The best hints going…virtually

Once you have an Internet connection for a short time, you cannot fail to notice how slow the process of retrieving information from around the world is.

After about 2pm on a working day, the US (it seems at times almost in its entirety) will log on to the system, introducing a new form of stress – Internet Rage – as the hour glass wait symbol spends more time on your screen than the pointer.

However, there are a number of useful routines and Web sites to make office life more pleasant and productive for you and your computer. They will ensure that you spend less time searching and more working.

Firstly, reorganise Netscape Navigator. When first installed, the default settings for the browser are far from ideal and significant results can be achieved by reducing the font, de-selecting the automatic load of images, and removing one or more of the toolbar ribbons at the top of the screen. A comprehensive and understandable list of techniques for tweaking Netscape can be found at http://www.cnet.com/Content/Features/Howto/Netscape/.

Secondly, the Microsoft Virtual Software Library has a long list of short software additions to Windows, Word, Excel etc. One of most useful rejoices under the catchy title of PW1118.exe. It adds a 32-bit extension to Windows 3.11 (bringing it closer in functionality to Windows '95) and allows modern programs, like Netscape 2.0, to run more efficiently and reliably. The address of the virtual library is http://www.microsoft.com/KB/SoftLib/MSLFiles/Pw1118.exe.

To use PW1118.exe, download it to a temporary file and click on it. The program will self-extract and install more files. Then find setup.exe and click on that. Follow the instructions and once all are done delete the temporary file.

Thirdly, install some anti-virus software. This is an important area. With so many viruses on so many machines it is vital that there is a strict office policy towards the introduction of new floppy disks and downloading files from the Internet itself.

There are many excellent products available, most offering free shareware software upgrades with a new virus list published each month. They will comprehensively scan a PC for all known viruses each time it is switched on, or a floppy disk introduced.

The windows virus checker thrown in with PCs will be out of date (and useless) by the time you switch the machine on for the first time because new viruses are created and put into circulation every minute or so.

Good sites to try for anti-virus software are: http://www.mcafee.com/ for McAfee AntiVirus and http://www.sands.com/ for Dr Solomon's.

It is a good idea to save whole web pages on your hard drive (though see the facing page for potential legislative dangers). For example, find and access a site using one of the search engines listed below, and when 'Document Done' appears click on 'File' at the top left of the browser, go down to 'Save As…' , name the file, and then it is always quickly available. For three easy examples, definitely save important sites such as the Yahoo, Alta Vista, and Lycos search engines.

These can be found at http://www.yahoo.com for Yahoo, at http://www.infoseek.com/ for InfoSeek and at http://www.lycos.com for Lycos. Then, once you have launched Netscape (or any browser), click on 'File', go down to 'Open File' and click on 'Yahoo.htm' or whatever you have called your saved version of the engine, and in an instant the Web pages will be available.

It is worth keeping three search engines because although they all claim to scan 30 million web sites, one will inexplicably find that elusive database the others miss. Stranger still, that same search engine will often not find the same site again a few days later.

It is also worth adding the manufacturers of your office photocopiers, faxes, computers, mobile phones, and even your car worth to your bookmark list. The likes of Canon, Ericsson and Dell have sites which highlight new products and upgrades and give contact addresses and numbers.

For example Canon can be found at http://www.canon.com/, Ericsson at http://www.ericsson.nl/ and BMW at http://www.bmw.co.uk/.

Lastly, when surfing, check out http://www.happypuppy.com/ (the Happypuppy site). Its several hundred fully-working downloadable games will keep children of all ages happy for many months.