If you use a Macintosh, you may have shrugged your shoulders in apathy when Microsoft released version 5 of its Internet Explorer Web browser. (http://www.microsoft.com/mac/ie/default.asp) The browser you're using now works just fine, right? Let's not be too hasty -- avid auction bidders have a reason to give IE5 a look: the program's built-in "auction manager."
(Inexplicably, the auction manager isn't part of Internet Explorer for Windows. Likely it will be added to a future version.)
The auction manager is a tool for tracking the prices of interesting items on your favorite auction sites. Using it is simple: when looking at an auction page, choose Track Auction from the Tools menu. Track as many auctions as you like.
Now, choose Auction Manager from the Tools menu. Up pops a list of the auctions you're watching, along with the time remaining until each closes, and the high bidder -- if you're not the high bidder, "out-bid" appears in red. Double-click on an any item to open that auction's page in the browser.
The tool shines when it comes to notifying you about the status of auctions. The program can notify you when the high bid changes, when you've been outbid, and/or when the auction closes. How does it notify you, you ask? It can, at your choosing, display an alert, play a sound, even send you e-mail. By default, the program updates its information every 15 minutes -- you can change that, too. If someone even thinks about bidding in that auction, you'll know.
The auction manager works with eBay, Yahoo! Auctions, and Amazon Auctions, and is smart enough to figure out how to work with many other auction sites, too. I tried it at haggle.com, auctions.cnet.com, and other sites. On some sites, it can have trouble figuring out the auction's closing time, which you can enter manually if necessary.
If you track a lot of auctions, you might want to organize the listings in the auction manager window. You can drag the listings up and down the list, or move them into folders (to create a folder, go to Favorites, Organize Favorites, New Folder.)
You can also rename the auction listings: since the names are pulled from the TITLE tags of the online auctions, the auction manager often comes up with less-than-descriptive names for the listings, such as "eBay item 298529906 (Ends Apr-08-00 19:15:27)". If you track more than a handful of auctions, take the time to give the listings meaningful names in the auction manager. (Just click on the name to change it -- just like renaming a file in the Finder.)
All in all, IE5's auction manager is handy, effective, and easy to use. The single biggest enhancement would be if it showed the amount of the current bid, rather than only whether or not you are the high bidder. That way, it would be useful to sellers tracking their profits as well as bidders keeping tabs on coveted items.