The Ask Jeeves search toolbar sports plenty of specific searches and solid extras, including the ability to zoom in and out of Web pages. However, the toolbar falters with its huge and hard-to-shrink search box, as well as the annoying Ask Jeeves frames that appear around Web page results. Even worse, it dropped the ball in our search result testing. Unless you're a die-hard Ask Jeeves fan or you love scouring Web pages at twice their normal size, consider installing Yahoo's toolbar instead.
We had no trouble installing the Ask Jeeves Toolbar; once we clicked the download link on the Ask Jeeves site, the toolbar installed itself in less than a minute. The most striking thing about the toolbar is its massive search box, presumably designed for queries in the form of questions, such as "Where is the nearest pizza joint?" Annoyingly, you can't shrink the giant search box unless you squeeze the entire toolbar. You can, however, add and subtract buttons as you see fit, view button icons only, or toggle the appearance of the buttons between flat and raised.
The Ask Jeeves Toolbar gives you the standard arsenal of searches, including a full Web search, the current site only, images, news, products, stocks, weather, and the dictionary (Google's dictionary is built in to each search). Image and news queries use Ask Jeeves's specific news and image search services, so you won't need to tack on "picture of" or "news about" to the search terms. However, you can't check out a search result without getting an Ask Jeeves frame at the top of the page--a tired "feature" that should have been phased out around Y2K.
The Ask Jeeves Toolbar has a zoom button that magnifies the page you're visiting by up to 200 percent, including both graphics and text. You can also zoom out to 50 percent of the original page size--handy if you're trying to find highlighted search terms in a lengthy Web page. The pop-up blocker stops annoying Web pop-ups and lets you allow pop-ups from a given domain, but it won't let you view recently blocked pop-ups. Missing in action are a form-filler tool, portable bookmarks, and the ability to cycle through search results with the toolbar buttons.
Ask Jeeves didn't fare so well in our search result testing, ranking dead last in terms of relevancy behind Google, A9, HotBot, AltaVista, Yahoo, and MSN; and it landed in the middle of the pack for breadth behind Yahoo, AltaVista, and Google. Ask Jeeves returned the third-best results on our query for the pharmaceutical company Merck.