CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published Monday, October 5, 1998 

Starr report puts hypertext on the map

The past few weeks are definitely going to make their mark in the annals of presidential history, but the Clinton/Lewinsky saga marks a historical event for the Internet as well. It is the first time that this global network has been the preferred medium for such a massive deployment of information. Certainly television, radio and print media were replete with news stories, but it was the Internet that transferred the original data to the general public, news media and even the White House almost simultaneously.

The myriad testimony and evidence from the Independent Counsel's inquiry now published on the Web are simply examples of hypertext documents that reside on the Internet. Hypertext documents contain key words or phrases that link documents to one another on the Net.

A browser, such as Netscape or Internet Explorer, is your window to the Internet that enables you to view these hypertext documents as formatted pages, commonly called web pages. A group of related Web pages is called a Web site. The entire assemblage of hypertext and hypermedia documents on the Internet is collectively referred as the World Wide Web.

Web pages aren't complicated or mysterious in their basic form. They are simply text documents written with special codes, called tags, which enable the document to be viewed on the Internet using browser software. The language of these special tags is called Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML.

To apply bold and center formatting to text in a Web page, for example, the appropriate HTML codes are <B> and <CENTER> To cancel the bold and center formatting, you would type </B> and </CENTER> Here's the HTML code for "The Record," formatted as centered and bold: <CENTER><B>TheRecord
</B></CENTER> These basic codes aren't any more difficult to master than WordPerfect reveal codes.

The good news is, you don't have to be fluent in HTML language, because there are programs available, called HTML editors that convert word-processing documents to hypertext documents as you type. Many users don't realize that HTML editing functions are already built into popular wordprocessing programs such as Microsoft Word and WordPerfect.

From WordPerfect, you can choose Internet Publisher from the File menu to guide you through building your own Web page, using similar commands used to create and format word processing documents. In Microsoft Word, choose File, New and then select the Web Pages tab to either start a new web page from scratch or follow the Web Page Wizard for step-by-step help.

The beauty of using the built-in HTML editors in Word and WordPerfect for beginners is the familiar interface. Simply create a Web document in either of these applications as you would a regular word-processing document and the program will automatically convert it to HTML.

So how do existing text documents, such as the Starr report, get moved to the Web as hypertext so quickly? Once again, WordPerfect and Microsoft Word provide HTML conversion utilities for existing documents as well as new documents.

Any document in Microsoft Word can be instantly converted to an HTML document with a simple Save As HTML command, from the File menu. Through the Internet Publisher menu in WordPerfect, you can choose to save any WordPerfect document as a Web document. The time required to convert these documents ranges from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the length of the files.

Certainly there are full-fledged HTML editing programs that are designed specifically for Web page construction such as HoTMetal, HotDog and Microsoft FrontPage, but the Web features already built into familiar programs are a great starting place. All the programs in Microsoft Office, in fact, have HTML editing functions installed. Excel, PowerPoint and Access all have Save As HTML features for converting existing documents to HTML for Web publication.

Once converted, all hypertext documents must be transferred to the Internet for global viewing. This process, called File Transfer Protocol, or FTP, moves HTML documents created locally on your PC to a computer that is connected to the greater Internet.

Just about everyone with an online account today has FTP privileges as well as space reserved for hosting their HTML documents. AOL members can publish their home pages to the "Members" Web site at no additional charge and locally InReach Internet offers 10 MB of web space for its subscriber's Web pages as well. Most ISPs have similar offers.

Sophisticated Web sites built with interactivity, multimedia, and security issues are best left to Web design professionals, but simple web pages can be built utilizing the tools already on your desktop. Once you try your hand at HTML publishing, you'll realize why the Internet and Web have grown so quickly in popularity.

HTML Web sites for beginners


Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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