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Make the most of Communicator


May 15, 1998
Web posted at: 1:46 PM PT

by Paul Heltzel

To get to know Netscape Communicator better, I've collected tips from each of its tools: Navigator, the browser; Conference, the real-time meeting and whiteboarding tool; Collabra, the newsreader; Composer, the Web authoring and e-mail composing tool; Messenger, the e-mail client; and Netcaster, the push component. I'll show you how to get the best from all of them.

Of course, I still flirt with other browsers. Hey, who doesn't? I've also put together tips for running Communicator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer on the same system. They'll help you keep peace on the desktop.

So fire up your browser, slip into something more comfortable, and let's serve up the tips!

Uploading files
If you don't have a dedicated FTP tool handy, you can upload files--including Web pages--with Communicator. You'll need a user name and password to copy files to an FTP site. Once you have the correct user information, enter the following in the Location box: ftp://username@ftp_site (where username is your specific user name). For example, to copy a file to, I would type in the Location box. When prompted, type in your password. Then just drag and drop files from any folder into the browser window to upload them.

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Resume downloads
If your connection drops while you're downloading the latest multimegabyte "service release," Communicator lets you resume downloads from where it left off, (the partially downloaded file is stored in the cache folder). Just click the original link to restart the file transfer from where it dropped.

Sort Bookmarks
Unfortunately, you can't use Communicator 4.0 to sort Bookmarks alphabetically. If you select Bookmarks, Edit Bookmarks, View, you'll see the Sort Ascending and Sort Descending selections are grayed out. According to Netscape, this feature won't be available until the 5.0 browser ships. But there are some third-party good utilities that can sort your bookmarks alphabetically (among other management functions). I recommend Compass, available in FileWorld, PC World's software library.

Bookmarks by proxy
Just to the left of the Location box is the Page Proxy icon, which represents the Web page you're currently viewing (see FIGURE 1). Click and drag the icon to the Bookmarks window or to your Windows 95 desktop to create Bookmarks and Shortcuts (respectively) to pages you often use.

Easy Bookmarks
Add a site to your Bookmarks by dragging a URL from a page to the blue Bookmark Quickfile button (see FIGURE 2). But don't let go of the mouse quite yet. To save an extra step, drop the URL directly into the appropriate folder.

Bookmark your history

The History window is a new Communicator feature that you can reach from the browser by selecting Communicator, History (in the stand-alone version of Navigator, select Window, History). From there you can right-click any of the sites you have visited and select Add to Bookmarks.

Create a Personal Toolbar

If you want a bookmarked site to have special prominence--maybe to encourage little folks around your house to stay away from your regular bookmarks--try saving a page to the Personal Toolbar. First open the page you want to add. Drag the tiny icon next to the word Netsiteto the Personal Toolbar. You can edit the contents of this toolbar by clicking the Bookmarks button and selecting Edit Bookmarks.

Customize Communicator
If you don't want to download the full Communicator suite (10.5 MB), try Communicator's slimmer, stand-alone Navigator sibling (8.25MB). You can reduce the size of either the suite or the stand-alone version by choosing a custom installation and unchecking the Netcaster box.

Give AOL Instant Messenger the Boot
After installing Communicator 4.04, you may find that the AOL Instant Messenger program launches every time you boot your computer. The program isn't located in the Windows Startup folder, however, so here's how to get rid of it. (Caution: This tip involves editing the Registry, so I recommend backing it up first.) Click Start, Run, and type regeditto launch the Registry editor. Then Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER/Software/Microsoft/Windows/Current Version/Run. Click the AOL Instant Messenger entry, then right-click and choose Delete.

Lose the Scrolling JavaScript
Winner of the Most Annoying Web Feature Award is the s-c-r-o-l-l-i-n-g JavaScript in your status bar. To lose the bottom panel altogether, press Ctrl-Alt-S and enjoy the silence.

Let Your Taskbar Run Free
The new Taskbar on the status bar can be undocked and used as a floating palette. Watch out, though, because it tends to get lost behind windows. Click the top far left of the Taskbar to undock it. To bring it back into the fold, click the small X in the right corner or select Communicator, Dock Component Bar.

See More
Do you want to view or display Web pages without distracting toolbars and menus? "Kiosk mode" is particularly handy when you want to prevent computer novices from changing your preferences or going where they're not supposed to. Go to the Navigator Shortcut icon you use for launching the program (whether on the Desktop, in the Start menu, or anywhere), right-click that icon, select Properties, click the Shortcut tab, then add a space and -sk to the end of the path in the Target field, so it'll look something like "C:\Netscape\Communicator\Program\netscape.exe" -sk. When you launch Navigator, you won't see any menus or buttons, so you'll need to be proficient in the keyboard shortcuts I list in the next tip.

Keyboard Shortcuts
While you're in Kiosk mode, you can go to other Web pages by pressing Ctrl-O to run the Open Page dialog box. Press Ctrl-N to run a second browser window.

Hot Shortcut
If you use Navigator 3, you probably know that typing http://in the address field is unnecessary (Navigator fills that in for you), and if you type anysite, you will go to But in Communicator you can also add a path name such as pcworld/newsto go to

Search Keywords From Within Navigator
If Navigator can't find, it goes to a search page on Netscape's site and runs a search on the word. If you type more than one word, such as "rock and hard place," Navigator will automatically go to a search engine and run a query on those keywords. If you have a single-word query, type a space and a period after that word (i.e., dilbert .).

Smarter Back and Forward
If you click and hold the Back or Forward buttons, you get a drop-down list of the sites you've visited since starting the current session.

By typing about:x in the location field, you can bring up useful and not-so-useful information about your browsing habits:

  • about:cachegives a list of all files in the disk cache.
  • about:globallists all the places you've visited and when.
  • about:image-cachelists all image files in the cache.
  • about:memory-cachelists all files in the memory cache.

To see more about the creators of Communicator try "about:" and the following names: ari, atotic, blythe, chouck, dmose, dp, ebina, hagan, jeff, jg, jsw, jwz, karlton, kipp, marca, mlm, montulli, mozilla, mtoy, paquin, robm, sharoni, terry, timm.

Rest Your Mouse
Press Tab to jump between hyperlinks on a page. Shift-Tab takes you backward between links.


More browser tips at PC World

> Composer
> Polish Up Your Pages
> Message Center
> Read Your Messages
> Send E-Mail
> Manage Your Messages
> Conference
> Share Information
> Netcaster
> Surf Without the Wait
> Living With Internet Explorer
> You Don't Have to Choose One

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