Netscape Navigator Tips and Tricks

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If you know exactly what you want from an FTP server, you can get there directly without going through the server itself. Just enter the full directory into the Location box as you would  any URL, for example,

then press Enter. You can include specific file names in the URL as well.


When you go out on the Internet and get files via FTP, you'll probably notice that many files are compressed. We don't need to get into the technical details of file compression, but let's just say it involves some very sophisticated ways to make files as small as possible. What you do need to know, however, is that most compressed files must be decompressed before they're usable. The compressed file is really only good for storage and transferring. The only exceptions are compressed sound and graphic files, which you can hear or see without running a decompression program. Netscape Navigator, in fact, automatically decompresses them. So, in order to decompress files that need it, you must get a compression/decompression program. One of the best is WinZip 6, which you can get by accessing Follow the instructions on the WinZip home page to download a copy. (Note: You can download and try WinZip free of charge. If you decide to keep and use the program, it costs $29. Volume discounts are available.)


FTP sites are like some aging highway systems. They weren't really designed to handle the amount of traffic they currently get. This often results in heavy traffic and, yes, traffic jams. Using FTP actually differs a little from accessing Web sites in this respect. In Web browsing you essentially get on the site, get the information you need, then get off. With FTP, however,
you keep logged onto the FTP server while you scour the directory or download files. Now consider that there may be hundreds or thousands (or more) users who do the same thing at the same time, and you get an idea of how traffic jams up. This usually results in a message from the server that tells you too many users are already connected to the server you want to
connect to. Other times you won't be so lucky, and you simply can't connect, making it seem like Netscape Navigator is doing nothing at all.

There's not much you can do to rectify this other than to try, try again. If you know the site is particularly popular, you may want to try logging on when there are likely to be the fewest number of users (like 3:00 AM local time, say). Saving this, you may find that the FTP server has a "mirror site," which are other FTP servers that contain the same files and directory
structure as the primary site. Many large public FTP servers have mirror sites and give you a list of them when they give you the "busy" message.


File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is a long-standing Internet standard for downloading files. The Internet has scads and scads of servers that allow users to FTP their files, and they all work in roughly the same way. Many, if not most, of these sites allow you to log on as an anonymous user for the express purpose of downloading files. When doing this, you usually log into the FTP site and specify "anonymous" as your user name and your e-mail address as your password. There are, however, sites that are not anonymous. A company, for example, may establish a non-anonymous FTP site for their employees to download work-related files. You need an account and a password to log into these sites. Anyway, when you find a site you can get into, all you have to do is enter the site address in the Location box. One popular FTP site is the SunSITE at the University of North Carolina. To get in here, enter in the Location box. Press Enter and you access a page listing the current directory for the site.


Even though anonymous FTP sites will let you access them without identifying yourself (after all, it's anonymous, right?), it's considered good Netiquette to do just that by using your e-mail address as a password every time it's required. Netscape Navigator allows you to automatically send your e-mail address every time you log on to an anonymous FTP site. To do this, open Netscape and select Options|Network Preferences. Click the Protocols tab, then check the option Send Email Address as Anonymous FTP Password. Click OK to close the box. If you have Netscape Mail configured as your mail client, you're all set. Your e-mail address is already in the Identity of the Mail and News Preferences box.



Once you've located and accessed an FTP site, you've really only completed half the battle. As you've probably discovered, the contents of a site are not always readily apparent. This is because FTP sites are directories of files, sort of like the directories on your computer. And, admit it: you don't know what's in those at a glance either! Anyway, the FTP protocol doesn't have any provision for identifying or describing the files beyond a few details like the size, time, and date. There are two ways that you can attempt to discover the file contents. First, many large and well-established FTP sites also have Web "front-ends." This means that you actually access the site through a Web document that describes the site and its contents. The Netscape site where you download products is such a site. Second, many FTP sites also include information about the available files in a text file. These informational files are usually called ReadMe, Index, or Welcome.TXT. The case may vary! ! between upper and lower, but the names are usually one of these. To get an example of this, enter the address This brings you to the "Welcome" file for an FTP site called Ventana.



Yesterday's tip told you about the informational text files from FTP sites. These can contain some valuable information that you probably would want to save on your hard drive. No problem, just select File|Save As (or press Ctrl+S) and select a directory to save it to. Now you can read the file anytime you want. If you want the ReadMe file bad enough to save it, you'll probably want to bookmark the FTP site as well.



Looking through FTP sites may bring you into contact with a particular document called an RFC or Request for Comment. These are documents put out on public FTP sites that allow users to read and comment on the content of the document. They usually contain very specialized, specific technical information about the Internet. RFC's aren't meant to be light reading, but they can contain interesting and valuable information, particularly if you aspire to true geek-dom. One called RFC 1325 contains all kinds of tips for new Internet users, while another called RFC 1208 contains an extensive glossary of networking terms. If you want more information about RFC's, go to the following FTP sites:

The former has instructions for finding and downloading RFC's, and the latter has short descriptions of all current RFC's.


When you look at various FTP sites, you may notice a curious thing. Although many files are compressed (or zipped), graphic files, such as .GIF's, are not. This is because .GIF and other graphics files are already compressed in their standard format. They have to be because graphic files contain so many repeated bits of information (like background colors), that presenting every pixel in its exact location would result in an enormous file size. GIF files are, in fact, compressed almost as much as they can be, and running a compression program, such as WinZip or PKZIP, on them may actually make them bigger. Why? Rather than squeezing a few more bits of space, the compression program adds information to the file. This is usually information such as how the file was compressed and how to decompress it.


FTP is a terrific way to get files over the Internet. However, there's so much information out there that finding what you need can be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. In other words, you need some good search tools. One of the oldest and best is called Archie, an Internet service that allows you to search the indexes of most files available at anonymous FTP sites. These indexes are kept on special Archie servers around the world. To get to Archie, enter the URL

That'll bring you to the host Archie site. Scroll down until you get to the actual Archie Request Form area that contains the search information. Follow the prompts to initiate a search.


The previous  tip introduced you to the Archie search service for FTP servers. It's a pretty effective search tool, and in most cases you only need to know a part of a file name to search on (in fact, you can even make a reasonable guess as to the characters it contains). Let's say that you want to locate WinZip 6, but can't remember the exact file name. You can make a reasonable guess that "winzip" appears somewhere in the file name, so you can enter this character string and search for that. Archie fills in any gaps.


This page is designed and written by John Jenkins. If there are any questions or other issues about the content, email me, and I will deal with it in a timely manner. If specific help is requested an email address with an or domain is required. As with all programs on the internet, you, the downloader, assumes all risk of file damage or viruses that these or any programs may contain that are received over the internet. Neither CSS, ECS, nor the author will be responsible for any damage done by any program received over the internet. Please note this includes programs that are virus free but may cause problems with other programs on your computer and programs that simply won't run right on a particular machine.