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Cover Story
Safety on the Net
Safe Viewing

-- By David W. Methvin, Senior Technical Editor

If you feel unsafe simply opening a document, you can thank application macro viruses for your jitters. Our company has been hit multiple times by the Word Concept macro, and even Microsoft was guilty of spreading the virus on its TechEd CD-ROM. The problem is likely to worsen as more information flies across the Internet. One way to prevent the spread of viruses is to use a file viewer instead of opening your data files with the application.

That's easy to do under Windows 95, which comes with an applet called QuickView. To use it, right-click on the file and select QuickView from the menu. Viewers don't support many of the original applications' features, but they can give you the general idea of a file's contents. Lack of features is a benefit in this case-since QuickView doesn't execute embedded macros, you won't catch any virus hidden in the file.

If you don't see QuickView on your right-click menu, you probably didn't install it. Add it through Control Panel's Add/Remove Programs applet. On the Windows Setup tab, select Accessories and click on the Details button. Check the QuickView box on the scrolldown list. You'll need to insert the Windows 95 CD so it can copy the files. The diskette version doesn't include QuickView, but you can download it from Microsoft's Web site ( http://www.microsoft.com/windows/software/accessories.htm).

If you use Microsoft Word and Excel, you might want to install the Word ( http://www.microsoft.com/msword/Internet/Viewer/) and Excel ( http://www.microsoft.com/msexcel/Internet/Viewer/) viewers. These viewers have more features than the standard QuickView viewers. Like QuickView, they don't run embedded macros so they're safe from macro viruses. Another bonus is that the viewers load quickly, taking less than half the time of the full application.

When you install WordView, the setup program will ask if you want to use it as your default viewer. This will start WordView, not Word, when you double-click on a .DOC file. If you need to actually edit the file in Word, right-click on the file and select Open.

With the tips provided here, you can view files safely without the risk of catching a macro virus. Remember, though, that the virus threat is still there if you open the document with the native application.

The World Wide Web Security FAQ is a good place to start if you're looking for information on how to keep computers safe on the Internet

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