Learn how you can avoid a worldwide wait on the Web





Everybody complains about the molasses-slow Web, even if they just upgraded their
access a few months ago.


No matter how fast the connection is, they soon start to feel restricted again. But
there are remedies.


The most useful time to do this is when you conduct a search and have a list of hits.
Many sites will let you go to a hit and then return to the search results by hitting the
Back button or Alt-Left arrow in Netscape Navigator. But some search engines don’t
allow it. Even the ones that do may be slow to reload the search information because it
isn’t cached locally on your system.


When you run into this, right-click on a link instead of double-clicking. You should
see a dialog box for opening the link in a new window. It works for both Microsoft
Explorer and Netscape Navigator.


To return to the previous Web page, just close the new window or, to refer to it again,
use Alt-Tab to move between browser versions. This amounts to a sort of custom cache where
you keep entire Web screens online—assuming there is memory to spare and the system
isn’t at its limits.


The big advantage is that it doesn’t make any extra Web traffic. In fact, it
reduces Web traffic by eliminating the need to reload pages.


Doing this from browser bookmarks is trickier. In Navigator, you can’t right-click
on a bookmark entry in the first pull-down menu after double-clicking on the Bookmarks
icon. The easiest way for those of us who have bookmarks overflowing the two-column
pull-down screen is to click on the final entry, More Bookmarks, even if the choice
appears in the first screen.


This opens a separate window just for bookmarks where you can right-click to open the
bookmarked site in a new window.


I couldn’t find a way to do this easily in Explorer, which is a good reason to use
Navigator if you are a heavy Web researcher. Do you prefer Navigator for some Web work and
Explorer for others? Just run them simultaneously.


I got mixed results; some pages showed good acceleration and others slowed down a bit.
But overall performance improved significantly, and when I bumped up available cache to
100M, it worked even better.


Unlike the multibrowser sessions described above, which cache only pages you have
already viewed, NetSonic preloads and stores all links on pages you are viewing and keeps
them ready.


On the downside, the software caused me some minor system problems and some trouble
using Yahoo e-mail. Within a few days of installation, I found that even though I shut
down the system correctly, it would give a bad shutdown report at every cold boot, forcing
a long ScanDisk run each time. Normally this happens about two times out of five. When I
deleted NetSonic, the system returned to the normal level.


I still recommend trying this or another browser accelerator. If NetSonic works on your
machine, it’s definitely worth trying for free.


When you try new things, install only one program at a time. Upgrading multiple
programs at once saves time, but if anything goes wrong, you have a hard time pinpointing
the cause.


Another reader disagreed with my earlier suggestion to try Web cache programs. The
reader is right—such programs do increase Web traffic and marginally slow things
down.


But I can’t do anything to convince sites not to overload their Web pages with
complex graphics or to quit using Adobe Acrobat where ASCII would be faster. What I can do
is suggest ways to make the Web work better for readers.  


John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at powerusr@penn.com.

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