Article by Kevin Savetz

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Copyright © by Kevin Savetz


When was the last time you burst, "I didn't know my browser could do that!"? Well, I don't know either, but with any luck, the next time will be about ten seconds from now, as we explore five off-the-beaten-track Netscape tricks.

The Lazy Man's URL

Geez, I thought the Web was supposed to be a point-and-click experience. You'd think that Doug Engelbart never invented the mouse, considering the amount of URL-typing that we must endure just to jump to a particular site. All that hunting and pecking, what a drag. If you're a lazy typist like me, this little trick will save you a few keystrokes: If you type an incomplete URL, Navigator will do its level best to figure out what you're really looking for.

If you simply type "browserwars" in the Location field, the browser will punt you to http://www.browserwars.com. This trick only works for sites whose names start with www. and end with .com, but hey, that's the majority of them. A further trick: you can type the path to the file you want, too -- entering "savetz/fridge" will zip you to http://www.savetz.com/fridge/, for instance.

Password Master

If you regularly access a web site that requires you to log in by entering your username and password, you know that after the 50th or 60th time, this exercise begins to wear on the nerves. Try this: type the URL of the secure site in this format: http://username:password@www.whereever.com -- notice the colon between the username and password, and don't be put off by the @ symbol.

This should log you in and display the page in one fell swoop, avoiding that obnoxious security dialog box. Before you call in the dancing girls, know that this feature is a mixed blessing. The good news: you can add your username:password@ URL to your bookmarks, so you'll never have to type your login data again. The bad news: once you've done this, anyone who sits down at your computer and pokes through your bookmarks can access the site, masquerading as you, without your consent. Further, your username and password will be shown in the Location field until you leave the site, visible to anyone who happens to glance at your screen.

Return to Sender

How many times have you used e-mail to point out a web page to a colleague? Sure, you can copy the URL to the clipboard, start composing a new message and e-mail the URL to your buddy, but that's inelegant. An oft-overlooked feature is Communicator's Send Page (or Send Frame, depending on what you're looking at) command, under the File menu. Use it to send the contents of a web page via e-mail.

You can send the page as text or HTML (or both.) If your colleague uses Netscape or another HTML-savvy mailer, he'll be able to see the page in all its glory, graphics and all. (To save time, Netscape doesn't actually send the graphics, just carefully modified HTML code that points back to the graphics on the Web.) On the other hand, if you send the page as HTML but the recipient doesn't use an HTML mailer, he'll just see a big mess, and you'll surely be off his Christmas list forever.

A word of warning: Send Page works beautifully in Communicator, but your mileage may vary if you try it with Navigator. You have been warned.

Time to Cache In

Wondering what's in your browser cache? Enter the pseudo-URL "about:cache" in the Open Location field to find out. This will cause Netscape to display statistics about your disk cache (including its maximum size, current size, average size and number of files) as well as a list of items in the cache. Be patient, it can take a while for the program to sort though the cache before presenting this information.

There's more cache fun if you can stand it. Enter "about:image-cache" to see what images are in the cache, and "about:memory-cache" to see only the items that are currently cached in RAM. Finally, "about:global" could show you a list of all the sites you've visited lately. (Or, it could crash your machine like it did mine.)

Easter Parade

Navigator and Communicator are rife with "Easter eggs," little tidbits that the programmers have hidden inside. None of them are useful, but it can be fun to get a peek at what's hiding in your favorite browser. For instance, typing "about:mozilla" will reveal a funky page -- this particular hack's actually been around since the early versions of Navigator.

Several web pages, obviously created by people with far too much time on their hands, are dedicated to tracking Easter eggs in Netscape's programs: http://wwwcn.cern.ch/~rigaut/about.html, http://www.secureforms.com/mozilla/, and http://www.yikes.com/netscape/ are among the best. Not all of the eggs that you'll find at those sites will work with your browser -- many of the tricks that worked with earlier versions have mysteriously disappeared in versions 4 of Navigator and Communicator. That's probably for the best -- these browsers already take far too long to download. Although they're fun, those useless Easter eggs do little more than hog valuable memory and disk space.


Articles by Kevin Savetz