Power User: Search, drag, back up. Organize your favorites

John McCormick

If you do online research, your Favorites list is probably as long and disorganized as mine. Microsoft Internet Explorer has no good way to manage favorite links or find specific ones.

You can drag items around on the Favorites list, but then you have slo-o-ow scrolling and a view of only a few links at a time. Such primitive tools get old. Here are several better search strategies.

First, back up your Favorites list. Backup should be routine for every user anyhow.

In Internet Explorer, pull down the File menu and choose the Import and Export utility that walks you through making an HTML version of your Favorites list.

Open it in a text editor. Microsoft FrontPage has a good basic HTML editor that I use. Reorganize the list to your liking, then reimport it into Explorer or, because the Favorites list isn't particularly handy as is, save the list to your hard drive.

You can block-copy some or all of your Favorites from FrontPage, then paste them into a Word document and surf right from Word. If you have extensive Favorites lists covering research on many topics, you might want to save a Word document for each topic area. If you check the same list of sites regularly, automate page loading with a Word macro to autoload as many uniform resource locators as you want.

Although the Favorites list is the usual way to manage links, don't neglect Explorer's Links button. If you maximize the working space on your browser, this toolbar might not display, but it's on the View menu.

Most users go to the same sites often, so it makes sense to have a one-click button for them. That's what Explorer's Links button does.

A simple way to load and edit Links is with the Organize Favorites tool. Rearrange or add favorites in the Links folder, and they will appear in the Links toolbar at the top of your Explorer window.

To add sites directly from the address field, drag the 'e' icon from the front of an http:// address to the Links bar.

Want even more control? Right-click on any Link and you can rename it and alter synchronization schedules.

Advanced users will want to check out Properties. When you make a page available offline, you get even more options, including a way to be notified by e-mail when a page changes.

Don't make a fresh search every time for a page you view several times over days or weeks. Create a new Link to the page, then delete it when you're done.

The same thing works for Internet search engines and can be extremely useful if you periodically update information on a topic. Instead of going, for example, to www.google.com and entering the search parameters each time, simply copy the results page to your Links toolbar. It doesn't record the actual results, it just records the search parameters so you always get fresh results. You can even edit the search terms right in the link. This is especially useful for an advanced search you have designed to give only the results you need. In Google you can specify page languages, file formats, last update and other parameters.

By the way, Google is beta testing a new service that searches for daily news events. News.google.com sorts the day's top news by category and importance.

Do you regularly access a Web page that seldom changes? Saving the page to your hard drive frees up bandwidth. Go to the File menu and select Save As.

There are several options for storing pages offline. Sometimes you can save just the text from the page without images and other information. This won't work with some pages, but it's a great way to capture just the text for, say, a handheld computer.

The Web Page Complete option gives you everything associated with the page including text, colors, images and sounds. For many pages, Web Page HTML Only is a better storage choice because it leaves out graphics and sounds but keeps the hot links.

Web Archive creates a Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions file similar to that of Web Page Complete except that Archive doesn't save the page components in their original formats as Web Page Complete does.

Another way to work offline is to add a page to your Favorites list and check the Make Available Offline box. This activates the Customize button and a wizard that takes you through the available options, including that of viewing linked pages offline and how many levels deep to follow them. Be careful with this option. Some pages have so many links you'll quickly fill any hard drive.

Because Web content is dynamic you can also select synchronization to keep your offline versions up to date. This is somewhat risky if you don't know what you're doing, because you could tie up your network link just updating pages. The best bet is just to update from the Tools menu. You can also associate a password and user name with the offline pages.

John McCormick is a free-lance writer and computer consultant. E-mail him at powerusr@yahoo.com.

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