Two books with self-descriptive titles, from Hayden Books (Pounds 44.95 each), are Creating Killer Interactive Web Sites and Secrets of Successful Web Sites. The second is a series of case studies. Neither is suitable for a beginner. The price is a deterrent.
The problem with free software is that there is no free manual. At first it didn't matter, but now the increasing complexity means that it is easy to miss important aspects. Netscape Communicator 4 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 are heavy-duty products. The Big Guide to Netscape Communicator 4 (Sams, Pounds 26.95) is basic but comprehensive. If you have downloaded a copy of Communicator and are wondering what all the extensions are for, this book will tell you. It covers everything from browsing to creating your own pages. The Official Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 Book (Microsoft Press, Pounds 23. 49) is worth reading to get the best out of the browser. If you haven't downloaded it, it's on the CD-Rom that comes with the book. The features are lucidly explained, so you can start using Active Desktop, Net Meeting, Front Page Express, Outlook Express and Net Show with confidence. You'll also be preparing to use parts of the new Microsoft operating system.
A new growth area is digital photography. The equivalent of the dark room is the software you use to manipulate the images that you create. Teach Yourself Digital Photography in 14 Days (Hayden Books, Pounds 36.50) makes the assumption that you have access to Adobe Photoshop; many of the lessons are based around that. More reasonable and more realistic is Paint Shop Pro Web Techniques (New Riders, Pounds 36.99) - a splendid introduction to the sophisticated use of this widely available shareware title. It is one of the best inexpensive programs.
In its sixth edition, The Official Internet Directory (New Riders, Pounds 28.49) dates quickly but you can root out Web sites that you may never find otherwise. This one lists the sites under categories. A CD-Rom is included and you can browse from that, which saves typing in all those boring Web addresses. You only have to find 20 or 30 essential locations and the cost is justified.
The 1998 British edition of The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Internet (Que Series Pounds 19.99) is out. How does it differ from the US version? It mentions Argos rather than K-Mart. This series is more technical than most of the others - not for a beginner.
The main attraction of The Internet for Beginners (Icon Books) is the price, Pounds 8.99. It is one of a series and, like the rest, is printed on poor quality paper. The graphics are uninspired and it is difficult to assess from the text who the writers are aiming at.
Computer Manuals stand 278
SCET stand 164
Selected books reviewed are available from: Computer Manuals, 205 Formans Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham B11 3AX.Tel: 0121-706 6000.