Attempting to win online auctions can be frustrating. Nevertheless, winning a long sought-after item for a bargain price is very satisfying and Onbidder aims to ensure that's your experience every time. It's a downloadable program that'll bid for eBay items on your behalf, just before the auction ends.

The theory goes that if you bid early on an item, the more likely there'll be a bidding war. While if you bid at the last possible moment - thus not giving rival bidders a chance to try again - you're more likely to scoop the item at a knockdown price.

You can access eBay directly from the Onbidder interface, clicking 'Use Onbidder to bid on this item' when you see a desirable item. At this point you'll be prompted to enter a maximum bid which goes into a 'My bids' folder, ready for the program to bid when the time's right.

Onbidder can also be instructed to win only one item in a group, so that if you're watching five similar auctions, it'll keep bidding till you win one, then stop.

What's the catch?

So far, so good, but we're not convinced that Onbidder is worth shelling out £20 for. For it to work your PC must be connected to the Internet when the auction ends, so what happens if you lose your connection, or want to win an auction that ends when you're away from home? Other services of this type (such as Auction Sniper) place bids for you from their own Web sites, rather than requiring your computer to be online at the crucial moment.

Onbidder places bids 60 seconds before the end of an auction, but this is a considerable amount of time to get in a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. It'd be just as easy to sit there and do it yourself. In addition, while the program does keep all of your information in one location, it's barely any different from what the My eBay page already offers.

To recoup the cost of this tool, you'd have to win a lot of items that you couldn't bid on in person. It'd be simpler to do the work yourself or opt for a program that can bid whether your computer is online or not. HF