sound like CoolPreviews, which opens a mini-window to preview a link before you click on it, but it's far more involved.
ChunkIt splits your browser tab into two vertical sections, the left side with the ChunkIt results and the right with "unchunked" returns. Clicking on the text of a ChunkIt result loads the text in the right pane, replacing the unchunked results. The terms in the chunk that match your search term are highlighted in yellow. ChunkIt also jumps directly to the relevant terms, so you don't have to scroll through a page squinting for the highlights. To make it easy to see the entire page that your result lives on, a link at the top of the pane opens it in a new tab.
Before you can use the plug-in, you must accept the EULA and choose a default search engine. Users can select from Google, Yahoo, Live Search, AOL, or Ask. After installing on three computers, one turned up an error when selecting the default engine. The plug-in then auto-detected my default engine, Google, and proceeded to function without problems.
Besides the obnoxiousness of the EULA, consider yourself warned that this is a large add-on, weighing in at more than 8MB. This could affect Firefox on slower systems. Also, to use ChunkIt requires the proprietary toolbar, which contains its own Chunkified search box and a button for re-rendering current search results through the ChunkIt engine.
The toolbar replaces an Options or Settings box. One option lets users Chunk all links on a page, another adjusts the kind of search you can execute--best match, match all, match any, or exact match. It would be useful to have the option to get rid of the toolbar and just have a ChunkIt button live next to other buttons on the toolbar, but ChunkIt has declared this to not be so--for now. As browser design becomes more streamlined and minimalist, though, hopefully this will change.
The plug-in functioned in a generally hassle-free manner, which was somewhat surprising given how intrusive it is. Just eyeballing the speed, I didn't notice much of a difference between regular search results and the same term fed through ChunkIt. Using it, too, was deceptively intuitive. From the moment I hit Enter to begin the search to the point where I found what I wanted, I never encountered a moment where the workflow was confusing or unclear--also surprising, given that most people probably wouldn't think of a split-screen interface as natural.
While the innovation is intriguing, ChunkIt will appeal most to users who need help narrowing down broad searches. On the other hand, if you're comfortable maneuvering through "the Google," or if you're on a slower machine, you'll likely find ChunkIt extraneous to your needs.
Personally, I don't see myself using it much, but your mileage may vary. Let me know what you think about ChunkIt in the comments below.