Math software for Windows

Netscape Tips and Tricks
including especially how to use Netscape to download or upload files
by Eric Schechter -- version of 17 October 2000

Start on a blank page

Netscape takes several seconds to start up (unless your computer is much much faster than mine!), and I don't like waiting. One way to shorten the wait is this: Tell Netscape to start at a blank page. Go to "Edit" "Preferences" "Navigator", and then click on "Netscape starts with Blank page". You're not really losing anything, because you can immediately click on your "Home" button or one of your bookmark buttons to get to a web page of your choosing -- but you don't have to wait for some other page to load first. ... This is also useful later in your browsing session, when you open a new window (control-N, or "File" "New" "Navigator  Window"): you won't have to wait for Netscape to fill that window with some page.

While you're at it, change the "Home page" to something that is useful to you -- don't leave it pointed at the Netscape Netcenter. Even if you're not going to see the "Home page" immediately upon starting up the program, it still is the page that you can get to easily by clicking on the "Home" button.

Shortcut to a profile (and other command line options)

Different people can use Netscape on the same computer, by setting up different user profiles. (This may be especially important for our graduate students, many of whom will be sharing one or two departmental computers.) When you start up Netscape in Windows, ordinarily it goes to a menu that lists all the profiles; then you can select one. But you can go directly to a profile, by setting up a shortcut (i.e., icon) whose command line is something like this:

"C:\Program Files\Netscape\Communicator\Program\netscape.exe" -P"profilename"

where "profilename" is the name of the profile (see my illustration).

That's the only command-line option that I've found useful, but your needs may differ from mine, so perhaps you'll find some other command-line option to be useful. There are many other options; here is a chart of them. Caution: I got that chart from some old Netscape documentation, and I don't know if all of it still applies to recent versions of Netscape.

Personal toolbar folder

Immediately above the main part of the Netscape screen is a row of buttons. Clicking on any of those buttons takes you to a web page indicated by the label on the button. The Netscape people pointed those buttons at web pages that they thought most people would like -- probably something like -- but most of those choices are of little or no interest to you. So change the buttons! You can put anything you like there. For an example, look at the illustration further down this page; it shows my buttons:

To change the buttons, click on "Bookmarks", and then click on "Edit Bookmarks...". What shows up on that buttonbar is the contents of the bookmark subfolder called "Personal Toolbar Folder." Drag the default bookmarks out of there, and drag your own favorite bookmarks into there. Or here's an even easier method (on the most recent versions of Netscape): Put your own favorite bookmarks into one subfolder -- call it "My toolbar", or something like that; then click on it; then (still in the Edit Bookmarks program) go to "View" "Set as Toolbar Folder".

By the way, your toolbar folder can contain subfolders. If you click on the resulting button in the buttonbar, a menu will drop down, offering you more choices.

Keyboard shortcuts

Many of Netscape's commands can be done more quickly with a keystroke than with a pull-down menu. Here are the command keystrokes that I use most often: Of course, your needs may differ from mine, so perhaps you'll find some other keyboard shortcuts to be useful. Here is a whole chart of them. I urge you to read through the whole chart once, and make a note of the commands that you use most often. Caution: I got that chart from some old Netscape documentation, and I don't know if all of it still applies to recent versions of Netscape.

Right-clicking on links and pages

This is discussed on another page, as part of a discussion of right-clicks in Windows.

Dragging a file onto Netscape

Here is an easy way to load some files into Netscape: Drag a file onto the Netscape window, from either the desktop or Windows Explorer.

Use Netscape for a web page editor

This is probably the easiest web page editor for most beginners to use, because it is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get, or approximately what you get). First load the page that you're trying to edit (see previous paragraph); then click on "File" "Edit Page". (Don't confuse that command with the word "Edit" that is displayed to the right of the word "File" on Netscape's top menu line; that's a different kind of "Edit" command.)

By the way, if you're trying to learn to make web pages, here is a good way to start: Find some fairly simple web page, somewhere on the internet, and display that page in Netscape. Then click "View" "Page Source" to see what's inside that page. For even more fun, click "File" "Save As..." and save a copy of that web page on your own computer. Then try editing it, using either the Netscape editor or some other editor -- any text editor will do, even Notepad. Then try viewing the results.

Use Netscape for uploading or downloading files

You can use Netscape or Explorer to transfer files (of any kind!) in both directions between your personal computer and your account on some remote computer (e.g., Atlas). I think it's the easiest method for transferring files -- easier than "ftp" or "fetch" or other file transfer programs. (I like to keep to a minimum the number of different programs that I need to familiarize myself with. I need Netscape for other purposes, so I may as well use it for ftp too.)

I'll describe the procedure first for Netscape. Run Netscape on your personal computer. Tell Netscape to go to this URL:

where both occurrences of "username" are replaced by your username. That's right, this URL doesn't begin with the usual "http" -- it begins with "ftp" instead. You'll be prompted for your password, and then the browser will go to a display that is like a web page, but consists of a list of all the files in your Atlas account's main directory. (Then bookmark the URL -- it's hard to type, and you may want to use it often!) This is an ftp directory display; see illustration below. Clicking on the name of a subdirectory will take you to an ftp directory display for that subdirectory, etc., so all your files are accessible.

There are actually two versions of this directory display (and I'm not sure why I get sometimes one and sometimes the other; it must have something to do with what other activities one of the computers was engaged in when I made the ftp request). The more elaborate display, shown here, gives a little icon for each filetype (with folders for subdirectories), and it even shows file lengths and dates. The simpler display (not shown here) just has the list of filenames (with no icons, filelengths, or dates). Either display will serve our needs, though the elaborate display is slightly easier to use because the different icons make it easier to find the files we're looking for.

(Microsoft Internet Explorer does not support password prompting, but you can follow a similar procedure if you include your password in your URL. Tell the browser to go to this URL:

where both occurrences of "username" are replaced by your username, and "password" is replaced by your password. Caution: Microsoft points out that this is not a secure means of logging in, and recommends that a separate FTP program be used instead.)

After you have an ftp directory showing, you can download or upload files as follows:

Drawbacks: Although this technique may be much simpler and easier than using a separate program for FTP, it is also slower, and it has the further disadvantage that (for downloads) you can only specify one file at a time. For large uploads or downloads, you may prefer to use a separate FTP program.

Other tips