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eBay Tools for Windows

With the right tools, you can win online auctions without being near your computer.

Yeah, sure, you use your Windows PC primarily for work, but you can’t resist taking a quick peek now and then at eBay in hopes of adding that new action figure, sports memorabilia, or rare vinyl album to your collection, now can you?

And before you know it, you’ve spent hours hunting down that that hard-to-find Japanese Mego knockoff Batman, only to lose the bidding war during the last 30 seconds of the auction. But what if you want to go beyond the usual hunt-and-surf, snipe-at-the-last-second eBay experience and streamline your auction hunting productivity and gain more time for, well, you know, real work?

Dang nabit all, anyway

Nabit, from Digonex Technologies, goes a long way toward making that happen. The program, which is free, presents itself as a floating window that’s 597 by 163 pixels in closed mode (meaning it cycles through images of the auctions you’ve bid on) and 597 by 593 in open mode, which shows your choice of auctions you’re watching, bidding on, or have recently won. The window plays well at all screen resolutions, even 600×800.

Installation is near-instantaneous and configuring and using Nabit is a snap. Once you’ve opened the program, you simply enter your eBay information and then choose from several simple options; whether or not the program should remember you; if it should stay on top; whether or not to display tool tips; and how many days (anywhere from 1 to 90) worth of auctions to display. And that’s it. You can also change how the program transitions through auctions in closed mode, as well as the speed at which it does it.

Now, instead of spending your day checking up on the bidding of that always-elusive Classic TV Toys rare variant purple-clothed Herman Munster you’ve had your eye on, you can sit back and let Nabit do it for you. And best of all, it won’t cost you a single dime; Nabit is entirely, 100 percent free. And when’s the last time you found that on eBay?

Nabit runs on all versions of Windows from 98SE and up.

Going on a snipe hunt

OK, now you can watch your auctions without keeping an eBay window open all day, but what can you do about actually winning them? There are plenty of Web sites that allow you to “snipe”–automatically place a bid in the last few seconds of an auction in an attempt to outbid the high bidder–but almost all of them include a surcharge based on the final value of the auction.

eBay Auction Sniper and Auto Search, a product from Powersnipe, charges a flat rate of $46 a year, meaning you can win as many auctions as you want without worrying about paying extra for your snipes. And (this is the good part) because the service works through software you download, and isn’t browser-dependent, you have more control over exactly when and how to work your snipes.

Installation itself is a breeze, and actually using the program itself is just as easy; you just search for whatever you’re interested in (or enter an item number, if you have it) and then instruct the program when and how much to bid. You can bid as late as six seconds before the auction in question ends.

Features include Bid Groups, which allow you to bid on similar items until you win an auction in a group; at that point, the program cancels your bids for the other items, insuring you don’t win multiples. Daily Auto Search, another great future, enables you to create a search and instruct the Powersnipe server to run the search daily and e-mail you the results.

eBay Auction Sniper and Auto Search runs on all versions of Windows, and you can download a trial version of the program. One note, though: The trial software is severely crippled. In fact, all you can do with it is run one search a day; and you can’t even access the most important aspect of the program–the sniping feature–until you register the software.

If you buy a lot on eBay it’s definitely worth the $46 a year fee, but not being able to really try it before you buy it is frustrating, to say the least.

The search is on

If you’re not interested in sniping but want to improve your ability to find the hidden treasures you know exist on eBay but never have the time to look for, eSearch from Mazepath Software might be the way to go.

Unlike eBay, which only let’s you save 100 searches, (in “My Favorites”) eSearch will let you set up as many searches as you can come up with. And while the eBay searches are executed daily, eSearch can search as often as you’d like. You can enable the program to execute a search for a specific term anywhere from every minute to, well, only on every third leap year.

Why does this matter? On eBay, if someone posts an item for sale right after your nightly search has run, you won’t know about it until nearly twenty-four hours later; with eSearch, depending on how you’ve timed your searches, you can be notified almost immediately.

The program is no more difficult to use than setting up automatic searches in eBay’s My Favorites; just plug in the information, set the minutes, and minimize the window. When one of your searches hit, the program will notify you via a beep and by moving to the top of your open windows. And then that Japanese Mego knockoff Batman will finally be yours after all.

eSearch is free.

Contributing Editor Joe DeRouen writes Windows Advisor monthly for ComputerUser.

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