If you are a beginner you might find it easier to start with instructions about using Windows itself. Although, as you have now got this far you may prefer to start right here.
The internet is simply one huge library. It can tell you about the weather; today's or yesterday's news; statistics on whatever topic; world gossip; and is an unlimited encyclopaedia for free. All the information is stored on interconnected servers. Individuals and businesses can rent space on these servers along with a "domain name" - the basic name of the site (mine is " nobbysplace.com "). All the information within that domain is stored on a series of "pages" or files each of which has its own address. The links on the left of my page all take you to different “pages” stored on my site. Each page has a specific, unique address, but all based on my primary Domain Name. Each site is password protected and the owner can put on the site any information at all (which others can view but cannot alter).
No one person or corporation owns or controls the internet. It is simply a network of networks that uses a common set of rules and protocols to link together. There are several groups which oversee and standardise what happens on the Internet, and assign domain names and "IP addresses" (numerical identifiers of every PC on the Internet). Some of these organisations are the National Science Foundation, the Internet Engineering Task Force, ICANN, InterNIC and the Internet Architecture Board. Most of these were created and are controlled by USA interests.
Browser back to top
In order to use the internet you need a program called a "browser" that can "read" or display all the possible pages and services. The one with the lion's share was Internet Explorer (formerly IE6, but now up to IE11); in Windows 10, Microsoft has replaced IE with “Edge” which is starting to catch up to the standard of the others. These others are in general far superior to M$oft. The best known browsers are:
Chrome (made by Google)
Also, Safari from Apple is available for Windows.
"There are great free alternatives that work well, offer more security than Internet Explorer and have some cool features." said Nigel Powell of the Sunday Times,
(back in July 2005!).
In recent years, Mozilla was consistently rated the best.
A more recent option is Google Chrome which so far is the fastest browser I have seen.
I now think that it is also the best – by a long shot. Firefox is still good but lacks some of the ease-of-use facilities in Chrome. Chrome is now my default browser. All the private browsers are far less susceptible to security breaches than IE. You can install all the browsers on your computer at the same time if you wish, but it is necessary to choose one as your "default" browser. "Default", in computer language, means the program (or font or style) which will be used if nothing else is specified All of these browsers can be downloaded (explained below) for free and installed on your PC.
Start Page back to top
Now that you have a browser you need to have a "start page" and a good search engine (explained below) .
You can also have a “home page” which is a page you set as your default for when you want to get out of other sites. Most commercial sites nominate their “home” page as the initial page of their site.
The “start” page is the one your browser displays when it first opens. Many times the browser will initially default to "ninemsn" or some other unwanted page which is filled with ads. Since I am always using the internet to find information, I prefer to have a good search engine as my Start page. The best search engine, I believed, was Google which had less ads, was unbiased, quick and reliable. I subsequently found out that Google is not the benevolent helper I thought it was. It garners information about us, retains it for decades and makes it available to other organisations. For a while I used Yippee, then "Scroogle" (which was killed by forces unknown), then various others including “Startpage”; but I have now returned to Google, despite its intrusive info-gathering. There are other specialised search engines available but you can investigate them further when you have more knowledge and experience.
StartPage is a search engine which uses Google's resources but does not track your searches. You can set Google or StartPage or any other site as your “start” page and/or your “home” page.
To make Startpage your home page do the following:
click in the address line at the top of a new tab/page. The line goes blue.
2. type the words 'startpage.com' in lower case with no quotes
3. hit "ENTER" and the Startpage page opens
Depending on your browser, go to Settings /Internet options/homepage and in the "dialog box" which opens there is a section dealing with "home page"
5. click on the button which says "use current"
6. click "OK"
Search back to top
amended ( 2 Dec 2005 ) this section and the previous one after learning some new facts about Google. It is not the honest, open search engine we all believed. There used to be a site which kept tabs on Google, but it seems to have disappeared. Then, there was a YouTube video Google-Snooping which also has now been terminated. Google is (in my opinion) probably part of the Big-Brother spy network, linked to the CIA, NSA and others. Its primary aim is to make lots of money. The secondary one is to have lots of power and this means trying to control our lives by having every facet of what we do recorded and logged. It may also want to limit what information we are able to access - also part of the power ploy. Google tracks every page you ever visit linking it to your name with the time and date. This information is held permanently and can be made available to anyone that Google chooses .
A search engine is a program designed to find information on the internet. The program runs from its own server and looks for web pages that contain the data you typed in the search line. It then displays the results on your screen as a list of sites. The picture below shows my screen after I searched for "browsers compared" in Google. The second picture is the same search via
There are several things to learn from the pictures : the results in the list all have a line of blue text at the top, then some black text, then some green text. The blue text is a "link", which means if you move your mouse cursor over the text the cursor changes to a white hand, and you can click on the link to be 'teleported' to that address. After you have clicked on a link it usually changes colour to a deep purple. The black text shows the context of where your search text appears, and the green text is the full address of the link. A web address is called a URL and it is that long name in the address bar which usually starts with "http://www". URL's are always written in lower case and may not have any spaces in them. Generally it is not wise to try to type a complete URL as it is too easy to mistype one character; most people prefer to copy and paste. Of course when using a search engine the results are always links which means you don't have to worry about getting the URL correct.
You will also notice in the Google picture that the second item is indented which means it is a secondary page on the same site as the one above it. It may be relevant but is less likely to be.
One strong suggestion I make is: whenever you get a search results page, make sure that you right-click the link and choose “New Tab”; or hold the CTRL key while you click the link.
This ensures that the link opens in a new Tab, so that you do not lose the list of search results
When you are doing a search for any topic at all, keep the search text simple; avoid using"a", "of", "the", "in", "at", etc. For example if you wanted to find "which is the most expensive hotel in New York" you would type something like "hotel most expensive new york" (search text is not case sensitive).
A few years ago you could get a mixed bag of results focusing on just some of the search words. But nowadays the search engines tend to give very good results using all the text. If you want to find an exact text then you can put double quotes around any text which must stay together.
So we can narrow our search if we type "most expensive hotel" "new york".
This reduces the results from 42,000,000 to 200,000. To further refine the search we can put a "+" sign in front of each word or group of words that must appear in the results (the first word is included automatically). This is seldom necessary but can be of use in special cases.
Another fairly obvious point is that your search should not be too general. A search for "horses" yields about 45,000,000 results. It would be more sensible to include other words such 'racing', or 'paint', or 'purebred' etc. to get a more relevant result.
Sometimes (but not always) you get better results if you put the main word first; so you could try
'horses +paint' rather than 'paint horses'.
Addresses back to top
When you wish to re-visit a site you have seen before (but it is not a Favorite)
there is a quick way to find it. Just start to type the first few letters in the Address line and the browser will display a list of all recent sites with those letters in the name
Scroll down to the desired result and click it. Do not simply hit “Enter” when you see the site you want.
If you do a clean-up of cookies and "Temporary Internet Files" this may remove
from the list some of the sites recently visited
One other little tip for typing addresses in the Address Bar: if the site is a dot.com, you can simply type the main word of the address and hit CTRL+ENTER - as we did above in going to the Google site. This will add the "http://www. com". You could type "hotmail" or "coca-cola" or "qantas" or "bigpond" and this would work. But note,
this only works for sites of the form www.name.com, not for name.com.au nor name.net nor anything else.
Toolbars back to top
The next thing I wish to mention is toolbars and the buttons on them.
Chrome only has a Bookmarks-Bar; plus it always
displays the forward/back buttons and Refresh. The “Home” button is optional. If your browser offers a toolbar with multiple icons on it, consider disabling it. Toolbars are meant to be a help so they are best kept simple and tidy. Furthermore, the screen is meant to display the information we have been seeking - it is a waste of space if it is crammed with three or four rows of useless toolbars. So I recommend that you clean things up a bit if it is too crowded. Remove unwanted toolbars, and remove unwanted icons from any toolbar that displays them.
If you wish to remove buttons then you right click on the toolbar area and select "customise". This opens a 'dialogue box' where you can add or remove buttons. The buttons for 'edit', 'history', 'print', 'search', 'discuss', 'favorites', 'mail', and 'cut-copy-paste' are all unnecessary in my opinion .
If you wish to remove buttons then you right click on the toolbar area and select "customise". This opens a 'dialogue box' where you can add or remove buttons. The buttons for 'edit', 'history', 'print', 'search', 'discuss', 'favorites', 'mail', and 'cut-copy-paste' are all unnecessary in my opinion. By removing them you have room to move the Address Bar up alongside the other buttons thus giving you more screen space. To move the bar simply pause the mouse cursor over the far left end of the Address bar; the cursor becomes a four-headed arrow; then click-drag the bar to its new location.
I never edit, search, discuss, or send mail from an internet page and I don't need a button to be able to copy or paste. If I want the history I press "CTRL+H". If you want to "refresh" any page simply press the F5 key. If you click on the button for Favorites it opens a pane on the left of the screen which stays there using screen space. So I never use it: if I want my Favorites I click on the menu item. To add a page to your favorites, simply press "CTRL+D" while you are viewing the page. (Favorites in Mozilla are called "Bookmarks"). Within Favorites you can create folders which allow you to group common links. You can drag a link in favorites to any position or folder within the list simply by click-dragging.
Mozilla has its own toolbar where you can place common links. Similar toolbars can be created in other browsers.
If you wish to print some information from a web page I recommend that you copy the relevent portions to a Word document and "massage" it before printing. This allows you to eliminate ads, change the font size/colour and print only the text you need. To copy, you first "select" the information by dragging the cursor over it, then press "CTRL+C". Open the Word program and paste by pressing "CTRL+V". If the amount of text is large, it is easy to "select" it by dragging the cursor over the first few words, then scroll down to the end, and while pressing the SHFT key click at the end of the text. The whole lot goes blue, meaning it is selected.
Dangers back to top
Are there any dangers in using the internet? Yes. But they can all be controlled if you take sensible steps. The primary danger is that while you are connected to the internet, hackers and other unwanted intruders can enter your PC and copy, delete or change information on your HDD (Hard Drive). Most frequently this intrusion would be by persons wishing to know your browsing or purchasing habits so as to target you for advertisements. The way to prevent intrusion is to have a "firewall" which is a program that prevents entrance or exit without your permission.
All Windows versions have their own firewall
but you can also purchase programs or download free ones such as "Zone Alarm".
The second possible danger is from little programs which install themselves on your PC without your permission either when you download something or while you are viewing a website. They are mainly for sending information back to advertising companies on your computer habits and preferences or they could constantly open a "pop-up" ad on your screen. They are called spyware or mal-ware.
It can be difficult to block these programs but they are easily controlled by installing anti-spy and anti-ad programs which find and eliminate them. The best free program is Malwarebytes. Also, most browsers have an option in Settings that blocks pop-ups. Run Malwarebytes manually every week or so. Any files which it finds may be deleted without worries. You also need to regularly update their list of "spy files"; this is done from within the program itself and is free and simple to do.
Cookies back to top
However, it is probably wise to clean out your cookies on a regular basis.
In IE: go to Tools /Internet options/GeneralTab/delete-cookies; in Chrome, go to Settings/Advanced/ContentSettings IE also keeps “Temporary Internet Files” which are "cached" , which means the PC keeps a "copy" of pages you have visited so it can load them more quickly next time you visit. Once when I forgot to clean my system I discovered I had nearly 40,000 such files stored and of course this was slowing my system down.
Downloads back to top
I have mentioned several times about "downloading" things. This means that a file is stored on a server on the internet and you want to get it to your computer. So you "download" it and save it to some location. I recommend that you create a folder called "downloads" - if one does not already exist.
Vista and Win7 already have such a folder.
The download file might be a small program like "Malwarebytes" or a music file or a form from a government office. In Firefox and Chrome the download location is set by you at installation. In IE you are asked for the location each time you download. In any case, get used to using one special folder and know where it is. The picture below shows the IE box. In IE always choose "save" (not "run"), this will then open the standard "Save As" dialogue box for you to choose the location.
Many times when you click to download a file you will be taken to a page with multiple sites and you have to select a site. Sometimes they are called "mirror" sites. They are used because there are so many downloads from that source that one server could not cope; so they put copies on servers all around the world and you can choose one close to you. It doesn't really matter which one you choose (except when you get a foreign language site where you can't read the instructions).
Beware of downloading lots of "free" programs or toolbars. Generally, if the originator is a company, then they will have a "hook" in the free item - such as lots of ads, or even spyware included. The programs I have mentioned above as being suitable to download, all have commercial, "professional" versions available, which are more powerful then the free version and they will encourage you to buy them - it is up to you to succumb or not. However, there are many toolbars and gimmicky programs available (such as ones with Smiley faces) that encourage you to install but they all have many ads or some similar hook. Install them at your own risk!!
Sometimes you will get a large "pop-up" window which opens on your screen saying "your computer is at risk ....Let us do a free check ....". That does NOT mean you have been infected with the plague. It is simply an ad - which works on your fear.
It may even contain a virus if you download it.
Ignore it, close it, delete it or whatever. But don't feel you must obey its orders. Treat it like the bell on the ice-cream truck that passes your house: you don't have to buy!
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