A new British company has developed a software product that it says enables the untrained user sitting at an MS-DOS micro with communications to access millions of textual references. Guildford, Surrey based Tome Associates Ltd has launched Tome Searcher, an MS-DOS software system that the company claims is the first designed to accept textual database queries in freely expressed English – but the downside is that it has to be tailored for each database the user desires to search. The system was developed from a research project initiated in 1983 at the University of London and development was funded by the British Library. The first Tome Searcher is expert in finding information in the subject area of electrical engineering, electronics and computers. The company hopes to produce further programs that will specialise in other areas, such as physics, finance and pharmaceuticals. To gain access to the database the user types in a request for information in standard English, which is then processed by the Tome Searcher. The system generates a search strategy off-line, thereby saving money on database connection time and line charges, before connecting with the host system and converting to the host command language. It is dedicated to ESA-IRS, where it can interrogate up to 16 databases on line. The major database is Inspec, which has been in existence for 20 years, and is produced by the Institution of Electrical Engineers. It contains more than three million references, and adds 250,000 new references each year. The program requires 5Mb of hard disk space on your Personal Computer, and is out now at UKP495.