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Make Your Browsers Fit Better

By David W. Methvin, Executive Editor and
Lori L. Bloomer, Associate Editor

Use these terrific tips perfect plug-ins for better browsing.

No single application can please all the people all the time. Here's how you can tweak your browser so it suits your style.

Font sizes

Netscape's default font size is reminiscent of the fine print in an auto ad. To change it, select Options/General Preferences and click on the Fonts tab. Pick a font and point size that work for you. (Try to remember the point size you chose, because Netscape doesn't display the current font size in the dialog box.)

If you want to change the typeface, pick View/Options and click on the Appearance tab. But if it's size that matters, pick View/Fonts and select the size you want.

File associations

Internet Explorer uses the file associations set up by Windows. The first time it encounters a new file extension, it will ask you to choose between running the associated application or downloading the file to disk. If you want to send every example of this type of file to its associated app, check the Don't Prompt Me box.

Netscape is a bit more stubborn. If you want an application to launch automatically when a certain file type is encountered, you need to set up a "helper" application, a program that will automatically launch when you access a file type not supported by the browser itself.

To set up a helper app, select Options/General Preferences from the menu and click on the Helpers tab. Then click on the Create New Type button. You'll be asked for a MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) type. The Netscape download dialog box sometimes gives specific information about the MIME type--for example, "application/x-octet-stream" is a descriptor for a nonspecified binary file. If this is provided, enter the extensions for that MIME type in the first text box and fill in the action you'd like Netscape to perform.

A quick, safe view

You may be tempted to associate .DOC and .XLS files directly with Word and Excel, commanding Netscape to run them without prompting. Don't do it. These documents can carry destructive macro viruses, just as executable files can. To protect your system, install Word and Excel viewers. These are available from Microsoft's Web site at Viewers don't execute any embedded macros, so they can't spread or activate a virus.

A home of your own

Make your history list into your default home page in Internet Explorer. Open \Program Files\PLUS!\Microsoft Internet\Microsoft Internet\history\GlobHist.htm in Internet Explorer. Select View/Options, click on the Start and Search Pages tab and then on the Use Current button. In Netscape, you can make your bookmark list the default page. In the browser, select Options/General Preferences, click on the Appearance tab and then enter ~~file:///C|/Netscape/Bookmark.htm~~ in the Start With box.

Stop hard disk bloat

Purge your cache to reclaim some disk space. In Netscape, click on Options/Network Preferences, then select the Cache tab. In IE, click on View/Options, then select the Advanced tab and click on the Empty button.

Safe and secure.

Recent security problems discovered in Netscape Navigator 2.0 show that Java applications have the potential to wreak havoc. While we haven't heard of any reported instances of malevolent Java applets, you should be concerned about your browser's safety precautions. Netscape Navigator 2.0 lets you disable Java through its Options/Security Preferences dialog.

Bookmark tricks

When you upgrade Netscape, you might first want to copy your bookmarks file (BOOKMARK.HTM) into a separate directory. This will keep Netscape from accidentally overwriting the file. And if you need to download that upgrade, just click on the icon in the upper right--that will bring you to Netscape's home page.

In Navigator, you can avoid a lot of cutting and pasting should you have an HTML file with a plethora of linked sites you'd like to add to your bookmarks. Look under Window/Bookmarks, then select File/Import. All of your links will be added to your bookmarks. You can also alphabetize the bookmarks by clicking on the top folder, then clicking on Item/Sort Bookmarks.

If your Netscape bookmark list is unwieldy, try making folders and grouping bookmarks of the same type together--for example, all search engines in a Search Engines folder. This will help you organize your links. Go to Window/Bookmarks, then select Item/Add Folder. You can move links to this folder by dragging and dropping them.

Most valuable plug-ins

Browsers are loaded with features these days, ranging from support for external programming and scripting languages to fancy HTML layout tricks. For the ultimate Web experience, however, you'll need the latest plug-ins.

Most plug-ins are designed to turn the Web into a multimedia playground. Among the most popular are Macromedia's Shockwave ( and Real Audio from Progressive Networks ( Shockwave lets you integrate animation, buttons, and streaming movies and sound (which play as they download) with more garden-variety Web page components. RealAudio provides real-time audio over 14.4Kbps or faster connections, with some degradation of quality but an amazingly speedy compression/decompression scheme.

Other multimedia plug-ins include Iterated Systems' CoolFusion (, which lets you watch streaming .AVI files live; FutureWave's FutureSplash (, which compresses your in-line audio and video, allowing you to send it live even over a dial-up connection; and Rapid Transit (, an audio powerhouse of a plug-in that decompresses and plays 16-bit, 44.1kHz, CD-quality sound at compression rates of 10:1 or better.

It's great to have lots of multimedia capabilities, but plug-ins provide even more. The object-oriented and graphically minded should check out ABC QuickSilver from Micrografx ( It allows you to place, view and interact with object graphics inside Web pages. Netscape's own VRML plug-in, Live3D (, lets you tour virtual worlds on the Web and run interactive Java-based VRML applications complete with sound. With NCompass' ActiveX ( plug-in, you can embed ActiveX controls in pages as applets, or view ActiveX-compatible documents such as Word, Excel or PowerPoint in their native formats.

Speaking of file viewers, make note of Adobe Acrobat's new Reader version 3.0 ( Acrobat is the dominant format for cross-platform documents, and the new version of the universal editor and viewer is more powerful than ever.

You can connect through the Web to a variety of sites and resources--including your business LAN and chat facilities. Carbon Copy/Net from Microcom ( lets you control another PC remotely through the Web, and ichat ( integrates a chat facility directly into Netscape Navigator.

If you feel as though your Web surfing is keeping you from staying on top of current events, PointCast Network ( may help--it's a free service that broadcasts up-to-the-minute news, weather, sports and more inside your browser, automatically.

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