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Start-up touts offline Web access

A Washington, D.C., start-up will begin testing in two weeks new software that lets Net novices check out Web sites offline by looking at previously downloaded pages.

FreeLoader, Inc. will in two weeks debut a namesake software package aimed at novice Net users who want to surf the Web but don't want to rack up big online charges. Online access via FreeLoader is free to users. The company plans to support the service with advertising revenue.

The goal of FreeLoader, which is essentially an interactive screensaver, is to provide simplified Web access for beginning Net users, officials said. The company plans to license the FreeLoader software to Web site partners, who will then distribute the package free to users.

FreeLoader will include utilities for automating surfing, logging on, and downloading files. The software will also include a toolbar that works on top of a user's existing browser. The toolbar will allow users to subscribe to certain Web pages so that future access is simplified. In addition, users can configure the software so that updated Web pages are automatically downloaded to a PC's hard drive during off-peak hours.

In the future, the company plans to provide a Java-based version of FreeLoader that will enable offline viewing of multimedia applications.