NetScape Communicator 4 for Dummies

NetScape Communicator 4 for Dummies



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NetScape Communicator 4 for Dummies by Paul Hoffman

Netscape Navigator, the leading Web browsing program, has come a long way in a short time. Netscape Communicator 4, a new suite of Internet software that includes the latest release of Netscape Navigator, brings together cutting-edge technologies for everything from exchanging e-mail to making conference calls over the Net. Now, thanks to Netscape Communicator 4 For Dummies, you can quickly get up to speed with all the new features. Author and computing expert Paul Hoffman shows you how to

  • Exchange e-mail messages with Netscape Messenger
  • Perform groupware functions and participate in Usenet newsgroups with Netscape Collabra
  • Create and publish your own Web pages with Netscape Composer
  • Receive "push" content from Internet broadcasters
  • Make conference calls -- even video conference calls -- with Netscape Conference
  • Conveniently access and manage your schedule with Netscape Calendar

Plus, Hoffman explains how to find software and all kinds of useful information on the Internet quickly, as well as how to shop securely online and access multimedia content.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780764500534
Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/08/1997
Series: For Dummies Series
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 7.41(w) x 9.22(h) x 0.96(d)

First Chapter

Chapter 6
Getting Farther with Netscape

In This Chapter

  • Filling in Web forms
  • Reading news and sending mail
  • Storing bookmarks for your favorite Web sites
  • Changing how Netscape looks and acts

Chapter 5 describes everything you need to traverse the Web. You can do more with Netscape, however, than just wander around the Web. This chapter discusses how to handle Web sites that have fill-in forms that look pretty much like dialog boxes. You also find information on how to use Netscape to read and post to Usenet newsgroups, and how to use Netscape to read and send electronic mail.

This chapter also describes the other features of Netscape that are most likely to increase your long-term enjoyment of using the Web. Bookmarks, for example, are a way to remember the best spots on the Web you visit. You can treat them like your own page of the best links on the Web. The end of this chapter describes the choices accessed through the Options menu. You use this menu to change important settings in Netscape and control how the Netscape window looks.

Filling In Forms

One of the great features of the Web -- one that differentiates it from other popular Internet services such as Gopher and FTP -- is forms. A form is pretty much like a standard dialog box. Web forms are basically Web pages that contain dialog boxes.

Web forms can have most of the features you've gotten used to in Windows and Mac dialog boxes. Figure 6-1 shows a typical form. If you know how to use dialog boxes, you don't need to learn much to use Web forms.

Every Web form has at least one button, usually labeled Submit or OK, that sends the data you fill in to the host computer for processing. Many forms also often have a button labeled Cancel that causes all the information you've entered in the form to be removed.

After you submit a form, it goes to a program, usually located at the same site from which you got the form, which takes the information you fill in and processes it. The program can do just about anything with the information. If the form is an order form, for example, the program can record all your information and start processing your order. If it is a survey form, the program may just write your responses into a file to be tabulated later.

After you submit a form on the Web, the information you have entered is usually sent over the Internet as plain text; encryption of forms (making their contents secret) is still quite new to the Web. Any information you put in the form, therefore, could possibly be read by someone who is watching information move around the Web. Although this isn't supposed to happen, it does. Think twice before saying something in a form that you may not want someone other than the recipient to read.

And while I'm at it, you should probably think hard about what you enter in a form with a company you don't know. As of this writing, no cases have been reported of companies using information from forms in a malicious fashion, but it's only a matter of time. When you submit a form, you don't know where it's going. (For example, a form on one Web site can point to a program on a different Web site.) Many people are, however, trying to implement better security for the Web.

Netscape and Internet Mail

Netscape's mail client, properly called Messenger Mailbox, is a reasonably good way to read and send e-mail. The mail client in versions 1 and 2 of Netscape was downright awful (and I said so in the earlier editions of this book), but has greatly improved. I still think plenty of other good mail programs exist, but if you only use mail for simple things, you'll find that Netscape's mail is just fine.

To see your mail, you give the Communicator-->Messenger Mailbox command, or click the second icon (the one that looks like a piece of mail going into a slot) on the component bar.

Figure 6-2 shows the Netscape mail window. It looks a great deal like the Navigator window, and most of the icons in the navigation toolbar are the same as they are in Navigator. The location toolbar is a bit different than Navigator, however; instead of a box that tells you the current URL, you get a pull-down menu that lists the different mail folders.

Before you can start using Messenger, you have to tell Netscape about where you get your mail, what your e-mail address is, and so on. Doing so is described later in this chapter in the section called "What More Could You Prefer?"

Having mail folders is actually quite a nice feature, one that has been adopted by most modern mail client software. New mail appears in the Inbox folder. After you read a message, you can put it into any of the folders in the Mail folders panel simply by dragging it from the message list window. You can create new folders with the New Folder command in the File menu, and you can open and close the folders just by selecting them.

You cannot start reading your mail with Netscape until you tell Netscape some vital information in the Preferences command from the Edit menu. See the section later in this chapter on mail preferences for more information on the various options you must set in order to receive mail.

Creating new mail

If you select a mailto: link in an HTML document or you send mail from the Usenet or mail interfaces, Netscape opens a dialog box with the recipient's address already written into it. Figure 6-3 shows the dialog box for sending mail. The fields are probably somewhat similar to whatever program you are currently using for sending and receiving e-mail.

You can fill in the Subject field and the text of the message however you choose. If you are replying to a message, Netscape fills in some of the fields for you. Feel free to edit this text. In fact, you can even edit the "To:" field to change the intended recipient of the message.

Actually, the area around the "To:" field is fairly confusing. You can do several things here, but they aren't all that apparent. The three tiny icons that are stacked starting to the left of the "To:" field bring up three subwindows. The top icon, which looks like a tiny business card holder, brings up the window for entering addressing information. The second icon, the paper clip, brings up the window for allowing you to attach files to your message. The bottom icon, with the tiny check marks, brings up a window with assorted sending options.

In the addressing options, you have already seen how to fill in the "To:" field. You can address mail in other ways, such as with the "Cc:" header. To add a "Cc:" header, go to the second line, click on the "To:", and you'll see a list of the other addressing headers you can choose. After you pick a header, you can fill in the rest of the line the same way you did the "To:" line.

When you are ready to send the mail, you simply click the Send button. If you decide to abandon the message without sending it, simply close the mail window.

Attaching files

Netscape can send a mail message with files attached to it. These attachments, sometimes called MIME attachments, can be any sort of file. Only those with MIME-enabled mail readers, however, can read these attachments.

To attach a file, click the Attach icon and choose "File." Netscape also lets you attach a whole Web page, in case you want to show someone a great page you found, or your address book card (also called your vCard). You can attach many items to a single mail message.

The assorted options are interesting, but you probably don't have to change them often. These options relate to a few different e-mail protocols; if you're just sending simple mail, you can ignore them.

  • The "Encrypted" and "Signed" options give you ways of making your e-mail more secure, but only if you're sending mail to another person who is using a protocol called S/MIME. You must have an S/MIME certificate before you can use these features, and the procedure for getting one and for using S/MIME are beyond the scope of this book.

  • If you are attaching a file to your message, and the recipient of the message has already told you that he or she can't read MIME messages, but can read uuencoded attachments, you should select the "Uuencode instead of MIME for attachments" option. Note, however, that this step doesn't guarantee that the attachment will be able to be read; it only increases the chance.

  • You can also attach a request for a "return receipt," which is an indication that the person who received the message actually saw it. Few e-mail clients handle return receipts very well, however, so this system is not very reliable.

  • The priority of a message is an indicator to the recipient of how important you think the message is. Generally, I always set everything to "normal" unless the message is really urgent, and I know the person whom I'm sending the message to will look at the priority.

  • If you send a message that has both plain text and HTML-formatted text (which is described in Chapter 16), you can indicate this in the Format option. Otherwise, you should just let Netscape make its best guess about the format of your message.

Usenet News

Netscape revolutionized Web browsers by having a really useful Usenet client built into it. In fact, Netscape's interface to Usenet is better than those on many of the dedicated Usenet news readers available for the PC and Macintosh.

Before you can start using Usenet news in Netscape, you must tell Netscape where you get your news. You can do so with the Preferences command from the Edit menu (as described in the section "What More Could You Prefer?" later in this chapter). This might already be set up for you, such as if you got your copy of Netscape from your ISP or company.

You start Usenet news by giving the Communicator-->Collabra Discussion Groups command, or by choosing a link that has a news: URL. You can also click the third icon, the one that looks like two cartoon word balloons talking, on the component bar. This opens up a window for the Netscape Message Center, as shown in Figure 6-4. After the list of your mail, you see the name of your Usenet news server, and under that and slightly to the right is the list of Usenet newsgroups you've subscribed to.

You may be wondering, "What the heck does 'Collabra Discussion Groups' have to do with Usenet news?" Good question, and the answer is kind of silly. Netscape bought a company called Collabra a few years ago. Collabra had a fairly nice product for business messaging, and this product was also used for reading Usenet newsgroups. Well, Netscape thought that "Collabra Discussion Groups" sounded much more business-like than "Usenet News Groups" and therefore used this hoity-toity name instead of the one you would have expected.

Reading the news

The Message Center isn't really where you want to be reading the news. Instead, you want to get to the new window. The easiest way to do so is to double-click on any of the Usenet news names below the name of your news server. Doing so brings up the window shown in Figure 6-5. Note that this window looks a lot like the main Netscape window, except that the content area is split into two panes: the discussion list and the message window.

The discussion list shows the current messages in the newsgroup. Messages in bold have not been read by you, while messages you have already seen are in plain text. When you select a message in the discussion list, the message is displayed in the message window.

The bar across the top of the discussion list lets you sort the order of the messages. The most useful choices are to sort by subject, the name of the sender, or the date.

The small icon with the lines on it next to "Subject" in the discussion list lets you show or hide threads. A thread is set of messages on the same topic. John sends a message, Jim and Jane each respond to John, Joe responds to Jane, and John responds to Joe. The whole group of messages, which will have very similar-looking subjects, is a single thread.

Subscribing to newsgroups

Of course, you don't have to read only the discussion groups that Netscape starts you with. You can choose from the thousands that are probably available from your news server. To see all the newsgroups, give the File-->Subscribe to Discussion Groups command. Doing so brings up the dialog box shown in Figure 6-6.

Well, maybe. Netscape has to get the entire list of newsgroups from the news server. At many sites, the list of all newsgroups is more than 300K, which means that it can take a long time to download, even with a fast modem. When the list finally gets there, Netscape has to then sort the list to show it to you in a reasonable fashion.

You subscribe to a newsgroup simply by selecting the group name and clicking the Subscribe button. However, finding the group that you want may take a bit of clicking around because Netscape shows you the hierarchy of groups, not all the groups at once. Thus, if you want to subscribe to the newsgroup, you must first select the rec. hierarchy listing, and then click the Expand All button to show the entire hierarchy. You can then find in the list.

If this method is too tedious, you can instead choose the "Search for a Group" tab in this dialog box and enter some of the text in the group name. For instance, entering "antique" brings up a list of all the newsgroups that have that word in the name, including

After you subscribe to a newsgroup, it appears in the list in the location toolbar. If you later want to unsubscribe from the newsgroup, you can do so easily from the Message Center window.

The description in this chapter of how to use Usenet covers only the mechanics of Usenet, not the etiquette. Before you start merrily posting messages to newsgroups, you should read a bit about the basic manners, social customs, and so on of Usenet groups. The Internet For Dummies® and MORE Internet For Dummies® contain some good chapters on these topics.

Acting on messages

As you are reading a newsgroup, you will want to use the commands in the Message menu. You can use the buttons in the navigation toolbar.

The commands in the Message menu are as follows:

  • Reply lets you reply to the message you are reading by posting to the newsgroup.

  • Forward sends a copy of the selected message to someone through e-mail.

  • Forward Quoted creates the message, starting each line with a ">" character.

  • Mark As Read indicates you've read the message.

  • Flag Message turns on the message flag.

  • Add to Address Book adds the author of the message to your Netscape address book.

After you add users to the address book, you can use the address book window for creating new messages. Simply select the user's entry and click the NewMsg icon. Netscape opens a new message with that user's name already filled in for the To: field.

The Best Commands at Your Fingertips

Now that you've seen a slew of useful commands in Netscape, how do you remember where to find them all? Well, for many of them, you don't need to remember. If you press and hold the right mouse button, Netscape displays a pop-up menu of the most common commands you need (depending on the location of the cursor as you right-click and hold the mouse). Figure 6-7, for example, shows the list of commands that appears on the pop-up menu if the cursor is over a link. (Other commands appear on the menu if the cursor is elsewhere in a page.)

(Yes, yes, I hear the Macintosh users complaining that they have no right mouse button on their systems. The good folks at Netscape haven't forgotten you, nor do they require that you press and hold some odd combination of keys; simply press and hold down the usual mouse button for about a second or so without moving the mouse and the same menu appears.)

To select a command from this pop-up menu, keep holding the right mouse button down and then slide the pointer up or down the list. After you hit the command you want to execute, release the mouse button. If you realize that you don't want to use any of the commands, left-click in a clear area to make the menu disappear. (On the Mac, slide all the way off the menu and release the mouse button.)

Finding Text

Okay, here's a small command that's not too thrilling but is useful in certain situations. The Edit menu's Find in Page command enables you to search for text on the current Web page. It works just like the Find commands in most word processors. You can specify the text you want to find, case sensitivity, and the direction to search in the Find dialog box.

Simple as it may be in function, the Find in Page command can be handy if you are looking through a long document for some specific information. It's particularly useful if you want to find where on a page an e-mail address appears (you simply search for the @ character).

Remembering Where You Have Been

As you meander around the Web, you often find places that you think are interesting. You can keep a list of those places by using Netscape's bookmark feature. Bookmarks consist of pointers to Web pages and the title of the pointer. They appear in the Bookmarks list in the location toolbar and in a separate bookmarks window.

To add the current page to your bookmarks, open the Bookmarks menu in the location toolbar and choose the Add Bookmark command. The default name for the bookmark is the title of the page. Most of the bookmark action (other than adding the bookmarks) is generated by the Edit Bookmarks command in the Bookmarks menu. This brings up the bookmarks window where you can edit bookmarks, add them, delete them, and so on. That window is shown in Figure 6-8.

To go to a bookmark in your list, simply double-click on it. To change the name or URL of a bookmark, select the bookmark and give the Edit-->Bookmark Properties command. You can also use this window to add a description of the bookmark; that description can be searched for later.

Of course, you will probably want to rearrange your bookmarks, such as by grouping related bookmarks together. To do so, create a new folder in the bookmarks window with the New Folder command from the File menu. You can then drag bookmarks from the main list into the folder. Of course, you can create as many folders as you want and drag your bookmarks between them.

Bookmarks can be copied and pasted in the bookmarks window. For example, you might want to have the same bookmark in two folders: just copy it in the first folder and paste it into the second folder. You can also copy bookmarks from Netscape and paste them into other programs.

Customizing Your Toolbars

The toolbars at the top of the Netscape screen are pretty handy, but you may not always want to see them, or you may want them to be smaller at times. For instance, you'll notice that I've hidden them at times in the pictures of the screens in this book. That's so you can see more of the content window.

To hide or show toolbars, use the first three commands in the View menu. When the particular toolbar is shown, the command name starts with "Hide"; when the toolbar isn't shown, the command name starts with the word "Show." For example, if the personal toolbar is currently showing, the command is View-->Hide Personal Toolbar.

You don't have to hide the toolbars if you just want to make them smaller, however. Notice the little gray area at the far left of the toolbar that looks like a small handle. If you click on this, the toolbar becomes just a few pixels tall but doesn't disappear altogether. You can then click on it again to make the toolbar reappear.

Getting More Personal

You may have wondered about the name of the personal toolbar. What's so personal about it? When you start Netscape, the items in the personal toolbar are what Netscape put there, not what you want. Fortunately, changing what's in the personal toolbar is an easy task.

At the top of the bookmarks window, you see an item called Personal Toolbar Folder. As you may imagine, these are the things that appear in your personal toolbar. You can change the items here just like the items in the rest of the bookmarks. You can add folders, get rid of the folders that Netscape started you with, and so on.

In other words, the items in your personal toolbar are treated like the items in your bookmarks list. The only reason why you'd want them in your personal toolbar is that they are a bit easier to get to than if they were in your bookmarks list. For my part, I don't use the personal toolbar and instead rely on the bookmark list. Consequently, I always hide the personal toolbar to give myself a bit more space on the screen for Web content.

What More Could You Prefer?

The final topic in this discussion of how to use Netscape is a big one: How to use the various commands in Edit-->Preferences.

Fortunately, most (but not all) of the preferences that Netscape comes with are preset to work just fine. A few, however, you need to change before you can use certain Netscape features. Figure 6-9 shows the main window of the Edit-->Preferences dialog box. Note that many of the categories have "+" signs next to them; this sign indicates that subcategories exist. To see the subcategories, click on the "+" sign.

Because you can change so many settings in Netscape, the Preferences dialog boxes consist of many pages. At the left side of the dialog box is a set of tabs from which you can choose which of its pages you want to work in. The names of these tabs describe the settings you can alter on the pages. The tabs for each command are as follows:

  • Appearance
  • Fonts
  • Colors
  • Navigator
  • Languages
  • Applications
  • Mail & Groups
  • Identity
  • Messages
  • Mail Server
  • Groups Server
  • Directory
  • Composer
  • Publishing
  • Offline
  • Download
  • Advanced
  • Cache
  • Proxies
  • Disk Space


Well, many people say that the Web is more about looks than content, so it's appropriate that Netscape's first preference category is "Appearance." The choices in this category let you tell Netscape what you want to see and how it should look.

The first set of choices let you specify which of the many parts of Communicator you see when you first launch the program. The default, Navigator, makes the most sense unless you mostly use Netscape for mail, in which case you should choose Messenger.

You can also specify how you want your toolbar to appear: as pictures and text, pictures only, or text only. In the screen pictures in this book, I've mostly chosen the text-only toolbars so that you can see more of the content area of the screen, but you are free to choose any of the three that best suits your visual tastes.


Netscape has a small number of choices for applying fonts. These are clearly stylistic choices meant to make Netscape easier on the eyes as you use it. The choices available to you depend on the kind of computer you own, which fonts you installed, and so on.

The choices for fonts are shown in Figure 6-10. The first choice, "For the Encoding," affects the next two choices, the fonts to use. An encoding is a type character set, such as "Western characters," "Japanese characters," "Greek characters," and so on. Most readers of this book will just use the Western encoding.

For the Western encoding, you have two font choices: variable-width fonts (most of the text that you see), and fixed-width font (the typewriter-looking font you see in some lists). You can also choose the size. For example, I've made the font sizes 9 instead of the default of 12 and 10 so that I can see more text on the screen at one time.


Playing with the Colors subcategory is more fun than playing with fonts. Many modern Web sites come with their own sets of colors and backgrounds. If you select the Always use my colors, overriding document option, you will prevent these colors from being loaded. By clicking one of the color buttons, you can choose the color of the following elements:

  • Text

  • Background

  • Links you have not clicked on yet

  • Links you have already visited

The defaults for these elements are usually okay, but you may, for example, want to change the text color to something other than black. If you choose not to underline links, you should certainly keep the link color something different from the text color; otherwise, you can't tell what is and isn't a link. Make sure, too, that you don't choose a background pattern that makes your text unreadable.


With a name like that, you would think that the preferences in this category apply only to Navigator, not the other components of Netscape Communicator. But you would be wrong. I have no idea why Netscape named these choices this way.

In these choices, you can specify what you see when you first launch Navigator: a blank page, a home page that you specify, or the last page you saw before quitting Navigator the last time. If you want to always start with a particular Web page, you can enter that by hand. If you want to always start with a particular file from your hard disk, you can specify that by using the Browse button.


Slowly but surely, some Web content is appearing in languages other than English. Netscape can tell Web servers what languages you are willing to accept for documents. That way, if a Web server has a document in a language you don't understand, it can tell you that instead of showing you the document.

You can add other languages to the list with the Add button. Netscape brings up a list of all the popular (and not-so-popular) languages, or you can even add your own.


Even though it is pretty versatile, Netscape cannot handle every kind of information on the Web. If you access data in a format that Netscape doesn't understand (for example, a movie), Netscape can launch another program or just save the data to disk for you to deal with later. The options in the Helpers tab specifies which programs Netscape launches in such cases.

Generally, you never need to change any of the settings in this subcategory because they come preconfigured for the best values. You may, however, want to change them if you consistently download a certain type of data and want Netscape to always launch a program that it doesn't currently know about. You might also want to change the values if you want to tell Netscape to always save certain kinds of files to disk without asking you what to do first.

Each kind of data on the Web has a file type, more accurately called a MIME type. These data descriptions consist of two words separated by a slash (/) character. Movies in the MPEG format, for example, have a file type description of video/mpeg. These types are defined in Internet standards committees, although some of them are temporary names until the committees get around to approving them.

For each file type, Netscape can take the following actions:

  • For many formats, you can display the data in Netscape. This option works only for elements that Netscape knows about, such as simple text, HTML, GIF, and JPEG images, and for formats for which you have a plug-in.

  • Netscape can just store some types of data on disk. You can open the file later with some other program.

  • Netscape can start another program and give that program the data.

For each MIME type, you can tell Netscape what to do. Select the description of the type and choose the Edit button. You can also add new MIME types with the New Type button.

Mail and Groups

In order to use Netscape's e-mail or news features, you must change the settings in the Mail and Groups category. This category holds the addresses of both your mail server (for sending e-mail) and your news server (for reading Usenet news).

It is common for you to reply to messages that you see on the Internet, and you want a way to indicate that the information in your reply is a copy of the original message. Netscape allows you to automatically quote the original message, which begins each line with a ">" character.

Because you can get too much information on a single screen, Netscape lets you choose whether or not to open separate windows for each message you read, or to reuse the main mail or news windows to see the messages. I normally choose not to reuse the main window; this decision means that I have to switch back and forth between the main window and the message window, but I get to see more in each window. You should try both reusing and not reusing and see which best suits you.


Yes, you get to give yourself a real name, not just an Internet address. You can type whatever you want in the Your Name field, but remember that this name will be seen by anyone to whom you send mail or anyone who sees your Usenet postings. You must also fill in your Reply to address if it is different than your mail address.

If you want, fill in an organization name, although this is not a widely used feature. If you want to sign each outgoing mail message from Netscape with a standard signature, create a text file with the signature and specify that file with the Choose button.

You can also choose to always attach your vCard (described earlier in this chapter) to each message you send. While doing so may seem convenient, not that many people have vCard-enabled mail readers yet, so I would not recommend this option. Instead, you can attach your vCard on a message-by-message basis, sending it only to people that you know have Netscape or other vCard-enabled programs.


Netscape lets you specify how outgoing messages are formatted. This feature is important because some mail users have different capabilities than others, and you want to be sure to send messages that your recipients can read. For instance, the first choice is whether or not to send HTML-formatted messages by default. I suggest you not select this option because many people still don't have HTML-enhanced mail clients. You can still choose to use HTML formatting when you send individual messages.

You can also choose where to send copies of outgoing messages. This option lets you always send copies of the messages you post to yourself so you can keep them for future reference. You can also have Netscape copy all your outgoing messages into a mail folder.

The More Options button in the Messages subcategory brings up some interesting, if not obscure choices. If your message has "8-bit" characters, such as international characters, Netscape has to choose whether or not to send them directly. Your two choices are to send them as-is, which doesn't work with some mail and news clients, or to send them as "quoted printable," which doesn't work with other clients. Unfortunately, I can't give you any advice here because no clear better choice exists.

Mail Server

This subcategory gives all the information that Netscape needs in order to get your mail for you. If you used Netscape's standard installation, the choices here are already filled in for you; otherwise, you need to get this information from your ISP. Figure 6-11 shows the choices.

The "Mail server user name" is the name you use to get your mail. This isn't necessarily the same name as you use in your return address, but most often is. The "Outgoing mail (SMTP) server" is the name of the server you use for sending out e-mail. This is often, but not always, the same name as the name you use for your "Incoming mail server." Again, you should ask your ISP for each of the values that you should use here.

You also have to tell Netscape what kind of mail server you get your mail from. The two choices are POP and IMAP. POP is an older protocol for receiving mail, but it is still the most popular. IMAP, on the other hand, has many more nifty features than POP, but isn't as widely used yet. By the time you read this, I expect IMAP to be catching on much more widely.

Again, Netscape has hidden some important choices under the More Options button. If you don't want to type in your password each time you get your mail, you should select the "Remember my mail password" option. However, you should only do so if you're the only person with access to your computer; otherwise, someone else can cause Netscape to download your mail without you knowing about it.

Groups Server

The main thing in this subcategory is the address of your Usenet news server. Your ISP should tell you what this address is. In rare cases, your SP may also tell you a TCP port number to use, and you can enter that here as well.


Netscape lets you search for Internet users on some of the popular Web-based directories. This feature is handy if you don't know someone's address, but it often leads to wrong information. The directory services are getting better, however, so this option may be more useful in the future.


The preferences in this category are for the Web-page creator called Composer, which is covered in Chapters 16 and 17. Composer is pretty much a program unto itself and isn't covered in much detail in this book. You are probably safe leaving all of the options in this section alone unless you get deep into Composer.


The choices here affect how Netscape tells your computer to interact with the Internet. Some people are connected to the Internet all the time, such as on an office network, but most people are only connected to the Internet when they dial in to their ISP. This is important because you may want to read your old mail or look at pages on your hard drive without causing Netscape to start up your network connection.

It's dweeb time. Feel free to skip over this advanced category. It's really mostly for advanced folk, and even then, you don't find much of importance here. On the other hand, if you want to know something about how Netscape is more flexible than other Web browsers, feel free to read along.

The first set of choices are things that you may want Netscape to do, or not do, automatically. The items you can turn on and off are

  • Automatically load images: If you are on a slow connection, you may not want to automatically load the images on Web pages.

  • Enable Java: This item allows Java applications that you download to run automatically. Some people worry about how secure Java is, and therefore they would not want to run Java programs automatically from sites they don't know.

  • Enable JavaScript: JavaScript is a language that can be used in HTML pages to perform certain tasks on a Web page. Like Java, it may not be as secure as you want, so you may not want to run JavaScript programs without being asked.

  • Enable style sheets: The latest version of HTML has an experimental extension called "style sheets" that lets Web designers make better-looking pages.

  • Enable Autoinstall: This item allows automatic updating of Netscape over the Internet and doesn't sound all that secure to me.

  • Send e-mail address as anonymous FTP password: Most FTP servers force you to give an e-mail address when you log into them, but you may not want to give your real address, so Netscape gives you the choice.

The second set of choices tell Netscape whether or not to put up a dialog box before you either get a cookie from a server or before you submit a form by e-mail. Cookies (cute name, huh?) are items used to store information about your site when you visit a site. For example, cookies are often used to create shopping baskets, telling the server what you have ordered so far. More and more sites are using cookies, so getting an alert each time may be pretty annoying. On the other hand, if you're concerned about your privacy and the kind of information that is kept on you, you may want to disable cookies altogether.


A cache is an area to which Web pages and images that you have read are copied. Using a cache can increase the speed of access if you read the same page off the Web a second time, and it can also reduce traffic on the Internet (because you don't need to actually access the page from the Web a second time). Netscape includes two kinds of caches: memory caches and disk caches. The memory cache is kept in RAM memory, while the disk cache is kept on your hard disk.

The content of Web pages sometimes changes, so you don't want to always assume that the version of a page you have in one of the caches is the most recent. On the other hand, if you never trust the cache, you force Netscape to go out to a remote (and possibly slow) Web site every time you revisit a page.

The default sizes for the two caches are usually fine, but you can increase or decrease them if you think that may help. Decreasing the cache size means that fewer copies of pages are kept in memory or on disk, but it also means that Netscape is using fewer of your computer's resources.

You can tell Netscape whether to check the Web site if the document you are requesting is already in one of Netscape's two caches. These buttons function as described in the following list:

  • "Once per session" means that, the first time during a Netscape session you choose a particular document that is in the cache, Netscape always obtains it from the remote server; after that, Netscape gets it from the cache (if it is still there).

  • "Every time" means that Netscape always checks the remote server, even if the document is in the cache.

  • "Never" means that Netscape does not bother ever to go to the remote server if the document is in the cache. Using this option may be a bit risky because the document may have changed since it got in the cache. On the other hand, this option gives you the best performance.


Oh, my. Skipping this one altogether would certainly be nice. Describing proxies well in a book on this level is impossible. For that matter, few advanced Internet books do even a halfway decent job of describing proxies. They're a very dweeby, very confusing issue that you are best to avoid if you can; fortunately, most Web users can. Proxies don't relate to the Web per se; they relate to security and the Internet. Basically, proxies intervene between you and the Internet for the greater good of the people at your site.

Most people do not use proxies and therefore choose the "Direct connection to the Internet" option. If your ISP uses a proxy, you can hope that it lets you do automatic proxy configuration, in which case you only need to enter the URL of the configuration system. You may, however, have to configure the various proxies manually, at which point you'll need some very detailed instructions in how to set up Netscape for your proxy system.

Disk Space

If you have limited space on your hard drive, you can tell Netscape not to download large files in mail or Usenet news. To get you as much space as possible, you can also tell Netscape to clean up your mail and Usenet news folders more often that it would normally, which may free up a bit of space.

To access the security preferences, give the Communicator-->Security Info command, or choose the Security icon from the navigation toolbar. The Security dialog box looks somewhat like the Preferences dialog box and is shown in Figure 6-12.

The first category, Security Info, tells you about what kind of security the current Web page that you're viewing in Netscape has. Most pages on the Web do not use any form of security, so this information isn't all that useful. The Passwords category is useful if many people use the same computer. Each person can have her own Netscape setup, and you can make sure that no one uses your setup without knowing your password.

The navigator category lets you tell Netscape about how you want to handle security when you're moving around the Web. The first set of choices tells Netscape when it should warn you about changes in security.

Security Preferences

Security is quite rightfully a hot topic on the Internet. Because so few people understand how to keep themselves safe from snooping and tampering on the Internet, malicious people can do lots of damage without much risk of getting caught. Netscape gives you a few opportunities to avoid security problems, but you must assume most of the responsibility yourself.

Security Warnings may sound great, but they are often just a nuisance. These options open a dialog box whenever you enter or leave a secure or insecure area of the Web. Well, if you don't know by now, you'll find only a handful of secure areas on the Web; you can tell whether you are in one, however, by looking for the little key icon at the lower-left corner of the screen. If it's a full key, you're in a secure area; if it's a broken key, you're not. I doubt you'd like needing to respond to a dialog box every time you go from secure to insecure area, but if you do, you can turn on that feature here.

Two versions of the SSL security protocol are now on the Web. You can choose whether to use one or both of them; you're fine to leave both of these selected because both versions are quite good. You only need to use the Configure buttons if a particular site tells you to.

The Messenger category lets you specify how your Internet mail is encrypted and signed. These topics are covered earlier in this chapter. Before you can use this kind of security, you need to get an S/MIME certificate. After you have such a certificate, it appears in the "Yours" subcategory under the Certificates category.

The Certificates category lets you view all the certificates you know about. You can view, edit, and remove your own certificates, the certificates that other people may have sent you (such as in signed e-mail), the certificates of secure Web sites that you've visited, and the certificates of the companies that sign certificates.

Personal certificates

As more and more people use the Web to perform financial transactions and to communicate about business, asking the question, "How do I know that you are who you say you are?" becomes important. Conversely, the people communicating with you want to know the same thing about you.

A personal certificate is somewhat akin to a driver's license: It is a form of identification that says that someone who everyone trusts (well, most everyone trusts) says you are who you say you are. If you trust the company that issued the certificate, you can trust the certificate holder.

If you don't already have a personal certificate, choose the Get a New Certificate button in the Yours subcategory and follow the directions. You can have more than one certificate, and you may get them from different certificate issuing authorities, for instance. In this case, you can specify the default certificate that Netscape presents to sites where you visit.

Personal certificates are just starting to be widely used. Because you need a personal certificate in order to secure your e-mail, many people are getting their first certificates as you read this. Within a year or two, they will probably be much more popular.

Site certificates

A site certificate is like a personal certificate, but you use it to be sure that a Web site is who it says it is. In order for a Web site to be trusted, a Web site has to have a certificate from someone you trust. Who do you trust? Well...

Signer Certificates

A certificate authority, or "CA" for short, is someone who vouches for the authenticity of someone else by giving them a signed certificate. You can find several public CAs in the world, and some companies act as their own CAs for certificates issued by the companies.

Netscape comes with a bunch of certificates for CAs that Netscape Communications trusts. If you trust Netscape, you should probably trust its list of CAs and therefore the certificates that those CAs issue. It's too early in the Internet security game to know which CAs are better than others, so I generally advise people to trust all the Netscape-trusted CAs until you hear otherwise.

Onward out to the Web!

Whew! You made it through all the preferences. I hope that you found many of them useful in your day-to-day use of Netscape. The next time someone tells you that "using a Web browser is so easy," you may want to point them to all the choices you had to make here.

Table of Contents


About This Book
Who Are You?
What's a Netscape?
How to Get Netscape
Try before you buy
It may be free
Updating from earlier versions
Where and how to buy
What You'll Find in This Book
Part I: Wild, Wild Web
Part II: How You See What You Get
Part III: Who's Webbing Now?
Part IV: Your Name in Lights
Part V: The Web in the Future
Part VI: The Part of Tens
The Glossary
Type Styles Used in This Book
Icons Used in This Book
The Web Awaits You
Part I: Wild, Wild Web

Chapter 1: Welcome to Too Many Ws
The Internet of Today

The Internet as a network
The Internet for humans
The World Wide Web: Not a Thing, Not a Place
Hang On, It's about to Shift
What You Need to Start Using the Web
The starting point: a computer
Someone to connect with
Modems: paying for speed
Minimal Internet connection
Medium Internet connection
Modern Internet connection
What's This about Netscape?

Chapter 2: The Web: A Concerto in Three Parts
It Is Written: Content

Topics on the Web
The many media of the Web
We interrupt this Web for a commercial announcement
Filling in the blanks
Web content is still mostly free
Your End of the Deal: Client Software
They Give It All to You: Servers
Tying It All Together

Chapter 3: HTTP or Not HTTP? What a Weird Question
Overview of Internet Services
The Center of the Web: HTTP

A bit hyper about hypertext
Why hypertext is popular
What hypertext looks like
How to hypertext: HTML
A Little Farther Out: Other Services on the Web
Usenet news
The Internet Outside the Web
Where's the mail?
The big push
Other non-Web Internet services
Gateways: on and not on the Web at the same time
You Need URL in That Engine
Service names in URLs
Host names
URL requests

Chapter 4: Before Getting on the Web
You May Already Be a Webber
Will the Web Hurt My Wallet?
TCP for You and Me

Running TCP/IP right there
Restricted TCP/IP
'Taint TCP/IP at all
Web Clients for TCP
The first big thrill: Mosaic
The great leap forward: Netscape Navigator
Browsing other browsers
The Best of the Rest
Terminally Lynx
And even more browsers
Part II: How You See What You Get

Chapter 5: Navigating Basics for Netscape
Where Does It All Begin?
Windows 3.1? Windows 95? Macintosh? Who Cares!
Click-O-Rama: Following Links

Backward and forward
Knowing where you've been
Who says you can't go home again?
Stop right there
Get it again
Entering Links Instead of Clicking Them
Save That File
Use What You Have: Opening Local Files
Imagining a Web without Images
Many Windows to the Web
So Go Out and Have Fun

Chapter 6: Getting Farther with Netscape
Filling In Forms
Netscape and Internet Mail

Creating new mail
Attaching files
Usenet News
Reading the news
Subscribing to newsgroups
Acting on messages
The Best Commands at Your Fingertips
Finding Text
Remembering Where You Have Been
Customizing Your Toolbars
Getting More Personal
What More Could You Prefer?
Mail and Groups
Mail Server
Groups Server
Disk Space
Security Preferences
Personal certificates
Site certificates
Signer Certificates
Onward out to the Web!

Chapter 7: Searching High and/or Low
Web Catalogs
Guessing How to Get What You Want

Chapter 8: It May Be Broken
The Errors of Your Ways

Sometimes very busy and very dead look the same
URL doesn't exist
Wrong server name
Hmmmm, Nothing Happened
Broken Pictures
Part III: Who's Webbing Now?

Chapter 9: Starting in the Library
Getting In When There's No Front Door

Collecting because it's there
Picking the best
Virtual Libraries
World Wide Web Virtual Library
EINet Galaxy
Clearinghouse for Subject-Oriented Internet Resource Guides
Anointers of Pointers
Yanoff's List
Net-happenings archive
New Web sites
Business Web
Microsoft Library
Larry's InfoPower Pages

Chapter 10: Finding Fun, Fun, Fun
All This and People, Too!

Who's who on the Internet
Going other places
Making things
Four11 Directory
Names of the Games
Games Domain
Games and Recreation Virtual Library
Sport Virtual Library
Games on Usenet
Funky Web Groove Thang
Internet Underground Music Archive
Listening to Indigo
TeeVee via TCP
Star Trek: Voyager
The Tonight Show

Chapter 11: Web Ways to Shop
Doing the Mall Crawl

The Internet Mall
One Shop Towns
Music Boulevard
Internet Shopping Network
Computer Literacy Bookshops
Wits' End Antiques
Services with a Smile
Homebuyer's Fair
The Business of Business

Chapter 12: The Real World Meets the Web
Magazines on Your Monitor

Mercury Center
Personal Finance
The Finance Virtual Library
K through 12 through the Web
Sex and Weather Are Always Big Draws
Blowfish and non-alt sex
The Weather Channel
Weather Underground

Chapter 13: Self-Reference: Computers on Computers
Emergency Road Crews for Your Computer

Capital PC User Group
PC questions
The Well Connected Mac
Support in Your Court
Dweeb Talk
Seidman's Online Insider
The Internet in the Mirror
Usenet Info Center
Security reference index
Consummate Winsock Apps List

Chapter 14: Your Government: At Work?
The Feds Are Ahead

U.S. House of Representatives
Federal legislation
National Science Foundation
U.K. Government Information Service
State and Local Folk
California departments
North Carolina
Change That Law: Advocates Get the Word Out
Tibet liberation
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
Advocacy in the Usenet realm
Part IV: Your Name in Lights

Chapter 15: So You Want to Be a Producer
Home Sweet Home Pages
Personal Webtop Publishing

The teeny cost of gigantic storage
Communications cost more than storage
Administration can be cheap or expensive
You may get it for free
Business Publishing on the Web
That professional look
Selling it
Getting people in the front door
Where to Hang Your Shingle

Chapter 16: HTML 101
Using the Tools Given to You
It's Just Like a Word Processor -- But Completely Different

What it looks like
HTML documents
Netscape Composer and other HTML creators
Getting In and Out of Composer
< and > Are Your Friends
Starts and stops
Capitals don't count
Where does the line end?
Adding a Bit of Character
Character Formatting in Composer
Getting Things in Line
Learning to Love Lists
Top of the Doc
Other Bits and Pieces
Giving your address
Special characters

Chapter 17: The Best Parts: Hypertext and Graphics
Thinking about Linking

The name of the link
Choosing good link targets
Linking to the Outside World
Linking within Your Document
Mixtures with Pictures
Where images go on the line
Images as links
What about character-based browsers?
Where do images come from?
The Trouble with Tables
Using HTML in the Real World

Chapter 18: Think Twice; Then Think Again
Looking Good (or Bad) in Print

Avoid excessive vertical space
Lists are your friends
Use headings as headings
When the Web Is Slow, Small Is Fast
Just Because It's Cool Doesn't Mean It's Good
Pay Attention to the Law
If Only I Were a Programmer: Forms and Image Maps
Part V: The Web in the Future

Chapter 19: Multimedia Mirage
Mmmm, Fast Is Good

CD-ROMs still rule
The basic problems
What's Multi?
VRML World: Virtual reality for virtual fun
Plugging into plug-ins
Helpers for Browsers

Chapter 20: HTML: The Next Generation
Where the Future Is Being Shaped
Why Netscape Is Different
Some Features You May See Soon

Additional character sets
Better horizontal control of text
Much more advanced forms
Math equations and formulae
So When Will I See All This?
Part VI: The Part of Tens

Chapter 21: Ten Things the Web Won't Do for You...Yet
Publish Software That Never Gets Out of Date
Put the Content Close to You
Use Names Instead of Locations
Let People Write Content Reviews
Send You the Daily News
Enable Whole-Web Searching
Tell You Where the Problems Are on the Internet
Bring You Real BBSs, Real Fast
Build Real Communities
Bring Everyone into the Tent

Chapter 22: Ten Reasons Why the Web Bothers Some People
Using the Web Is Too Unpredictable
URLs Are Cryptic
Links Break
Pornography Is Too Easy to Find
It's Too Much Head, Not Enough Heart
It's Too Masculine
Few Sites Give You Two-Way Communication
No Maps of the Web Exist
Services Such as FTP Have Archaic Interfaces
It's Not as Interesting as TV or Books

Chapter 23: Ten Charming Places on the Web
Bill's Lighthouse Getaway
Zen Page
Plugged In
The Peace Page
Positive Vibrations
Crossword Puzzles
Bird Watching
Pete's Pond Page



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