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My Web-browsing tricks

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

My Web-browsing tricks

Bit Player for June 8, 1997

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1997, The Syracuse Newspapers

We all have a few tricks we use when we're browsing the Web. I'd like to share some of mine. They're based on Windows 95, but you may find some of them helpful if you use the old Windows or a Mac.

My favorite trick? That's easy. I'm always clicking the right mouse button instead of the left one. I get a choice that way. This lets me choose "Save as" (sometimes called "Save target as" or "File save as") when I download something from a Web page. I never click on a download link with the left button.

I usually don't think of the next habit as a trick, but a lot of users seem surprised when I explain it to them. So here goes: Whenever I download something, I always choose where the file goes. I never let the browser (or Windows itself) put the file in some mysterious location.

I used to have a folder called "Download" in the main part (the root) of my C: drive, but I've cleaned up the folders in the root—I had too many there—so now I store folders like that in a main folder called "Other." The path is easy to get to—first the Other folder, then the Download folder. (You'll also note that the folder names are short, eight characters or fewer, so that they don't have different short names and long names. This prevents confusion.)

I like the next trick a lot. I use it on my Dell PC and on my wife's speedy Aptiva. I run my browser and pull the window off to the side. Then I open a file window onto our family photos—they're JPEG pictures, stored on one of my hard drives—and drag one of them over and drop it onto the browser window. As you may already know, browsers have no trouble showing JPEGs. So the picture is now displayed instead of whatever Web page was showing before.

Here's the best part: I open the configuration menu ("View," "Options," then "Navigation" in Internet Explorer) and click on "Use Current." That turns the family photo into my home page. (Is that neat or what?)

Of course, that's a nice way to can get a customized home page without any work. But the real advantage of a locally stored home page (if you can call a photo a home page!) will be clear the first time you run your browser when you're not connected to the Internet. Instead of immediately dialing your Internet connection, your browser will just sit there politely. It will be ready to view other locally stored pages (you do store pages you want to look at again locally, right? Or is that another trick I should pass along?), and it will be ready for the next trick.

It's what I call Al's Really Stupid Trick. You need to have Microsoft Word 95 or Word 97 installed to do this. I open the browser window and drop a Microsoft Word document onto it. Shazaam! The browser turns into Microsoft Word, kinda-sorta. You get the regular browser menus and tools along with Word menus and tools. You can work on the document just as if you were running Word by itself.

(The technical mumbo-jumbo that explains why this works isn't worth going into. It's all part of the way Windows links programs to each other.)

I think the next part of this trick works only with Word 97. When I'm working on a Word document (without the Really Stupid Trick of doing it inside the browser), Web hotlinks are automatically underlined when I write them (or when I read a document someone else wrote that has hyperlinks in it). Guess what you can do with underlined links? You're right. You click on them. And when you do that, Word turns into a Web browser.

It's not as good a browser as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, but it works. And it takes on a lot of the appearance and functions of Internet Explorer. After you've traveled to a Web site in Word, click the "Back" button and you go back to the document you were working on.

I have a lot more tricks, and I'll share more of them with you another time. If you have your own tricks, send them to me by e-mail.

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