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Making Internet searches easy
technofile by al fasoldt
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Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology
Making Internet searches easy
Bit Player for Nov. 22, 1998
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 1998, The Syracuse Newspapers
Having trouble finding sites on the Web? Here are my favorite tips. You'll find these will help no matter what kind of computer you own or what Web browser you use.
- Get to know how search engines work. Get comfortable with one of them and stick with it. My favorite is http://www.altavista.com. It's very fast and makes good use of the "semi-colon" trick. (Put a semi-colon between words when you want to search for those specific words as a phrase, such as "apple;tree" or "emergency;boot;disk.")
- If you do a lot of searching, make a search-engine site your home page. Again, AltaVista is ideal for this, because you can make AltaVista's text-only page your home page so that it comes up quickly. Go to http://www.altavista.com/cgi-bin/query?text and make it the page your browser starts up with. (Look in the browser menus for "home page" or "start page" and you'll probably find a way to tell the browser to make the page that's currently open the home page. )
- When you come across a Web site you like or one you might want to look at later, save the URL (the Web address) as a Favorite or bookmark. (Favorites are used by Internet Explorer, and bookmarks are used by Netscape Navigator and other browsers.) If you browser allows this, be sure to give the Favorite or bookmark a name that makes sense. (The name used by default might not make sense days later when you look through your list.)
- If you come across a link in something you're reading on your computer screen and want to go to that site, don't type it in. Select it (highlight it with your mouse) and paste it to the clipboard. Then click once in the browser's address line and paste the address in. (This works with Windows PCs and Macs.)
- If your e-mail software doesn't support live hyperlinks, upgrade to one that does. That way you can simply click on a link in an e-mail letter and your browser will open the page. (A live hyperlink will show up as an underlined address or name.)
- If you're busy doing your e-mail and you come across a reference to a Web site you'd like to visit, paste the link into a letter and mail it to yourself. You'll have it safely stored in your inbox for viewing later.
- Use a separate browser window for your searches. There are many ways to do this. (You can just run your browser twice or you can use the File menu and choose "Open in a new window" or whatever your browser's menu says that does the same thing.) That way you can continue to do your regular Web browsing while searches are going on.
- Avoid prime time. The Internet is busy on weeknights after dinner.
- If your browser is starting to open a page that you know you don't want to see, hit the Stop button (or the Esc key) so you don't have to waste time.
- When your search engine shows you a list that looks promising but you don't have time to check out the links, save the page (using the File menu) so you can open it later. The links will still work.
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