SAN FRANCISCO (07/26/2000) - America Online Inc. is popular, but it isn't a real Internet service provider. It's simply an online service that offers limited Internet support. AOL doesn't provide standard POP3 and SMTP servers for receiving and sending e-mail. The AOL Mail system's proprietary nature (more on that below) means you can't use the feature-rich e-mail client of your choice.
Sure, you can read AOL e-mail via a Web browser at AOL, but this approach is limited--it doesn't let you read your e-mail offline, back up your address books and messages, create message filters and folders, or read AOL e-mail with Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, or other mail clients.
AOL's purchase of Netscape Communications Corp. has yielded a side benefit for long-suffering AOL Mail users. The preview release of Netscape 6 lets you read your AOL Mail using the same program you use to read your POP3 mail--an unprecedented benefit. But before you try this technique at home, a warning: By the time this column appears, AOL may have released a newer beta of Netscape 6.
Until a final version comes along, remember that preview releases are not fully tested and stable--use them at your own risk. (The only problem I've noticed so far with Netscape 6 is slow performance.)To read your AOL Mail with Netscape's Mail program, first visit home.netscape.com/download/previewrelease.html to download and install the program. Next, launch the browser, choose Tasks*Mail to open the Messenger mail and news app, choose Edit*Mail/News Account Settings, and click on the New Account button. Select the Existing Mail account and America Online radio buttons, click Next, fill in your AOL identity information, and click Finish.
To check your mail, right-click the AOL account in the Mail Folders list and select Get Messages for Account. If AOL Mail is the default account in the Mail/News Account Settings dialog box, you need only click the Get Msg button.
AOL Mail may not stay proprietary for long. The Netscape Preview Release connects to AOL's mail server using the IMAP protocol--an alternative to POP3 that most other e-mail programs support. Unfortunately, just plugging the server address--imap.mail.aol.com--into your copy of Outlook or Eudora doesn't work. I'll let you know when this changes.
Paste Web Pages Into Office Apps
If you want to copy all or part of a Web site into Microsoft Word, Excel, or other business app, you may not be able to simply select, copy, and paste. Here are a few basic techniques I've grown accustomed to. I'd like to hear about any you have come up with.
Copying text to Word: Nothing beats plain text for compactness, portability, and simplicity. If you just want to copy and paste unadorned text from a Web page into a Word document, it's easy--if you take one extra step. First, select the Web page text using your mouse, press Ctrl-C, switch to your Word document, and position the cursor where you want to paste the text.
Here's where the extra step comes in: Resist the temptation to simply press Ctrl-V to paste the text--you'll end up with the original HTML, including tables, text formatting, inline images, and anything else embedded in the area you selected. (This includes the "invisible" tables Web designers use to format their pages.) If you don't want all that, choose instead Edit*Paste Special, select Unformatted Text, click OK, and the selected text will appear. If you slip up and press Ctrl-V out of habit (something I probably do at least once a day), press Ctrl-Z to undo the HTML-format paste.
Copying tables into Word: Both Web and Word documents can contain tables, and when copying and pasting an HTML table into Word, you get the table, its borders, and its contents. If you want only the table's text, choose Edit*Paste Special* Unformatted Text, and click OK--you'll end up with the table cells' contents in a single column without borders or images.
Copying tables into Excel: This procedure is much the same as in Word: Do a regular paste operation to keep the same arrangement of table elements as in the original Web page, or paste each line of the table as plain text into column A. With some HTML tables, Excel doesn't do as good a job as Word at pasting table data. For example, cells containing bulleted lists get split into separate cells for each list item, and background colors disappear. Try pasting the table into Word, then copying and pasting it into Excel.
Usenet Wants To Be Free
My ISP does not have a newsgroup server; neither do they know of any. Could you please give me a public newsgroup server address that I can configure in my newsreader?
Saurabh Gupta, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, IndiaYou can read and post Usenet messages for free using your Web browser at Deja.com and RemarQ.com, but like Web-based e-mail, the messages stay on the server, not on your computer. And forget about using your favorite newsreader program to grab or block out specific messages. The good news: There are hundreds of free news servers out there. The bad news: As usual, you get what you pay for. They're often bogged down, they may not be around tomorrow, and they may not carry the groups you're looking for.
There's no single best place to begin a search for free servers, but as good a place to start as any is usenet.startshere.net. It claims to have a database of 5785 news servers, of which 574 are open to the public.
You can also check the many lists of favorite servers that are maintained by free-news fans. To find these sites, just browse over to your favorite search engine and enter free news server in the search box. And don't forget to check in with the source itself: Usenet's own alt.free.newsservers group.
If you're like me, you'll soon tire of entering addresses for slow or expired servers into your newsreader. But you can pay for better news server access.
Because Usenet generates gigabytes of traffic each day, smaller ISPs often farm their Usenet service out to a large commercial NNTP news service such as Supernews (supernews.com) or Giganews (giganews.com). Both these companies also sell individual Usenet accounts at rates ranging from $12 to $60 a month, depending on your connection speed and/or how much raw data you plan to retrieve.
Many companies maintain free public newsgroup servers that may have information you want. They just don't carry the Usenet groups. You can access these servers by creating a new account in your newsreader software. To add Microsoft's news server to Netscape's Messenger, for example, choose Edit*Preferences, select Newsgroup Servers under Mail & Newsgroups, click the Add button, enter msnews.microsoft.com in the server field, and click OK (see FIGURE 2). If you want to add the Justice Department's news server, you're on your own.
Download Of The Month
WS-FTP Pro 6.5: FTP Champ
The latest version of WS-FTP Pro, the all-time world's-greatest FTP client, is now available. Any browser will let you download a file from an FTP server, but if you deal with FTP sites frequently, WS-FTP Pro can streamline your work. The program integrates with your browser and launches automatically when you browse to an FTP site. If you're tired of multimegabyte downloads failing just before completion, WS-FTP Pro's download-resume feature will pick up the download right where it stopped. The utility tracks your FTP passwords and your default remote and local directory paths (see FIGURE 3). It even retries busy servers automatically. WS-FTP Pro 6.5 costs $40; download a 30-day demo version from Ipswitch Software's Web site at www. ipswitch.com/products/ws_ftp. You can also download the full version from FileWorld.com. If you can live without the download-resume and other features, the free WS-FTP LE 5.08 may do, but most FTPers will find the full version a genuine bargain. Find a download link at www.ipswitch.com/cgi/download_eval.pl.
Use AOL Under Windows 2000
If you use America Online version 4 and upgrade to Windows 2000 from Windows 95 or 98, your AOL and Dial-Up Networking connections could be disabled. AOL is still working on the Windows 2000 version of AOL 5. Before trying the AOL/Win 2000 combo, check out AOL's Win 2000 information page at www.aol.com/win2000, and then download and install Microsoft's 269KB AOL update for Windows 2000 at www.microsoft.com/windows2000/downloads/recommended/aolfix/default.asp.
Send your questions and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. We pay $50 for published items. Scott Spanbauer is a contributing editor for PC World.