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Got Any Other Tips for Using The Internet?

A few...
Tips On Using the World Wide Web:
Web pages keep getting smarter and more powerful.  And so does Web browsing software. Use the power! If possible, you should upgrade your browser with the latest software version every few months -- not only will this let you enjoy everything the Web has to offer, it will also help protect you from newly-discovered security "loopholes" that can put your computer at risk.  

Here's a shortcut that can often save keystrokes when using the Address Bar to enter a URL:  If trying to get to, just type in the middle part -- the "something" -- and press Ctrl-Enter.  (That is, hold down the Ctrl key while pressing Enter.)  Note that this only works in IE, and alas it doesn't help if you are trying to get to or 

Tips On Using E-Mail:
You do need to "set up" your e-mail program (I am assuming you are using Outlook Express, which is included with Internet Explorer). A wizard should start when you first try to use mail, to walk you through the set-up process. If your ISP has provided the necessary magic words, this will be very easy to do. If not, ask!

If you want to set up additional e-mail accounts, there are several places that will give you an e-mailbox without charge, in exchange for some advertising. This could be useful, for example, if you have allowed your ISP to assign you your "real name" for your "user name" and you would like to be able to send and receive messages a bit more privately and anonymously (for good, legal and legitimate reasons, no doubt!) (For specific info on such free e-mail services, ask that nice man!)

If you have friends, relatives or colleagues with e-mail, send them test messages, or invite them to send you a message. Double-click on their incoming message to display it in a separate window, then right-click on their name and add them to your address book. (This greatly reduces the chance of transcription error in e-mail addresses, which is often a source of frustration for new users.)

Do not use e-mail to leave an urgent message that would better be sent via phone. Do not use e-mail for long detailed conversations requiring lots of back-and-forth. But do use e-mail to stay in touch, to get to know people, to express yourself. Do use e-mail to exchange files, blocks of data that you cut and paste from documents on your computer, or perhaps the URL of an interesting web site you found.

Setting up OE to handle several different e-mail accounts is easy, and it's a feature that, if you need it, is essential. Message Rules let you direct your incoming mail into different folders, and you can control how each outgoing message will be signed and delivered. Your business and private e-mail need never tangle.

If you get your e-mail from more than one computer, you can set up the accounts so as to leave messages on the server long enough to be picked up wherever they are needed, but don't let your mail accumulate on the server indefinitely. An overstuffed mailbox may cause you to miss new mail, or create a headache for you and for the system administrator at your ISP.

Now, what should you do if you are getting too much unwanted e-mail? Click here.

Tips On Using Newsgroups:
Set up your Newsgroups! But remember, the first time you connect it could take up to half an hour to get the names of them all.

Newsgroups are places for the posting and reading of public messages on any topic of interest. Any topic at all. There are now more than 30,000 topics of interest to somebody.

Use the special newsgroup name search facility to find topics of interest to you. The search tool searches for the entered text anywhere in the newsgroup name, and it updates the list as you type.  Try it out! 

Be aware that postings are public. Your name and e-mail address will appear, by default, in the posting.

Be aware also that some unscrupulous individuals, using fairly simple software, can monitor newsgroups and extract all e-mail addresses they find, and add them to mailing lists. In other words, once you post a message to a group, you will probably begin to receive unsolicited bulk commercial E-mail ("spam").

A common mistake among newcomers is to post the same message repeatedly because you don't see it on the board, either because it has not been processed yet or because it has already been displayed once and your computer considers it old and doesn't show it to you again. It's a fairly harmless error, but it is embarrassing and brands you as a newbie. Try to avoid it.

Tips On Using Chat:
Internet Relay Chat (IRC) can be fun. However, since nobody has found a way to make a buck off it, you will find it increasingly difficult to find software and servers to allow you to use it.  Microsoft Chat is apparently no longer supported by Microsoft, so you will need to download a third party client like mIRC.

Even worse, servers connected to the big IRC networks like EFNet and Undernet are shutting down public access left and right.  If your ISP has an EFNet or Undernet IRC server, you are in luck.

Of course, there are plenty of alternatives: instant messaging tools and Web-based chat servers, and so on.  But for some kinds of person-to-person interaction there is nothing quite like the original IRC.

Tips On Using Windows:
Yes, if you have Windows 98 these tips work for you too.

Everything that you read about Windows 95 applies to you, too.

Except when it doesn't.

I have mostly assumed you know Windows, but just in case...

Be sure to use Shut Down before turning the power off.

Learn to use Windows Explorer (as well as Internet Explorer).

Use Ctrl-ZXCV to Undo Cut Copy and Paste. I don't think you need to learn all the many standard function keys, but these are sometimes essential and worth teaching your fingers. Undo only undoes what it can. The other three, the edit keys, apply to almost any "object" you can select, anywhere.

Learning other keyboard shortcuts, a few at a time, can actually save you a lot of time.  For example, the Tab key moves you from one control to the next (e.g. the various buttons and selectors in a dialog box, or the links on a Web page), and the spacebar "activates" the current control (i.e. it "pushes" the button or follows the link). 

Keep Windows in tune: Monitor for full disk drives. Run Scandisk every week or so. Do make sure you have your original Windows CD-ROM available at all times.



Need more help?  Consider The San Francisco Personal Computer Users Group, a great resource for the computer neophyte. You can get a limited Internet account with membership, plus meetings and more, for just $40 per year. For more info or to join up now, Click here. If you live outside the San Francisco area, click here to learn if there's a PC user group near you!

Some Slightly More Advanced Tips

  • There are many, many options for automatically checking e-mail, automatically connecting to the Internet, automatically re-dialing, etc.  It is not always obvious which ones apply.  (Places to look include OE Tools Options, Tools Account Properties, Control Panel Internet Options, etc.)  The best advice I can give is, once things are basically working OK, work slowly over a period of days, adjusting these various settings until your connection works exactly the way you want.  
  • Windows does not offer a way to permanently specify what size window to open up when you open a new window (e.g. when you start Internet Explorer or open a link in a new window).  If it seems to be stuck opening tiny new windows, try this:  close all but one window, make it the size you want (or maximize it to fill the screen if you prefer that), then give the command File Shift-Close.  
  • In general, Windows remembers the order in which you use various resources.  If you want to control the look of tiled windows, for example, activate them in reverse-importance order first, then right-click on the toolbar to tile the Windows.  The most-recently-activated window will be large and in the upper left corner.  You can apply this principle in lots of places.  For example, when you click on a Web page link in an e-mail message in OE, the linked page should appear in the most-recently-activated IE window (if several are open). 
  • As you browse, it can be hard to tell the "click-thru"s (ads for other sites that you can get to by clicking on the ad) and the content of the site you are browsing. Of course, since each separate site has 2 or 3 introductory pages, and more advertising links, you can find yourself clicking and clicking and never getting any closer to any real content.
    • How to tell ads from local links? If you have the "status bar" turned on, and hold your mouse over a link (underlined text, bordered picture, or anything that turns the cursor into a pointed hand) the status bar near the bottom of your screen will show you where the link will take you. If it includes a domain name (e.g., if contains a ".com" anywhere in it) it is a link to another site. If it begins with "cgi" or is otherwise long and complicated, it is probably attached to a "click-thru meter" and someone somewhere gets paid if you click on it. If it is just a filename (e.g. page2.htm) then it is indeed a part of the same site you are currently browsing.
    • Note that in full-screen mode the status bar is not visible. (Try clicking the F11 key on your keyboard to return to normal mode.)  The status bar can also be controlled by code hidden in the Web page itself.  If you really want to know where a link leads without going there, click right and choose properties, and examine what is listed for "address".
  • When you find a worthwhile page, ENJOY IT! Don't immediately click away to the next link. Then maybe drop a quick e-mail message to thank the webhost.
  • Wherever you go, keep a lookout for a "Frequently Asked Questions" page ("FAQ"), which should help you find the answers which the Web site developers expect you to have. The Nice Man's site is, in a sense, one large FAQ page.