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THE CUTTING EDGE | COMPUTER BASICS / Kim Komando

It's Easier Than You Think to Make Your Own Web Page

September 15, 1997|Kim Komando

If you haven't thought about having your own Web page on the Internet, you ought to. Soon, having a home page is going to be as common as having a fax number.

One of the main concerns that may scare you away from Web publishing is the notion that you need a whiz-bang, pricey 200-megahertz Pentium system just to get started. But equipment requirements really depend on what you want to do and how efficiently you want to do it.

There are several ways you can use your computer for Web publishing. The first is creating the Web pages. HTML (hypertext markup language) is a text-based publishing language that brings Web pages to life. That means that if you're an HTML expert, you can probably produce prolific numbers of Web pages on an old 286 system with DOS-based word-processing software. In fact, although lacking the bells and whistles of today's Microsoft Word, Microsoft Word 4.0 for DOS is one of the fastest of its kind.

But although that old 286 may be fine for whipping out HTML pages, you may run into a problem when you want to view the fruits of your labor. To view a Web page, you need a Web browser. Both of the major ones, Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer, offer versions that cover operating systems back to Windows 3.1, but no further. Technically you can run Windows 3.1 on a 286-based system, but if you're interested in being productive, I don't recommend it.

To view the pages you create, you need a system that can run at least Windows 3.1 without blowing a gasket. On the Mac side, you can't get by with anything less than a Quadra-level (68040-based) system. Again, you can probably crawl along with an older system, but you'll no doubt regret it.

When you transfer your completed Web pages to your Internet service provider, your ISP keeps your files on a special computer called a Web server. This server connects directly to the Internet via one or more high-speed telephone lines and runs specific software that enables people around the world to browse your Web pages. No matter what kind of computer you decide on, you need a way to connect to the Internet and get your Web page from your computer to the Web server. For most people, that means using a modem.

If you don't want to take any risks about which standard is going to come out on top, you're best off with a 33.6-kilobyte modem. But there are a couple of other ways to get connected. One that you may have heard of is ISDN, which stands for integrated services digital network. Don't bother. ISDN equipment is expensive, service is expensive, and it's still a hassle to set up. Cable modems show promise, but the service areas are limited.

You may be tempted to purchase a Web publishing program such as Adobe PageMill or Microsoft Front Page to make pages. With these programs, you can create very attractive and robust Web pages without knowing a single speck of HTML code. How? The programs use a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) approach. You concentrate on making the page look the way you want it to, and the program generates the HTML code necessary to make it so. But a good old text editor or word processor can do the job too. Windows Wordpad or even Notepad can fill the bill here if necessary.

On the Mac side, you can use a program as simple as SimpleText. The only real problem with these kinds of programs is efficiency; the free editors that come with your computer lack the extra automation features that help you become a truly prolific Web creator.

I'm talking about features such as spell-checking, sophisticated search-and-replace functions--that sort of thing. You can get by without any of those features, but efficiency is a wonderful thing. My recommendation is that you at least use a recent version of a reasonably good word processor. Of course, the first one that comes to mind is Microsoft Word, followed by WordPerfect, but others can serve you just as well.

After you decide on a program to help you create your Web pages, you need another program to help you view your finished product (and everything else on the Web, for that matter). The program I'm talking about is the aforementioned browser.

Just as with most types of software, there are two major contenders in the browser arena: Netscape's Navigator-Communicator, which holds a larger share of the market, and Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which continues to make steady gains. Internet Explorer's progress is due in no small part to the fact that the browser is 100% free to the entire world and that you have to shell out money for Netscape's product.

Which browser should you use? I recommend that you try both and see which one suits your fancy.

Kim Komando is a TV host, syndicated talk radio host, author and online entrepreneur. You can visit Komando on the Internet at http://www.komando.com or e-mail her at komando@komando.com

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