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The paper route to cyberspace

Jack Kenny picks his way through a pile of Internet introductions and is challenged by a dissenting voice

Some of us take a pride in using a great deal of information technology without using a manual. The Internet is so complex that the use of a good manual is recommended if rapid progress is to be made and all the facilities explored and enjoyed. The main trouble is that Internet development is so swift that the books rapidly date. So the first thing to look for is the date of publication. If it is not 1995, then avoid it.

Many of the recent publications come with a 3.5-inch disc or a CD-Rom. Microsoft Windows 95 Internet Kit (Microsoft Press Pounds 27.99) is aimed at those thinking of using the Microsoft Network. There are tips as well for users who want to use the built-in software to gain access to other on-line services. The book is comprehensive and up to date.

Easy Internet is aimed at the beginner. (Que Pounds 23.49). It was published in 1994 and it shows. Some of the recommendations that it makes will lead you to software that most other people have abandoned.

UK Comms (Bruce Smith Books Pounds 19.95) challenges the American domination of the Internet book market. It is not as attractively produced as most of the competition and is not really for the complete novice. It is, however, comprehensive.

Do not be tempted by the software that comes packaged with the book, it encourages you to access an Internet provider with a system that could put me off the Internet for life.

10-Minute Guide to The Internet (Alpha Books, Pounds 11.99) is compact and precise. It rushes you rapidly through the highways and byways and at the end of it all you should have a good overview of the environment. The 10 minutes referred to is not for the whole book but for each lesson.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Internet for Windows (Que Pounds 19. 95) includes free software that connects to a provider in the USA, so that can be ignored. Despite its title this is not a book for beginners, it even admits this on the back cover. The version of Windows that it refers to is Windows 95.

Using the Internet (Que Pounds 18.99) is so well written and presented that I would recommend it despite the fact that it has a 1994 publication date.

It is not patronising and covers everything that you need to know to make a good start.

There are some books which are aimed at people who do not want to start but to continue. Running A Perfect Website (Que Pounds 37.49) is expensive but it is a fine book. It comes with a CD with some very useful programs and the section on writing your own web pages is particularly good.

Lots of the software is available for downloading on the Internet but here it is all on one CD-Rom disc. The book is essential for anyone who wants to move forward quickly on the PC.

Writing your own pages to go on the World Wide Web is something that people seem to want to do as soon as they have realised the power of the publication medium. The format that the pages are written in is known as HTML. In essence, it is simple but as every month passes new additions are brought into the repertoire of effects that writers can use. Instant HTML Web Pages (ZD Press Pounds 23.49) comes with a CD-Rom which contains software and sample pages.

The Internet International Directory (ZD Press Pounds 32.99) is big. Quite simply it is an introduction to interesting sites on the Internet, grouped under subject headings with a brief introduction for each. A book like this can be justified in that it saves searching time and reveals sites to you that you would not have known existed.

At over 500 pages there is a great deal to look at. All the addresses that I have tried are current. Peruvian literature? The Zagreb Stock Exchange? The Vatican Library? It is all there.

Finally, which to choose? For the beginner I would go for Using the Internet. For the experienced it would have to be Running a Perfect Website.

* Computer Manuals - Stand 278

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