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Plug-ins are software programs that extend the capabilities of your browser in a specific way, giving you for example, the ability to play audio samples or view video movies.  Surf on the World Wide Web for very long, and you quickly learn it isn’t as easy to use as TV.  You come to a site with something, maybe a film clip you’d like to see, and the site suddenly demands that you add something called a plug-in to your browser to be able to view the film. You have to stop what you’re doing, download this new piece of software, maybe restart your machine, make sure that everything is configured properly, and then go back to the film clip you wanted to see in the first place.

You can try some strategies to cut the frustrations.

1.  The easiest thing may be to upgrade your Web browser itself. Netscape and Microsoft, have included many helper programs in Netscape Communicator 4.5, which includes Navigator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 5.   Communicator 4.5, for example, comes with QuickTime,  Beatnik and Shockwave, all frequently requested plug-ins.  Not sure which browser to upgrade to see Browser Comparison.  For more information on upgrading your browser see Browser Upgrade.

2.  You might take a pre-emptive download tack: Download everything you might need before you embark on a long surfing spell. (Confused about downloading in general? See Downloading Software.) But what plug-ins do you really need? See Browser Plug-ins.

You might encounter conflicts between plug-ins. Sites such as Versions (  ) try to keep track of such incongruities. And the directories by Bloke ( ) and Browser Watch ( ) can quell some of the anarchy.

You can also learn more about plug-ins in the Help sections of the Web browsers themselves. Try Help, then About Plug-ins in Navigator; Help, then Help Topics, then Extensions in Internet Explorer.

Browser Upgrade:

Netscape Communicator
You can download or order it on CD, The New Netscape can be downloaded at  Netscape.

Microsoft Internet Explorer
Internet Explorer download the world’s fastest modern browser or order it on CD at Microsoft IE

Browser Plug-ins:

Start with these: RealAudio/RealPlayer for streaming radio or TV images, media sent in a non-stop stream that is heard or seen as it arrives; Shockwave for games and special effects; QuickTime for movies; Crescendo and Beatnik for soundtracks, and Acrobat for reading PDF text documents. Get Alexa, a free, award-winning Web navigation service. Alexa integrates seamlessly into your browser and updates with site-specific information as you surf.

Microsoft Internet Explorer
Some of the best features of Internet Explorer haven’t even been invented yet. The Web Accessories, were developed by Microsoft and several other leading Internet companies.  You will find a list of available at Web Accessories.

Netscape Communicator
Netscape browsers alone has nearly 140 plog-ins to choose from. You will find a complete list at Netscape Plug-ins.

Browser Comparison:

Microsoft Internet Explorer 5 vs. Netscape Communicator 4.51  Check out the PC Magazine Review at this Ziff Davis site

Downloading Software:

Downloading is simple. There’s just one tricky part, and that’s knowing where you saved the file. Before you do anything, open up My Computer, open on your C: drive and create a new folder there called Download. (Right-click in an empty space in the C: window, choose New, then Folder, then name it Download.)

Now, use your Web browser to find a Web page with a link to download the software you need.  Click on that link, and a Save As box will appear. (If you use Internet Explorer instead of Netscape Communicator/Navigator, you may get an extra dialogue box asking whether you want to "open" or "save it to disk" - choose save, in this case.)

You’ll. get the Save As box and at the top will be the name of the folder in a little window, with an arrow next to it. Click on the arrow and you’ll be able to scroll through the various parts of your computer. Find C:, click on it, then find the Download folder and double-click on that. The name of the file should already be in the Save as: field, so click Save or OK, whatever is there. It will start saving, or downloading, the software.

Now, go back to the download folder and find the file. If it’s an "executable" (you can tell because it will have EXE at the very end of its full name - right-click on the little icon of the file and scroll down to Properties to get the full name of the file), you’ll just launch it - double-click on it - like any other program and it will start its install routine. Before it starts installing, it’ll likely ask you to close out any other Windows programs you may be running. That means you’ll want to exit out of your browser.

It may, however, be a Zip file (the full name ends in ZIP), which is a compressed collection of the files used by the program. You’ll need to get a copy of an unzipping utility, like Winzip, which is found at . Of course, you’ll have to download it, but Winzip comes as an EXE file. Run Winzip, then use it as a program to open the other file you downloaded.

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