WINDOWS Magazine, July 1997
Rev Up the Web for Free || Editor Mike Elgan on the Web ||
Message Exchange || Reviews and Related Resources || July Issue ||
Go to Cover Story Online Front Page



Well Connected
Browsers Get Better
Perfect Plug-Ins
Useful Utilities
Find It Fast
Cookie Monsters
Search Success

Modem Mastery
Quick Connections
Ready, Willing and Cable
Tune In to the Web

If You Build It, They Will Come
Construction Sites
Picture This
Sounds Good
Action ... Reaction
The Next HTML

A Host of Hosts
Serve Yourself
Watch What Gets In
Know Who's Visiting
Find a Gracious Host
Get Surfers to 'Hit' on You

The Top 20 Business Sites

Perfect Plug-Ins

You can watch the Web unplugged, but it's like watching Fourth of July fireworks with your eyes shut tight and your fingers in your ears. Sure, you're there; you just don't see and hear anything. The same goes for the Web-if you want to enjoy sites that are endowed with multimedia elements, you'll have to plug in to savor the full experience.

Plug-ins move browsers beyond simple text and pictures, letting you see animation, hear sounds and even receive live video. Although dozens of plug-ins are available-most are free-downloading and installing them can be time consuming. Too many plug-ins can bloat your browser so it gobbles up memory and lumbers along the Net. But some plug-ins definitely enhance the Web experience and are worth the trouble of downloading and installing them. Arm yourself with this arsenal of audio and video players, online animators and document viewers, and you're ready for all the sights and sounds of the Web.

RealPlayer 4.0 (free,
). Cramming live video and hi-fi-quality sound through a 28.8Kbps pipeline might seem impossible. Progressive Networks accomplishes this with sophisticated data compression. It's not like turning on the TV, but plug in RealAudio and RealVideo and you'll be able to receive live events, CD-quality music, video and advertising from sites like Sports Illustrated, C-SPAN and Warner Brothers. RealPlayer 4.0 is free; an advanced version, RealPlayer Plus 4.0, costs $29.99. After installing the player, visit AudioNet ( and Timecast ( for a guide to RealAudio and RealVideo events on the Web.

VDOLive Player (free, VDOnet and VivoActive are also key players in the Web multimedia market. After you download the VDOLive Player, take a look at the listing of VDO-enabled sites, including Fox and CBS News, PBS Online and the AutoChannel broadcasts.

VivoActive (free, To view the audio and video content at the CNN, HBO, TechWeb and First-TV sites, download the VivoActive plug-in. A VivoActive site guide is available at

Shockwave The Works (free, Macromedia urges Web wayfarers to "get shocked" with its Shockwave plug-in. Add the Shockwave app to your browser to take advantage of the animation, sound and interactivity of sites created using Macromedia's multimedia development tools. Visit Macromedia's Shockzone at to check out a guide to "Shocked" sites.

Adobe Acrobat reader (free,
). Web authors who want to ensure that their pages look just so don't rely on the vagaries of browsers to reproduce formats. Many have turned to Adobe Acrobat to lock in layouts, type styles and type sizes. Acrobat does for the Web what it did for the enterprise with its portable PDF files; the program makes it possible to distribute highly formatted documents. All you need to view these pages is the free Acrobat reader. Stop by the Acrobat PDF Directory at for sites offering Acrobat files.

Cosmo Player (free, and WorldView 2.0 (
). With 3D enabling, VRML plug-ins add a new perspective to your browser. A couple of our favorite VRML plug-ins are the Cosmo Player from 3D experts Silicon Graphics and WorldView 2.0 from Intervista. Both plug-ins feature outstanding interfaces, and both support the VRML 2.0 standard. Netscape has standardized on Cosmo Player for Communicator, and Microsoft is basing one of its upcoming Internet Explorer VRML browsers on WorldView. Test drive both for free.

In Pursuit of Plug-Ins

New plug-ins pop up on the Web frequently. These sites track what's out there, and point you to the best of the bunch.

Dave Central Software Archive ( This index contains links to plug-ins in several categories, including multimedia, video, VRML, bookmark managers and utilities. Most categories also include ActiveX controls.

Netscape Navigator Components (
). You'll find more than 100 third-party plug-ins here in five categories: 3D and Animation, Audio/Video, Business and Utilities, Image Viewers and Presentations. The page also indexes the latest crop of plug-ins.

TechWeb's TechTools ( Look here for plug-in reviews, plus tips on fine-tuning your browser and PC. Also check out the guides to Web animation, audio, video, agents and Java.

Well Connected: Useful Utilities