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PART I: Driver's Ed for the Digital Traveler.
Chapter 1: What You've Gotten Yourself Into (And What You Need to Enjoy the Trip).
Chapter 2: I Didn't Know You Could Do That Online!
Chapter 3: Mucking through the Menus.
Chapter 4: Making Your Preferences Known.
Chapter 5: Dealing with Spams, Scams, Viruses, and Hoaxes.
PART II: The Basics of Online Life.
Chapter 6: Doing the Screen Name Tango (And the Parental Control Two-Step).
Chapter 7: Navigating the System and Marking Your Favorite Destinations.
Chapter 8: E-Mailing the World, One Mailbox at a Time.
Chapter 9: Chatting the Day (And Night) Away.
Chapter 10: Dropping a Quick "Hello" with Instant Messages.
Chapter 11: Cogitating, Consternating, and Conflagrating on the Message Boards.
Chapter 12: Where's Your Buddy? Where's Your Pal?
Chapter 13: Tracking Your World with My Calendar.
Chapter 14: Hanging with the Groups@AOL.
PART III: Diving into the Fun Stuff.
Chapter 15: Finding People, Places, Things, and Information.
Chapter 16: Tracking News, Weather, Markets, and More.
Chapter 17: Frolicking in the Games.
America Online For Dummies Channel Directory.
Chapter 18: Loading Up, Loading Down, and Zipping All Around.
Chapter 19: Cruising the Internet.
PART IV: Going Your Own Way.
Chapter 20: The Student's Guide to Online Life.
Chapter 21: Parenting Your Offspring (In Diapers, Online, or in between the Two).
Chapter 22: The Well-Connected Teacher.
Chapter 23: Big Help for Small Business.
PART V: Secret Tricks of the AOL Gurus.
Chapter 24: Making a Truly Cool Profile.
Chapter 25: Dressing Up Your Software with Fresh Buttons and a New Menu.
Chapter 26: So You Wanna Go Faster?
PART VI: The Part of Tens.
Chapter 27: Ten Fun Things to Do Online.
Chapter 28: Ten Common Things That Go Wrong (And How to Fix Them).
Book Registration Information.
In This Chapter
You don't need to travel much before you start collecting a mental list of places that you enjoyed, locales that you disliked, and restaurants that you never quite found, despite splendid directions from the hotel concierge. It's human nature -- we know what we like and, when in doubt, we usually choose the known instead of the unknown (particularly because we can go there without getting lost).
Human nature being what it is, by now you wandered the highways and byways of America Online, got lost among the windows a few times, and probably discovered several (perhaps many) likable haunts on both America Online itself and the Internet. Remembering your favorite spots and finding your way back to them, though, is a problem sometimes -- after all, computer monitors only have so much physical space for little sticky notes before you can't see the screen anymore.
That's where this chapter fits into your life. It looks at the main windows of your online world, explores the gentle art of navigating the system, and then explains how to rid your monitor of sticky notes thanks to the built-in Favorite Places option. If you're tired of stumbling across something cool and then losing the note that got you there (or if you're just tired of getting lost), then kick back, put your feet up, and flip through this chapter. It's here to help.
Everywhere you go in America Online, you're faced with windows. Welcoming windows, channel windows, information area windows -- sheesh, spring cleaning around here must be a total nightmare.
Although the windows are a little confusing at first, they make America Online the special place that it is. Unlike other online services, America Online was designed with the Macintosh and Microsoft Windows graphical way of life in mind. And it shows.
This section introduces and explains the basic America Online navigation windows. It's designed to make you comfortable with the service's look and feel. The details of the content areas themselves come later, in Part III. For everything you ever wanted to know about the channels, turn to AOL Channels For Dummies in the dark-bordered pages near the back of this book -- that's the special book-within-a-book that's all about channels. For now, though, sit back, grab a bottle of spray cleaner, and head for the windows of your digital world.
Every time you sign on to America Online, the Welcome window hops right up and offers a great big Hiya -- welcome to the system! This window is like an electronic version of the Wal-Mart door greeter, only better. This greeter doesn't just wish you well; it even knows the news and keeps tabs on your e-mail box. Not even Californians have it this good.
Figure 5-1 shows the Welcome window on an average day. It's a pretty straightforward affair with three different areas: navigation buttons, highlighted services, and anchor services.
you have mailor not. Clicking this button either opens your mailbox or sends you on a jaunt to the Mail Center (depending on whether you have unopened e-mail).
For a special treat, click the America Online logo in the upper-left corner of the Welcome window. Who knows what might happen? (Okay, so it really leads to the Daily Delights area, but keep it to yourself. We don't want everyone to know.)
In Windows, you can't make the Welcome window go away -- ever. The best you can do is minimize it, so instead of being an annoying window in the middle of the screen, it's only an annoying icon cowering in the corner. To do this in Windows 3.x, click the down arrow button on the right side of the window's title bar (the bar that says Welcome and your screen name). The window pops down to the lower-left corner of the screen, never to bother you again. In Windows 95, click the minimize button (the left-most of the three little buttons at the right end of the title bar) to accomplish the same thing.
If you're looking for the right place to start your online expedition, it just doesn't get any better than the Channels window, shown in Figure 5-2 with the AOL Today channel open and alive. From here, any of America Online's 19 channels is a quick jump away.
Occupying the left side of the window are the channel buttons, offering single-click connections to the 19 content channels in America Online. Each button displays the menu of services available in that channel area. In another new development, the Channels window in the America Online 4.0 software includes not only the channel buttons, but also a big space where the channel window itself shines through.
To make things ever more consistent and easier to understand, the 19 channels look significantly more alike than ever before. Each channel window includes buttons for its various departments, plus some links to featured areas within the channel. The featured area buttons change periodically, but unless something groundbreaking happens, the departments remain the same.
In the lower-right corner of the channels window is the keyword for this particular area. See the sidebar "Psst -- what's the keyword?" later in this chapter for more about these useful little thingies.
Because I have your attention, here are a few other things you should know about handling the channels before I let you go:
To pick up a lot of detailed information about what each channel contains, flip to AOL Channels For Dummies -- a special book-within-a-book in the gray-bordered pages near the back of this book.
The digital foot soldiers of America Online are the individual content areas. Hundreds, if not thousands, of them are out there, and each one has its own unique interface window. Some of the windows have lots of artwork and feature buttons (like Figure 5-3). Others are plain to the point of being utilitarian (see Figure 5-4 for a to-the-point example). Both do basically the same things, except the fancy ones do it with more panache.
Psst -- what's the keyword?
Almost every service in America Online has a keyword. It's like a magic carpet that whisks you wherever you wish to go. Using keywords saves you time, and that saves you money.
To use a keyword, press Ctrl+K in Windows or Command key+K on a Macintosh. Doing so brings up the Keyword dialog box. Type the keyword and then click OK. If everything is working as it should, you'll immediately jump to that keyword's window.
Jot down the keywords for your favorite services on the Cheat Sheet in the front of this book and then use that list as a memory jogger or to plan your online sessions.
A fancy service window always contains some feature and function buttons. These graphic buttons lead you to special parts of the service, help you search the service's archives, or otherwise do something truly fun for you. Read the button descriptions carefully -- don't rely too much on the picture to tell you what the button does.
Somewhere on the window (sorry I can't be more specific -- it migrates all over the place) is the service's keyword. If you're not familiar with keywords, you should be. Look in the sidebar entitled "Psst -- what's the keyword?" for more information.
Last on the tour is the list of service areas -- see Table 5-1. Most of the time, both kinds of content windows contain this list, but not always (fancy content areas sometimes replace the list with a series of buttons). The list is in whatever order the service feels like using (in other words, don't bank on things coming up in alphabetical order). To get into an area on the list, double-click its entry.
Don't expect every service to look just like every other service. Some are very plain; others are quite fancy. Just relax and go with the flow -- you're doing fine.
Table 5-1 Service Areas
|File Folder||Leads to an individual service window, which in turn contains still more icons.|
|Chat||Takes you into a conference chat room within a content area.|
|Document||Shows a document explaining something about the service.|
|Open Book||Displays a searchable database (mostly found in the various Reference sections).|
|Disks||Opens a library of downloadable software.|
|Globe||Usually points to an item on the World Wide Web.|
|Bulletin Board||Opens up a window of discussion boards.|
|Special||Might be just about anything -- it defies description.|
There's a new button in town -- and it's appearing on a Toolbar near you. Say hello to Favorites and its sidekick, the Favorite Places window -- both of them riding hard to organize the online areas you know and love.
The Favorite Places system won't bring any law into your digital life (hopefully Congress won't either), but it promises a lot of order. Instead of having just ten favorite places socked away in your My Shortcuts menu (see Chapter 22 for the details about that), you can store as many favorites as you want! Is that just too cool or what?
Figure 5-5 shows a hard-working Favorite Places window in action. The heart entries link to services within America Online or to Web pages and gophers on the Internet. For instance, the item highlighted in Figure 5-5 is the Card Collecting forum on America Online. The entry right below it, Intertext, is a Web page. Manila folders (such as Support Areas, Gaming, and Fun Spots) apply some order to the impending chaos.
Figure 5-5 also shows a new feature of the America Online 4.0 software: The Favorite Places menu item list that automatically appears underneath the Favorites button on the Toolbar. When you add an online area to your Favorite Places, it automatically appears in both the Favorite Places window and the menu list under the Favorites Toolbar button. (Life's getting better all the time, isn't it?) Items in both places work the same way, so I end up in the Collectable Cards forum whether I double-click its heart entry in the Favorite Places window or just select it from the Favorites drop-down menu.
Here are a couple other random musings about the Favorite Places system that wandered out of my brain at the last moment:
I almost forgot to mention this, but luckily two of my brain cells, spurred into action by the caloric heat of a half-digested Oreo, reminded me to mention that double-clicking is the key to using the Favorite Places window:
Flip back into single-clicking mode when using the drop-down menu under the Favorites Toolbar. Because it's a menu and not a list of items in a window, you single-click to select destinations there.
Including a new favorite place is a cinch. You can do so in two ways: the Easy Way and the Other Way. This section tells you how to handle them both.
The Easy Way is for areas inside America Online or Internet-based Web pages and gophers that you've browsed your way into. Here are the steps:
A little dialog box appears (see Figure 5-6), demanding to know what you intend to do with the link to this online area.
Not every window in America Online has one of those cute little heart document icons. It's unfortunate, but true. If the window you're looking at doesn't have one, you can't add it to the Favorite Places list.
Your new entry takes up residence at either the top or the bottom of both the Favorite Places window and the drop-down menu under Favorites, just like Figure 5-7 shows. (Which end of the list it lands on seems to depend entirely on how your America Online software feels at the moment. Strange, isn't it?)
If you click Insert in Instant Message, a new Instant Message window appears, complete with a ready-to-use link to this favorite place. Clicking Insert in Mail does much the same thing, except that a blank e-mail message pops up, with the link in the body and a friendly
Check this out notice in the Subject line.
Use the Other Way when someone dashes up and says, "I just found the neatest Web page -- you've gotta check it out!" The Other Way assumes that you have the address of a Web page and want to include it manually in your Favorite Places. Here's how it's done:
The Favorite Places window appears.
If you don't know where to put the item, click the Favorite Places folder at the top of the window. That's as good a place as any -- and you can always move the entry somewhere else later.
The Add New Folder/Favorite Place dialog box (designed by the Use No Articles Programming Team) appears.
Figure 5-8 displays a finished entry, ready to be saved for posterity.
Adding all kinds of favorite places to your system is great, but you need some organization to keep everything in order. That's why those clever America Online programmers included folders.
Folders can live in the Favorite Places area or inside other folders (see Figure 5-9). Either way, creating a folder is easy. Here's how (assuming that you already have the Favorite Places window open):
The Favorite Places window pops to attention.
The Favorite Places folder is highlighted (this is a good sign).
The Add New Folder/Favorite Place dialog box appears on your screen (yet another good sign).
The dialog box suddenly shrinks to half its previous size, shedding those unwanted pounds and inches in no time at all.
Your new folder appears at the bottom of the Favorite Places list.
If you're not sure how to move the folder, look in the next section.
Creating folders and favorite places is one thing, but organizing them is another. The little buggers tend to land wherever the America Online software feels like putting them. Moving them around is easy, though, once you get the hang of it.
The technique is the same for both folders and favorite places. After you open the Favorite Places window, here's what to do:
The technical term for this maneuver is click and drag, but there's no reason to mention it, so I won't.
The item settles down, safe and sound in its new home (see Figure 5-12).
There comes a point in every life when it's time to make some changes. When that time in the life of your Favorite Places window arrives, have no fear. Although change is never fun, at least it's easy in the Favorite Places window. Open the Favorite Places window and then follow these steps:
For a folder, the Rename dialog box appears. For a favorite place, the description and Internet address dialog box appears.
If you change your mind and don't want to make any changes, double-click in the upper-left corner of the box.
Favorite Places entries, like other impetuous flashes in the dark sky of fading youth, have a limited life span. When it's time to delete one, just do the deed and go on as best you can. Solemnly open the Favorite Places window and then morosely proceed through the following:
The entry is no more. Remember, ask not for whom the Delete button clicks -- it clicks for thy once-favorite place.
On Wednesday, July 15, barnesandnoble.com welcomed John Kaufeld, author of AMERICA ONLINE FOR DUMMIES, 4th EDITION.
John Kaufeld: Thank you, Dianna...and welcome, everyone! It's a big night here at AOL Central, lots to talk about...lots of questions to answer, I'm sure.
John Kaufeld: Let's do it!
John Kaufeld: Oh boy...I somehow knew that this would be the first question. Last month, I said that I anticipated that AOL 4.0 would come out in four to six weeks. Of course, that's what the AOL developers promised me -- and have been promising me since last June. So tonight I'm pleased to report that the new AOL 4.0 software should be available in four to six weeks. No, I still don't know...and, if it's any consolation, I'm frustrated too. When it arrives, though, it'll definitely be worth the wait. Faster Web access, better chat rooms, and some very cool email features are coming your way in 4.0! (Provided, of course, it ever arrives.)
John Kaufeld: Nope, there isn't. You could make a row with a really odd number, like something in the hundreds, but you can't do a private row. I guess you could try putting everyone in the row on "Ignore"...(but that's kinda hermitlike). [grins]
John Kaufeld: Hmm...well, I think they've been taking their medication regularly, but I haven't seen them at therapy much lately. The question of who governs the "teen" and "youth" accesses is a bit of a mystery. Truth be told, I'm still trying to find out who it is so that I can ask them how they decide. It's frustrating to me as a parent, because it's a control that I want for my kids, but I also want some control over it. I might have more info on that next month, because I'm going out to AOL-Land for a bunch of meetings. Stay tuned for developments.
John Kaufeld: It shouldn't affect AOL, but there's no guarantees. Since they ship the AOL 3.0 software right there on the Windows 98 system, it should work just fine. They're frantically testing 4.0 on it to make sure that everything works right. I've heard of a few glitches between 3.0 and Windows 98, but honestly I expected that. Anything Microsoft does in what we call a "dot-zero" version (like 98.0, in this case) always has problems. In the industry, we call that a "feature."
John Kaufeld: Sounds like the mixer settings for your sound card are a little off. I'd suggest a phone call or email to the sound card maker, or to the computer maker if the sound card shipped with your machine. They'll probably tell you to download a new driver for the card, which is just the software that helps your machine understand and use the sound card. Don't worry -- new drivers are usually free.
John Kaufeld: [sheepish grin] Well, truth be told, I was tired of asking my boss if I could attend trade shows and having her say no. So I struck out on my own, because I find myself much more agreeable when approving travel expenses. That and the fact that I wanted to help people understand their computers. [shrugs] I'm kinda odd that way (well, and in several other ways, too) but I enjoy helping people with computer problems. And my Dummies books give me a great way to do it!
John Kaufeld: Oh wow...there's a different trick key on the Macintosh, but I don't know what it is. You might ask in the Mac users forum -- particularly the forum staffers -- because they'll know off the top of their heads.
John Kaufeld: Wow...loaded question [grins]...I'm a Microsoft Explorer kind of guy. All of my machines use MSIE 4.0. I thought about downloading a copy of Netscape Navigator, but I just can't bring myself to do it.
John Kaufeld: Sounds like a "feature" to me...expect it to be fixed within the next week or two, probably through one of those little "Thank you for waiting while AOL takes all the time in the world to update your software" dialogue boxes when you sign off.
John Kaufeld: Hmm...well, since I'm in the process of updating one of my other books, GAMES ONLINE FOR DUMMIES, I'm kinda knee-deep in games right now. My current favorites are UltraCorps (on the Internet Gaming Zone), Capitalism Plus (from Interactive Magic), and a racing game that's temporarily slipped my mind. And a tank game from Ripcord. Sheesh...I can't even keep the game titles straight! [laughs]
John Kaufeld: The easiest way to do it (assuming you're reading the addresses somewhere and then planning to check them later) is to jot them down in a text file on your computer (use the File>>New command here in AOL). If you're online and wander across an interesting-looking site, you can use AOL's Favorite Places feature (the little heart-on-the-piece-of-paper icon in the upper-right corner of your web browser window) to store a link to the site. Then just browse your "favorite places" list at your leisure.
John Kaufeld: Not a dummy question at all! I couldn't find a whole slew of messages that I wrote offline when I started using AOL (so I retyped them all...14 of them). In AOL 3.0, look in the (I'm doing this one from memory, so forgive me if I'm not exactly right) Mail menu, under either Flashsessions or Mail waiting to be sent. Something like that...if you email me after the event, I'll get the exact command for you. Sorry I can't remember it offhand! In 4.0, it's under Mail Center>>Read Offline Mail. [grins]
John Kaufeld: They're testing that right now. Actually, the current test revision of AOL 4.0 does work with MSIE 4.01, which is the "fixed" version of Internet Explorer (remember that "dot-zero" thing? Note the "dot-oh-one" on the one that works.) By the time AOL 4.0 comes out, it will include MSIE 4.01 as part of the deal. Or, at the rate they're going, it'll include MSIE 5.0. [laughs]
John Kaufeld: You can, but there's a trick to it. Tell your AOL software that you want to connect using TCP/IP instead of dialing a phone number. Before you sign on, go into the area where you usually enter phone numbers and create a new location. Call it something like "Internet access." In there, when you get to the area where you normally enter the phone number, look at the Network Settings box. Change that from "AOLNet" to "TCP/IP." You can also try searching the CNET web site (www.cnet.com) for a tips article I did for them, because the article contains step-by-step instructions on how to set up AOL that way.
John Kaufeld: I'm afraid so. They can't seem to decide what to do about Personal Publisher these days. Last word I had was that the new Personal Publisher would bear an amazing resemblance to a certain web programming tool from a large company somewhere in Washington State, but I haven't heard anything more since then. Keep an eye on the Personal Publisher area for updates in the meantime.
John Kaufeld: Oh no -- I hate it when that happens. It might be due to the current traumas in Personal Publisher's life, so don't panic just yet. If you absolutely positively must create your web page soon, try using the AOL Press program at Keyword AOL PRESS. It's a full-featured web development tool that's actually pretty easy to use. It works very well with AOL (even though the window it's in talks about AOL's PrimeHost feature, AOL Press still works with regular AOL). You can also use Keyword MY PLACE to manually upload web pages if you're particularly desperate.
John Kaufeld: There's no scanner built directly into the AOL software. You need to pick up a good antivirus program to do the scanning for you. Check Keyword VIRUS for some suggestions and for a file library filled with antivirus software. And remember Never, never, never download files emailed to you by people you don't know. It's a golden invitation for a hacker program or virus to invade your computer!
Next month, I'll have some very cool news about my mailing list (which is finally going to be up and running!).Stay tuned...the event is at 8 30 next month, so mark your calendars. Same Wednesday, different time. And on that note, we close for tonight...thank you all for coming! And special thanks to Dianna from Barnes & Noble (my esteemed sponsor!).
John Kaufeld: [waving to the crowd] G'night!