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Fact Sheets

 

Fact Sheet 5: Finding information

If you want to find something on the Internet, you need a search engine. Three of the most popular are Yahoo (http://www.yahoo.com), AltaVista (www.altavista.com) and Ask Jeeves (http://www.askjeeves.com). Yahoo has a UK-specific site at (www.yahoo.co.uk), as does AltaVista (http://www.altavista.co.uk). These typify the main approaches taken by different sites: categorisation of sites into lists which they think will interest you (Yahoo), just presenting you with giant lists of every single page which mentions the word(s) you're looking for (AltaVista) and searching lots of other web search engines and categorising the results (Ask Jeeves).

Yahoo is useful if you're looking for, say, sites which will tell you what the weather's like in New York. Just type 'weather' into the search box and it'll present you with a list of sites like The Weather Channel. Click on the entry and you'll be taken straight to the site.

AltaVista is better if you want to find documents discussing global warming. Type 'global warming' into the search box and you'll be presented with the first 20 pages it knows about where those words occur. Enclose them in inverted commas and it'll only return a list of those pages where the words occur next to each other. You also get a short extract of the first few lines of the relevant page, so you can judge if it fits your criteria.

Ask Jeeves tries to present a human face by allowing you to ask questions in English and trying to present them in the same way. However, it can be limiting sometimes since companies can pay to have more prominent listings.

There are also a few search engines now devoted to helping you find individuals on the Internet. Four11 (http://www.four11.com) both allows individuals to register their details with it and also scours places like newsgroups for your e-mail address.

Downloading files is usually done using a protocol called ftp (file transfer protocol). You can, if you're using it a lot, use a dedicated programme like Cuteftp (available from http://www.shareware.com), but for general use a world wide web browser like Netscape or Internet Explorer will do the job just fine. If you have a file which you want to download, click on the highlighted name and a dialog box will pop up asking if you want to open or save it. Choose save, and make sure you put it somewhere you can find it again - the desktop is an ideal temporary storage place. You can short-circuit the process a little by (under Windows 95) right-clicking on the name, or with a Macintosh clicking and holding your mouse button down. The dialog box will pop up a little quicker. You can also save whole pages (just click on File/Save) or individual pictures (right click for Windows, click and hold for Macs) and choosing the Save Picture option.

Some files need to be unzipped after downloading. Use a programme like Winzip or PKUnzip, both available from http://www.shareware.com. Once you've downloaded the file, open up Winzip and then choose File/Open and type in the name and location of the file you need to unzip.