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Building a Web page is both entertaining, educational

Sept. 8, 1996


So you say you want a your own home page on the Web?

Well despite all that you may have heard, it really isn't that difficult to create your own presence on the Web.

Why create a Web page?

If you're connected to a business, you might want to use it to promote what you buy, sell or trade. Think of the World Wide Web as another advertising medium -- one that gives you the opportunity to have potential customers interact and respond to what you've created.

If you provide a service, you might want to promote what you do. Some Web sites also double as links to provide more information about products, or even offer preliminary help and answer frequently asked questions.

Or create a personal Web site of your own. These most often are the least expensive (ISPs usually charge more for business Web pages), and depending on the provider, there may be some limitations on what you can do (no advertising, etc.).

However, a personal Web page can provide lots of satisfaction. Learning the ins and outs of HTML won't generate much excitement at the next ice cream social you attend (unless you hang out with some Web-savvy friends), but there's a certain satisfaction with simply mastering a new talent.

Personal pages on the Web are as varied as the people who create them. Sites devoted to science, music, television, genealogy, kids, crime, culture -- you name it, there's a site for it.

My own Web site -- dubbed Typo -- began as a personal home page that would be both a starting point for surfing the Web, and a collection of resources for other journalists.

In reality, Typo is some of both, and it has evolved to become an archive for my columns that appear in The News-Enterprise.

I also have thrown in some of the less commonly used links -- including ones to all the major and minor search engines, my favorite on-line newspapers and of course, my favorite rock band, the Beach Boys.

I like to think of creating Web pages as electronic publishing -- to a worldwide audience. There's no printing costs, no mailing or delivery fees to pay.

HTML PRIMER. Hypertext Markup Language -- also known as HTML -- is the language of the World Wide Web. It isn't a language that's spoken, its a set of embedded commands called ``tags'' that tell the Web browsing software how to display the text that accompanies it.

I may be showing my age, but if you remember the early days of computing you may recall word processors that used embedded tag-like commands to make the document's text bold or change the alignment. HTML is similar in its use of commands, only the browser interprets these and displays the text on the user's computer screen.

Invest in a good HTML manual, which can be found at most bookstores. Examine the date of publication and don't make the same mistake I made once by buying a very outdated book off the sale rack.

Using HTML isn't difficult; a simple text editor is all it takes to get started. If you have a word processor that can save files as plain text files, you may want to use that. For more serious page creators, there are a plethora of HTML editors available to speed page creating and editing.

I use Hot Dog Professional (by Sausage Software at http://www.sausage.com/) for editing chores on my PC. It isn't the newest package available, but it works for me. Fortunately, for the newcomer to Web page design, most HTML editors (including Hot Dog Pro) are available for downloading free of charge via the Internet.

And better yet, creating Web pages is becoming easier with the release of newer what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) HTML editors, like Microsoft's new FrontPage. Point your Web browser to http://www.microsoft.com/ for details.

HELP ONLINE. There are a number of on-line resources available to new HTML authors, and you'll find these very helpful in your quest to create Web pages.

  • How Do They Do That With HTML? is a site I keep handy, and can be found at http://www.nashville.net/~carl/htmlguide/.

    It offers tutorials on working with HTML, how to make those cool and trendy animated GIFs, adding a counter to your page and more.

  • Frames are a design tool that has surged in popularity (I succumbed to them long ago with my own Web site). These independently scrollable windows are cool, but creating them can be troublesome.

    For a guide to proper use and deployment of them, visit the Netscape Frames site at http://sharky.nomius.com/frames/menu.htm.

  • Netscape's home page is an excellent source for HTML tips and tutorials.

    In addition to regular HTML, you'll find information on the many Netscape-specific HTML extensions -- formatting commands that give you extra design tools to work with.

  • And don't overlook one of the best learning tools for design -- bookmark and closely examine Web pages you like. Nearly all Web browsers have an option that allows you to view the HTML coding, which can provide you a look at someone else's work.

High-traffic sites like the Discovery Channel's excellent site, at http://www.discovery.com/, are an excellent place to examine top-notch Web page design.

Check with your ISP before you start building your Web site for details on how to upload them once you're done.

TEACHING KIDS ABOUT THE NET. Parents who have children that may soon be using the Internet may find a new book release of interest.

The book, ``DotComKids: The Search for the Missing Keys'' is a childrens' book that aims to give a guided tour of the Internet.

Author Daniel J. Porter has written a tale of intrigue and suspense, woven into a storyline that includes proper family computer usage.

The story follows a set of twins as they complete a social studies assignment. The pair uncover a mystery, and use on-line resources to help solve it.

The book is the first installment of a DotComKids trilogy published by TAPP Creative Productions.

A Web site and teacher's guide are being developed for use with the series.

USE THEM OR ... If you've ever moved your computer from one location to another, you've had to handle the task of removing and replacing all the necessary cables.

And if you move your computer often (as I have lately) you may neglect to tighten those little attachment screws that are placed on both sides of most connecting cable ends.

Don't tempt fate by leaving them loose (as I did) or you may invite disaster (as I also did).

My computer's video cable came unplugged from its connector this week, and in the process of moving things around, it shorted the video port on my computer, blowing apart an IC chip on the combination motherboard and video controller.

My advice now? Tighten those screws up -- they're there for a reason!

TYPO NOTE. Radcliff resident Jack Jones called recently to report trouble getting access to my Web site.

Apparently people are being confused by the tilde character in the URL address.

The tilde has been described as an ``s'' on its side; it's the squiggly line that is used over some letters in Spanish to denote a certain sound. And it's often found in the URL addresses for personal home pages.

To visit Typo, replace ``(tilde)'' with the keyboard character; you it should work fine then.

The tilde character can be found often on the key located just left of the ``1'' number key. I've also seen it near the ``Enter'' key.

See you on the Net!

Comments and questions about this column may be sent to jbrooks@myoldkentuckyhome.com, or visit www.myoldkentuckyhome.com on the World Wide Web.

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