The best interface for exploring the Internet so far is the World Wide Web (WWW). The WWW allows graphics to be inserted in the document right along with the text. Sounds, movies, and animations can also be sent to you from a remote site. The reason it's called the World Wide WEB is that any piece of the text within a document can be made into a link (usually blue or red underlined text). These links can refer to another place in the same document, another document on the same computer, or any document on any computer in the world. In this way the thousands of documents make up a web of interconnected information. To jump to a link all you do is click once on the text and ZAP - you're transported there. Once you've taken a link and returned, the text turns red to remind you where you've been. You can still click on a red link, the color is only a reminder. Pictures that have a blue (or red) border can also be links. The WWW will even allows different parts of a picture to take you to different links. One more cool thing the WWW can do is to provide you with a fill-out form so that you can send information or requests back to a computer that is supplying (or collecting) information.
There are several different, though similar programs you can use to browse and retrieve information from the WWW.
Below I've used the buttons from Netscape. You will find similar buttons or menu item in all the other browsers.
This button will take you back to the starting point. (You can set the starting point in the preferences section of your browser.)
As you travel through the WWW you leave an electronic "bread-crumb trail" behind you. This button lets you retrace your steps back along the path you've taken.
FORWARD buttonThe opposite of the BACK button, this one lets you re-retrace your path forward again.
When this icon is animating, the browser is working at getting your document.
STOP buttonIf you want to abort a document retrieval, just click on this icon.
This box tells you the URL (Universal Resource Locator) of the document on the screen. This information includes the method of retrieval (the code before the //), the machine name, and the location and document name. You can also type a URL into this box, followed by a <return> to retrieve that document. For instance, in the box above, we are getting a web document (http = hyper-text-transfer-protocol) from the machine named "www" in the domain "exploratorium.edu". The document is in the "general" folder and is called "fact_sheet.html".
If you are in the middle of retrieving a document, it will show you how many bytes (characters) have been transmitted so far, how quickly they are coming in, and how much longer you will have to wait for the rest of the document.
History (GO menu)Most browsers keep track of where you've been. This is typically called your HISTORY. In Netscape you can find this under the GO menu. Other browsers handle this similarly, some with convenient pop-up menus.
BookmarksTo help users remember interesting places they have been, the developers of WWW browsers built in Bookmarks (also called Hotlists). The Bookmarks list is where you can keep track of places you might want to return to in the future. To view your Bookmarks, move the cursor to the Bookmarks menu at the top of the screen and click and hold the mouse button. You can now drag the mouse to an item of interest and let go to link to that item. If you find something cool on the Internet that isn't on the Hotlist, you can add it by selecting Add Bookmark from the Bookmarks menu. You can organize your bookmarks hierarchically for better organization (and a shorter list!)
Browsers are getting more and more powerful. They can show you pictures, animations, video, formatted text, and sounds. Unfortunately (well, actually fortunately...) the Internet is a dynamic place and folks are always inventing new forms of data that can be sent over the WWW to your browser. To handle all these extra media types, browsers can call upon "plug-ins" or "helper" applications if they receive something they themselves can't display. Plug-ins usually let the browser display the information within the browser window. Helpers are completely seperate programs that open their own windows to display the data. Plug-ins are put into the "plug-ins" folder which usually resides in the same folder where you will find the browser application. Below are some of the plug-ins that we've found useful. These are only a select few. There are always new plug-ins being invented. Most web authors will let you know if you need a certain plug-in before you download a piece of information. Netscape comes with a set of plugins pre-installed, but you still have to make sure that you have the latest version.
QuickTime is Apple's method of dealing with all kinds of time-based media. This plug-in allows you to playback movies, sound, MIDI files, and Quicktime VR movies all within the browser window.
This one allows you to listen to RealAudio sound from the Internet. RealAudio is different because you listen to the data AS YOU RECEIVE IT. You don't have to download the entire file before you can hear it, and you can "fast forward" or "rewind" to any point in a very long document.
Actually 3 different pluging that come in one package, these let you view Director movies, Freehand documents, and Authorware presentations.
PDFViewer lets you view Adobe PDF documents in the browser window without having to open the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Most manufacturers put their documentation in this format.
There are many others. You can find them at <http://home.netscape.com/comprod/mirror/navcomponents_download.html>.
Helpers are external applications that help your browser deal with many different tasks. Everything from viewing various media, to uncompressing files can be dome with external helpers. Once you've "told" your browser about the helper and the types of media it can handle, the browser will automatically call on the helpers as needed. Most of the functionality of the helpers below are now available as plug-ins. A few of the more useful ones are listed below:
Stuffit Expander is probably the most important helper in your arsenal. It will decode and unstuff files in a variety of formats. The only problem here is: How do I download this program without a decoder/unstuffer to interpret it? Simply put? You can't. You will have to get this program from someone else - either on a floppy or from a local file-server. This is the only catch-22 in this whole mess. Hopefully, your system manager or internet service provider can supply you with the program. If you have an old version, you can update to the latest from the MIT HyperArchive.
JPEGview can help view pictures and graphics in a variety of formats.
Sparkle lets you view MPEG format movies.
MoviePlayer is a QuickTime movie viewer.
Sound Machine lets you listen to a variety of sound formats.