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Ten Tips for Working Faster on the Web: Part One

By Rita Vine

Do you get annoyed and anxious waiting for pages to load in your browser? Do you endlessly fiddle with mountains of E-mail in your in-box, only to find that you missed a deadline because an important message has trickled down to the bottom of your list? Do you spend inordinate amounts of time trying to pull together documents, data, presentations and web site information from many different folders on your computer? Do you feel like you're working slower and less efficiently now than you were before you had a computer and Internet access?

If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, you're probably like many active Internet users who are struggling to effectively manage increasing amounts of E-mail and information retrieved from Web sites. Recent studies indicate that the average Internet-enabled worker in Canada spends over 7 hours a week online.

Here are some tips for saving time and ensuring that Internet work time is more productive and efficient.

Set up a default home page in your browser for your favorite search engine or subject catalogue. Do you usually begin your search with a search engine or subject catalogue? If you're like most web users, you probably start with your favorite search tool every time. Why not set it as your default home page so that you don't have to type the Web address into the location bar every time you want to use it? In Netscape use the PREFERENCES feature and in Internet Explorer use the OPTIONS menu item to make a favourite tool your default Web page. Then each time you launch your Web browser it will load as the default home page and a quick click on the HOME button will return you to it for your next search.

Invest in software to help manage large numbers of URLs. Netscape Bookmarks and Internet Explorer Favorites are great tools for collecting small numbers of Web addresses, but they lack important searching features, are cumbersome to annotate, and are annoyingly difficult to import into other programs like Microsoft Word.

Several shareware products have been developed to help Internet power users organize, manage, and annotate large numbers of URLs. I use Kaylon's Powermarks
[], a great shareware program that allows you to fetch Web site meta-information including meta- tagged descriptions and keywords. You can import Bookmarks and Favorites into Powermarks, and the software allows you to create instant lists of Web addresses for importing into other documents. You can download a fully-enabled trial version of the software from the Kaylon Web site.

Buy a copy of Adobe Acrobat to create instant Web-enabled copies of your library brochures, user aids and handouts. You probably already have the free Acrobat Reader, which enables you to read Adobe PDF-formatted documents available on the Web. If you want to create your own Acrobat documents, you need to purchase a copy of Adobe Acrobat. The software is available at most large computer software retailers, or at the Adobe web site []. "Street prices" are almost always lower than the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price, so shop around.

When installed (the installation is easy), Acrobat acts as a super-duper print driver, enabling you to instantly create PDF documents from existing word processed documents and other desktop publishing applications. With a little extra work, you can index your Acrobat documents to include a table of contents, so that the reader can jump between sections easily. As an example, check out the Gerstein Science Information Centre's PDF version of our Faculty Handbook at We indexed the document and also created instant Web links for all the URLs, so you can jump directly from the PDF document to the Web site.

Why create PDF documents? Well, you can quickly mount a PDF file on your library Web site without having to convert the document to HTML, which can be a time consuming and tedious task. You can also attach PDF documents to your email message; they are much smaller than equivalent Word documents and their format cannot be easily altered by a user. Therefore they are a better option for transmitting information that should appear as it was formatted.

Learn to use your right mouse button when browsing the Web. Depending where on the screen you click when using a browser, a click of the right mouse button will display a context-sensitive menu of choices. You will see navigation options, shortcut creation options, bookmarking options and more. For example, you can save valuable seconds by using the BACK option in the right mouse button menu rather than sliding your mouse up to the BACK button in the browser toolbar. Sound like nitpicking? Add up all the times you click on that BACK button and watch your efficiency improve - and your wrists will feel better too!

Learn to use Windows really, REAAALLLY well. As a trainer of librarians, I'm always surprised to see how little many of my students know about valuable Windows shortcuts, auto-minimizing of multiple windows, and the CUT, COPY, and PASTE commands that can be used both within and between Windows applications. Even fewer know about the incredible power of dragging and dropping, and the difference between doing it with your left and right mouse buttons! Almost no one uses keyboard shortcuts, which can save valuable time, over mouse-driven pointing and clicking.

Take a tip: Click on the START button at the bottom left corner of your Windows 95, 98 or NT 4.0 screen, select HELP, then click on the INDEX tab, and type the word tips in the box. You'll see a list of valuable tips for Windows. Read all of them and try them out. You'll learn tricks that you probably never knew, and you'll be well on your way to working faster and more confidently.

Rita Vine is Vice President of IMR Internet Training (, a Toronto firm which teaches practical and strategic Internet skills to knowledge professionals. She can be reached at 416-928-1405 or by E-mail:

See also:
Ten Tips for Working Faster on the Internet: Part Two
Managing Millions of Messages
Caveat Surfer: Beware When Using Electronic Communication
How Sources magnifies your Internet visibility