[Western Oregon University]

Web Surfing Tools

There are a number of techniques and tools that you can use to make your Internet searching more productive and efficient. This page assumes the use of Netscape Navigator as your browser.


When you surf the Net, Netscape temporarily stores your most recently accessed pages and their page elements on your computer's hard drive and in memory, a process is called caching. Thus, when you flip back and forth between pages during a surfing session, you don't have to wait for the pages to be reloaded from their remote site. This speeds things up because your local hard drive and memory are considerably faster to access than any information coming through a modem. Every time you recall a recently used page, Netscape simply grabs it from the cache and displays it on your screen. The exception -- some multimedia elements are sent as a stream of data instead of a download of the entire file. Netscape does not place these elements into the cache.

You can adjust the amount of space devoted on you system to Netscape's cache from the Network Preferences category on the Options menu. Although you could make the cache very large so that Netscape would have to do little reloading during your surfing session, there are some practical matters to consider:

Modifying Netscape's Cache
If you want to customize the available cache, open the Options menu, click on Network Preferences and choose the Cache Tab. You will be able to set both the memory and disk cache allocations.

Memory Cache:
This will determine the amount of your system's RAM that will be devoted to recent pages you have viewed. The default setting is 600K. If you computer has 8 MB or less, you shouldn't change this value. For systems with more memory, your efficiency may increase if you change this to 1024K. An increase in performance will be dependent on the other plug-ins and helpers you have added to your browser. Hint: any time an application runs out of memory, it will start utilizing the disk at a significant performance penalty.

Disk Cache:
This will determine the amount of space on your hard drive devoted to recently accessed pages. The default setting is 5 MB. If you have a large hard drive, you may want to increase this setting. You shouldn't decrease this value or Java applications and JavaScript on pages may cause your system to hang up and crash.

There are two other notable buttons on the Cache tab labelled Clear Memory Cache Now and Clear Disk Cache Now. These buttons are used to delete the current contents of the caches. When you close Netscape, the memory cache is automatically erased and reallocated to other applications. The disk cache is not automatically cleared on closing. When the disk cache is filled, Netscape will begin to replace old information with new information.

Viewing the Disk Cache Contents
Even if you have closed Netscape, you can go back and view a recently accessed page without surfing for it because it is still stored in your disk cache (the number of pages stored will be dependent on the amount of space you allocated to the cache.) You can view these pages using a utility called a cache explorer. There are several of these programs available for the Dos platform but none for MacIntosh.

Netscape Cache Explorer examines the disk cache, lists the documents it contains and indicates what type the document is (text, pictures, sound clips, video, etc). You can then select the document in which you are interested and view it. If you have a large cache, it will take the program a while to put together the list. This program is easy to use.

UnMozify displays the list of domains that you have visited. You can then decide which materials you wish to extract from the cache on a domain-by-domain basis and view those materials. You can further narrow your list by specifying the types of files to list or their age. UnMozify will extract your selected files from the cache, start up Netscape and display a menu of materials that fit your search requirements. This program is more sophistocated than Netscape Cache Explorer and is a more efficient way to hunt for materials if you have a large cache.

Web Travel Tips

There are a number of tools that you can pack to make your voyage more direct.


Bookmarks are address entries stored in a text file that allow you to mark sites so that you can directly return to them at a later date. Bookmarking is the electronic equivalent to marking the pages of a book with sticky tabs.

Netscape provides an easy way to create a bookmark anytime you visit an interesting site. All you have to do is Open the Bookmark menu, and select Add Bookmark. Netscape will automatically enter the URL for the page you are on into the bookmark file, and you don't have to worry about making typos!

To go to a bookmarked site, Open the Bookmark menu, select Go to Bookmarks and the bookmarks window will open displaying your stored bookmarks. If you do a lot of web surfing, your bookmark list will soon be huge, and it will take you almost as long to find your bookmark as to search for the site all over again -- unless you learn to organize your bookmarks. Bookmarks can be stored in folders just like you store information in a filing cabinet.

Try out a Netscape 2.x and 3.x or 4.03 bookmark tutorial.

The Bookmark Window
Netscape Navigator uses a system of icons in the bookmark window. The following is a description of folder icons used by Netscape.

Netscape uses three different icons for your bookmarks:

Organizing Your Bookmarks

Before collecting a bunch of bookmarks, you should think about what types of booksmarks you will probably be saving and what organization of them will work most efficiently for you. Devise a tree structure of categories that makes sense to you. For example, a tree structure might look something like this:

Graphic by Carole Leita
designed for the California State Library InfoPeople Project

Creating Folders
Once you know the categories into which you want divide you bookmarks, you will create folders into which to place your bookmarks.
Creating a folder branching directly off the top level folder
  1. Open the Bookmark window
  2. Click the top level folder with the right mouse button
  3. Choose Insert Folder from the shortcut menu
  4. When the Bookmark Properties window opens, enter a name for the folder in the Name field and a description in the Description field
  5. Click on OK to accept your information and create the new folder
Creating A Subfolder
  1. Open the Bookmark window
  2. Click the folder off of which the subfolder should branch with the right mouse button
  3. Choose Insert Folder from the shortcut menu
  4. When the Bookmark Properties window opens, enter a name for the folder in the Name field and a description in the Description field
  5. Click on OK to accept your information and create the new folder
Moving Bookmarks and Folders
Move a bookmark from one folder to another by selecting the bookmark and dragging it into the new folder.

You also can copy folders, their contents and bookmarks as follows:

  1. click with the right mouse button on the item's name
  2. choose Copy from the shortcut menu
  3. click the folder into which you wish to paste your copied item and choose Paste from the menu

You can cut and delete folders and bookmarks.

NOTE: Any operation you do on a folder is done to everything contained in the folder.

Short-Cut Keystrokes
Ctrl + Bopen Bookmark window
Ctrl + Ccopy item to clipboard
Ctrl + Vpaste item from clipboard
Ctrl + X followed by Delcut and delete

Making Selections
To select a single bookmark or folder click once on the name with the left mouse button.

To select several items which follow one another on the list, click the first one, and then while holding down the Shift key, click the last desired item.

To select several items which are not listed sequentially, click on each item while holding down the Ctrl key.

Clicking on a folder will select all bookmarks in the file (the individual bookmarks will not look as though they have been selected.)

Specifying Where New Bookmarks Should Be Added
By default, Netscape inserts newly added bookmarks at the end of the bookmark list.

To change where newly created bookmarks are stored, click the folder into which you wish to add the new entries with the right mouse button and select the Use For New Bookmarks from the menu. This folder will be where all new entries are made until you choose another folder.

Sorting Bookmarks
Netscape enters the bookmarks into the specified folder in chronological order. If you wish to organize them alphabetically, you can use the Sort feature. Select the folder you wish to reorganize. From the menu, choose Item and then Sort Bookmarks.

If you want a frequently used bookmark to appear at the top of an alphabetical list even if it shouldn't be there, you can move it to the top by renaming the bookmark using a non-letter character, punctuation mark (not hyphen or single quote), or a number as the first character in the name.

Using The What's New? Feature
Netscape has a feature, What's New?, which will allow you to efficiently check bookmarked sites for changes in content.

To use the What's New feature, Open the Bookmark window and select your desired bookmarks. You may select multiple bookmarks, but selecting a folder will not select all of its contents for this feature. Choose File, and What's New?

From the dialog box that appears on the screen, click the Selected Bookmarks radio button, and then click the Start Checking button. As Netscape checks the chosen sites, a progress bar keeps you apprised of the amount of the search that has been completed. At the end of the check, a report is generated showing the number of URLs checked, the number of these to which a connection could be established, and how many sites had changes in content. Clicking on OK will allow you to return to using Netscape.

Using What's New? is a faster way to check sites for changes than doing it manually. However, it does take time so you should only check your entire bookmark list in one search if it is a short list of sites.

Travel History

During your web touring session, you can move back and forth between websites simply by using Netscape's forward and back buttons. However, if you want to return to a site that you used 20 steps ago, how do you get there? You can retrace your steps using the back button, or you can use the History list. As you navigate, Netscape places the URLs for each of the stops you make into a History file. To access the History list, Open the Window menu, and select History and a list of your recently viewed pages will appear. Click on the site to which you wish to return, and click the GoTo button at the bottom of the window. A word of caution, each Netscape window generates its own History list. When you close the browser window, the History list that tracked with it closes with it. If you are using multiple windows, each will maintain its own History list. The entries in a History are saved as temporary files which are not kept from session to session like the items stored in your Cache. The History list is erased at the end of each session.

It's a good idea to take a last look at your History list before closing your browser window and create bookmarks of sites that you might wish to revisit in a future session. To make a bookmark, simply press the Create Bookmark button.

Sometimes when you do your History list review, you may find stops that appear to be missing from the list. This omission will occur if the web page used frames to display its contents. When frames are used on a webpage, the entire page is a called a frameset (master page) which is made up of a collection of frames which each display the page's information. Each frame is its own HTML document with its own URL. The frameset master has a separate URL. Netscape Nagivator will store the URL for the frameset while ignoring the URLs for the individual frames. Also, links that you follow from a frame will not be recorded. To page back through sites you used from a frame, you need to use a different strategy. Click with the right mouse button in the frame and choose Back from the menu until you reach the site of interest. When you are following links from a frame, it is probably a good idea to bookmark any sites you might want to revisit so you can get back to them easily. Do not use the Add Bookmark from the Bookmark menu to do this as it will create a bookmark for the original frameset master! Instead, right-click in the frame and choose Add Bookmark from the shortcut menu.

Another way to retrace your steps quickly is to Open the Go menu and select the site from list on the menu. There is no direct way to make a bookmark from this listing without travelling to the page.

Location/Go To

The Location/Go To box on your browser is the place where you can type in the URL of a site to which you want to travel. Clicking the down arrow at the right side of the box will drop down the list of URLs that you have typed during your surfing session. It does not store the URLs of sites you visit via links from other documents or via bookmarks. When you close Netscape, the last 10 URLs that you typed are stored. These last 10 URLs will be reloaded the next time you start up Netscape. If you don't have a bookmark for a given site but know its URL and know that you have typed it in before, check the Location drop-down list to see if it is still listed. It will save typing time and the frustration of poor typing skills.

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Western Oregon University
Copyright © 1997 Western Oregon University
Direct suggestions, comments, and questions about this page to Arlene Courtney, courtna@wou.edu.
Last Modified January 20, 1999