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Tools for Using the Internet
Net Life
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Tools for Using the Internet
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Many different tools are available for using the Internet. Each performs certain tasks or allows you to access different kinds of information and communications sites. The tools you are most likely to encounter include:

  • E-mail clients allow you to send and receive electronic mail messages. To use e-mail on the Internet, you must first have access to the Internet and an e-mail account set up that provides you with an e-mail address.

    For more about using electronic mail, see Zen and the Art of the Internet by Brendan P. Kehoe and A Beginner's Guide to Effective E-mail by Kaitlin Sherwood.

  • Telnet software allows you to log into another computer system and use that system's resources just as if they were your own.
  • Listserv software allows you to set up discussion groups or mailing lists on any subject of interest. Others subscribe to these groups if they are interested in the topic. Messages are sent to the listserv address and routed to the subscribers to read, ignore, delete or respond.
  • FTP, or File Transfer Protocol, is software that allows you to retrieve files from publicly accessible areas of other computers (called "anonymous FTP" access) or to share your files with others. Archie, short for Archives of Information, allows users to search for and discover particular files that are available through FTP sites.
  • Gopher software connects you to Gopher servers. Gopher servers form a loose system of menu-driven information resources located all over the Internet. Before the emergence of the World Wide Web, Gopher was the most popular tool on the Internet. Veronica is an indexing tool that helps you locate Gopher resources.
  • WAIS (pronounced "wayz") stands for Wide Area Information Server. WAIS, like Gopher, is designed to help users search for and retrieve information from remote databases on WAIS servers.
  • Usenet is a news exchange service similar to electronic bulletin boards. Usenet is older than the Internet, but the two are commonly associated with one another since most Usenet traffic travels over the Internet.
  • Internet Relay Chat (IRC) allows you to pass messages back and forth to other IRC users in real time, as you would on a citizens' band (CB) radio.
  • World Wide Web browsers were developed to view sites on the World Wide Web. Due to its interactivity, graphic orientation, ease of use and other features, the Web has become the second most popular form of Internet communications behind e-mail. One reason is because sophisticated Web browsers can also perform most (but not all) of the functions of these other tools. For example, Telnet still runs in a separate application; WAIS requires special tools at the site: ande-mail is not yet fully integrated in any browser. Nonetheless, the power of the Web browsers has helped move the World Wide Web to center stage of Internet services.

For more information about these tools, visit the University of Washington Library's Internet Series.

Besides the ones listed above, there are many other Internet tools, including hundreds of utility software programs that do things such as compress and decode files or view animation and video clips. You can get shareware or freeware versions of most of these tools from the following sites:

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