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Archive for Tuesday, March 30, 1999

GOING HOME: NO NEED TO BE LIMITED BY BROWSER CONFIGURATIONS

March 30, 1999

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OK, class, it's time for a brief tutorial about your Web browser and its home page. This is going to be pretty basic material, so if you think you already have this stuff figured out, we'll see you next time. But if you've ever wondered why some people's browsers start with different home pages than yours does, this is for you.

First, let's talk about the term "home page." In some cases, this term refers to the starting page of someone's Web site. In other words, you could say that the Microsoft home page is located at www.microsoft.com (that's a URL, which stands for Uniform Resource Locator, which is a way to describe where things are on the World Wide Web). The home page for Kansas University is located at www.ukans.edu, and my personal home page is located at http://lark.cc.ukans.edu/~heacock/.

But the way we're going to use the term today, it refers to the Web page that your Web browser loads when you start it up, or the page that is loaded each time you click your browser's "Home" button. This page is also called the default home page.

If you install Netscape Navigator or Communicator on your machine, when you start it up the first time, chances are the first page it will display is the Netscape home page (http://home.netscape.com), with all sorts of links on it. If you use Microsoft's Internet Explorer, you'll see the page located at http://home.microsoft.com. Both startup pages provide links you can use to search the Web, as well as several links for various topics, such as news, entertainment, sports, shopping and the like.

What actually happens is that when the browser starts, it checks to see what URL has been defined as the default home page (if any), and then it attempts to retrieve that page and display it in your browser's window.

What some people don't understand right away is that you can decide what that default home page will be, and it isn't difficult to change.

If, for example, you really like the Yahoo! index, you can tell your browser to use it as the default home page. If you click on your browser's "Edit" menu and choose "Preferences," you'll go to a window where you can customize how your browser behaves in a variety of ways.

In Netscape Navigator or Communicator, you'll see a scrolling list of preference categories on the left, and if you click "Navigator," the right-hand side of the window will allow you to choose whether Navigator starts up with a blank page, a home page, or the last page you visited. If you click the "Home page" button, you can enter the URL of the page you want to be the default in the "Home page location" box. You can also click the "Use current page" button or the "Choose Local File" button. (The "Choose Local File" option is nice if you know how to create a Web document yourself, but let's talk about that another time.)

If you use Microsoft Internet Explorer, you'll get a very similar Preferences window, but click on "Home/Search" in the scrolling window at the left, then either enter your preferred site's URL in the "Address" box, or click the "Use None" button to start with a blank page, or the "Use Default" button to start with the Microsoft home page.

When you've set things up as you like in either browser's preference window, click the "OK" button to put the preferences window away. Then click on the "Home" button in the tool bar at the top to make sure it works.

Any page on the World Wide Web can potentially serve as your browser's home page, but it is probably smart to choose one that will be a good jumping-off point for browsing.

The point of all this is that even though your browser comes configured with a certain page as the home page, you needn't be limited to that. Some Internet Service Providers distribute copies of Web browsers preconfigured to use the ISP's Web page as the default home page. Now you know how to change it yourself.

At some point you may wish to create your own home page with links to the kinds of things that interest you most, and when you do, you can use it as your browser's default home page.

There's the bell; we'll talk about creating your own home page some other time. Class dismissed.

-- Doug Heacock is executive director of the Kansas Research and Educational Network of Kansas University. You may address questions to him in care of the Lawrence Journal-World, 609 N.H., Lawrence, 66044, or e-mail him at heacock@kanren.net.

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