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Working with graphics, sounds, movies, and compressed files off the Internet can be tough! Do you know how to find the programs you need to work with the wide variety of resources now available via the Internet? Instead of rushing out and buying commercial programs, investigate freeware and shareware programs available on the web.
Freeware programs are fully functional programs that the author or company allows anyone to use without asking for ANY payment for it. Shareware, or "try before you buy," programs work for a limited time then use a "nag" screen to remind you that you need to pay for the software if you want to continue using it.
Often, I have had to seek out free tools to use in workshops because workshop participants may not have the funds, or administrative support, to purchase the commercial software I could use in a workshop. Over the years, these questions have come up again and again, even as the computer hardware has improved. Some of the questions I have had to find low, or no cost, software solutions to include:
  1. How do I handle software programs attached to email messages?
  2. How do I compress multiple files for placement on a 3.5" high density diskette or for transfer as an email attachment?
  3. How should I save a document that I want to share with another person on the Internet?
  4. What's the importance of file extensions, those 3 letters that appear after the period in a filename (i.e. filename.ext) in sharing scanned images and photos?
  5. What are the standard sound formats for use on World Wide Web (WWW) pages?
  6. What are the standard graphic formats on the World Wide Web? How do I work with these graphics?
  7. I'm worried about viruses off the Internet. How can I protect my computer from viruses yet not lose access to the Internet?
  8. Are there any easy to use web page creation programs that are free?
  9. How do I view Microsoft Office (i.e. Word, PowerPoint, Excel) documents if I don't have Office on my computer? > and, finally, >
  10. Where can I find all the freeware software needed to handle these questions?
If these are questions you are facing, then by the end of this article, you'll have all the answers you need to deal with Internet-related tasks. And, the best part about the answers is that the programs listed are, for the most part, FREE!

-How do I handle software programs attached to email messages?

Sending email attachments is easy, but can cause a lot of trouble for the recipient of your email message. Before you send an email message, contact the recipient and agree on a compression format that you can use. Compression programs work like electronic suitcases that allow you to carry your clothes on long trips. You put your clothes in a suitcase for easy carrying. This is the same reason that compression programs are used. There are several formats; some of the most common ones you can find on the Internet can be handled with one program--Aladdin Expander (note that you can click on the filenames to download these on the web).
The most popular compression format is ZIP. This compression format has nothing to do with Iomega's ZIP 100 disk drive/media. This is an established compression format that is available on DOS, Windows, and Macs. The programs that you use to decompress filename.zip files include (but aren't limited to):
Aladdin's Stuffit Expander, is a cross-platform (Windows) decompression program that is FREE. Aladdin Expander uncompresses all popular compressed and encoded formats including ZIP (.zip), MIME Base64 (.mim, .mime, .b64), UUENCODE (.uu, .uue), GZIP (.gz .z), ARJ (.arj .pak), ARC (.arc), BINHEX (.hqx) and STUFFIT (.sit .sea). This program's ease of use and ability to handle many file-types make it a must-have. For example, double-clicking on a zip file can create a directory and extract all files into it. The program only decompresses files and cannot handle multi-part or encrypted files. You will need Aladdin Expander to decompress all the files mentioned in this article.
You can create, as well as decompress, zip files on the Windows platform using the popular shareware program called WInZIP, or use my favorite free zip utility, EasyZip. I've set up EasyZip as a download with and without its graphical, easy to follow HTML tutorial. In addition to the Windows Explorer interface, standard operations such as adding, viewing, deleting, renaming files in a zipped archives, you can also use EasyZip to install programs from the downloaded archive (a time-saver!), check archives for viruses, and multi-disk spanning of files.
You can also create self-extracting, or executable,archives that don't require a decompression program to expand. This is useful if you want to give a file to a neophyte who may not know how to handle compressed programs yet. On the Macintosh platform, use the freeware //MacZip// or the shareware //ZIPIT!//

-How do I compress multiple files for placement on a 3.5" high density diskette or for transfer as an email attachment?

One of the primary reasons compression programs came about about was because people needed to move large programs from one location to another. These programs,however, have many pieces. Compressing these multiple pieces into one zipped file makes it easy to transfer large programs across a school network or the Internet as an email attachment. However, sometimes, we have to compress files for placement on a diskette. If the compressed file is bigger than what can fit on a diskette (1,440,000 bytes for a 3.5" high density disk), then you will need to slice the file into smaller pieces. Most ZIP programs will allow what is called "multi-disk spanning" of a compressed file. This allows you to save a zipped file across several diskettes.
I prefer to use a separate program for "slicing" zipped files into disk-size chunks. That program is //FloppyKopy//. First, I compress the file using EasyZip. Then, I run FloppyKopy and specify the size I want the chunks (includes chunking to 100 meg Iomega ZIP disks) to be. Then, I copy the chunks to disk.

-How should I save a document that I want to share with another person on the Internet?

Saving files for use on other computers is fairly straightforward so long as you keep several things in mind. Always ask yourself:
  • What is the target platform (i.e. Macintosh/Windows)?
  • Will you compress the file before you send it? If so, in what format and does the recipient know?
  • Do you know what type of file extension you need to add to the end of the filename?
Sometimes, Mac users sending files to Windows users neglect to add the 3-letter extension that tells the Windows operating system what kind of file it is. For example, JPG and GIF files are common graphic formats on the web. Yet, if a Mac user were to send a scanned photo in JPG format with the filename "familyphoto" without the 3-letter extension, the Windows users might have problems opening it. It would be better to send the file with this name "familyphoto.jpg" as this will identify the file as a JPG graphic.
If you use the ZIP compression format, be sure that the person on the receiving end has Stuffit Expander at least. When I send an email attachment, I'll attach the file using the "paperclip" button that appears next to the ATTACH DOCUMENT option on my email program. In the body of the message, I tell the person what program they need to use to uncompress/view the file, as well as where they can find that program on the web for download. Now, even though most of us have many different programs that can handle the file formats we will receive, there are many freeware utilities available to work with the files we receive. In many instances, the freeware utilities make our life much easier, run quickly due to their small size and do not crash our machines.

-What's the importance of file extensions, those 3 letters that appear after the period in a filename (i.e. filename.ext) in sharing scanned images and photos?

As mentioned earlier, file extensions provide the Windows operating system more information about specific files. You can associate specific file extensions with certain programs. Doing this makes opening programs a lot easier; you simply double-click on the file you want and then the file is opened in the program you want. Familiarizing yourself with these file extensions will relieve some of the confusion when you want to compress a file, view a graphic, or listen to a music file off the web. I've listed some of the most common file extensions below:
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3 Letter Extension
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Description

Common Graphics/Movies Extensions

JPG
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Graphic Viewer: All browsers; [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/win/i_view32.exe|I-View]] (Win) or [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/mac/macgc.hqx|Graphic Converter]] (Mac)

GIF
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Graphic Viewer: All browsers; [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/win/i_view32.exe|I-View]] (Win) or [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/mac/macgc.hqx|Graphic Converter]] (Mac)

BMP
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Graphic Viewer: All browsers; [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/win/i_view32.exe|I-View]] (Win) or [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/mac/macgc.hqx|Graphic Converter]] (Mac)

WMF
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Graphic Viewer: All browsers; [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/win/i_view32.exe|I-View]] (Win) or [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/mac/macgc.hqx|Graphic Converter]] (Mac)

TIF
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Graphic Viewer: All browsers; [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/win/i_view32.exe|I-View]] (Win) or [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/mac/macgc.hqx|Graphic Converter]] (Mac)

MOV QT
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Graphic Viewer: All browsers; [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/win/i_view32.exe|I-View]] (Win)//

AU WAV MIDI
You can create your own WAVs and AUs using the shareware version of CoolEdit Pro. A quick sound player to use is Irfan-View (I-View). I-View not only plays sounds , but also works as a graphic viewer. Macintosh programs are not as numerous as Windows, yet you can find freeware sound players such as SoundApp and Sound Machine that do the job.
You can also use a variety of popular plug-ins for your Internet browser.Some plug-in collections:
  • Macintosh Plug-Ins
  • Windows Plug-Ins || || MP3 || A very popular audio format used for popular music titles. MP3 files are smaller than audio files of other formats and can be used to store good quality music tracks.This developing sound format has turned the music industry on its ear as more web sites provide MP3s for free on the web. Several Windows programs exist for playing and recording MP3s. They include:
CDEX: This is an easy to use program for recording audio tracks from CD directly to WAV or MP3 (MPEG-1 audio Layer-3) files. It also converts WAV files to MP3 files.
Real JukeBox (Windows & Mac) is another programs you can use to play MP3s.
You can also use Macintosh's Quicktime 4.0 to play MP3s.

MOD
MOD music files ( .mod .xm .it etc. ) are similar to MIDI files ( .mid ) except that they include the sound of the instruments used, are somewhat larger, but produce excellent digital music. You can play MODs using the freeware Windows player, plug-in available known as MODPlug.

RAM RA
RealPlayer is a free player for Realaudio, RealVideo and RealFlash files on both the Macintosh and Windows platforms. These files are media formats designed for playing over the Net in real-time. Realaudio provides good voice quality reception with 28.8 modems. Many radio stations use the real audio format to broadcast in real time.

AVI
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Graphic Viewer: All browsers; [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/win/i_view32.exe|I-View]] (Win)//

Compression Formats

ZIP
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Viewer: Aladdin Stuffit Expander (Mac/[[file:/Macintosh HD/software/win/stuffit32.EXE|Win]])//

HQX
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Viewer: Aladdin Stuffit Expander (Mac/[[file:/Macintosh HD/software/win/stuffit32.EXE|Win]])//

UUE
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Viewer: Aladdin Stuffit Expander (Mac/[[file:/Macintosh HD/software/win/stuffit32.EXE|Win]])//

SIT
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Viewer: Aladdin Stuffit Expander (Mac/[[file:/Macintosh HD/software/win/stuffit32.EXE|Win]])
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"What's a WAV?' she asked. As I pondered how to explain what a WAV was, and how it was different from a MIDI, she noticed the plug-in notice appear on the screen. "See? This is what happens at home. I never have the right plug-in to listen to a sound or play a movie?" This situation is one I face daily. Knowing exactly what sound goes with what program or plug-in (a
plug-in// expands the functionality of your Internet browser and enables it to do things it couldn't right out of the box) and where to get the plug-in can be a frustrating experience for even experienced Internet users.
I've learned that if I just want to listen to music on my Windows computer and not have to sort out all the different plug-ins, I'd better use //Spinner 2.0//, a free Windows program that lets you listen to music live on the web without taking over your computer and sound associations. Below is a breakdown of the various sound formats available on the web, and where you can find the plug-in or program to listen to it. Be warned, however, that many of the programs that make listening to sounds wage a quiet battle for dominance that may make your Internet browser a casualty. A fantastic graphic AND sound viewer is Irfan-View (I-View). It supports a variety of formats including JPG/JPEG, GIF, BMP/DIB/RLE, PCX/DCX, PNG, TIFF, TGA, RAS/SUN, ICO, CUR/ANI, AVI, WAV, MID/RMI, WMF, EMF, PBM/PGM/PPM, IFF/LBM, PSD, PSP, CPT, EPS, CLP, CAM, MPG/MPEG, MOV, LWF, AIF, SND/AU, G3, DAT (Video CD) and Photo-CD.

-What are the standard graphic formats on the World Wide Web? How do I work with these graphics?

"Photoshop? Doesn't that cost $699.00 with the educational discount?" As we all nodded our heads, someone raised their hand and said, "I'd rather use the shareware Paint Shop Pro. It only costs $69.00. Paint Shop Pro is the premier graphics editing program used in some multimedia classes. Yet, it is shareware." The two standard graphics formats, GIF and JPG, are usually the end products of these programs. I commonly take snapshots of my Windows screen using the PrintScreen key with the free //Printkey// screen capture program running or if on a Mac, the free Pictify) on my keyboard, then paste it into a graphics editing program for cropping and resizing. And, finding a free program that did what I wanted took me days of searching.
Freeware alternatives to these high-powered graphics programs are few and far between, which makes 20/20 a great Windows graphics program to download. 20/20 features include Open, save or convert between GIF, JPEG, BMP, DIB, EPS, WMF, PCX, PNG, PCD, TGA, TIF, DXF, CMS, and ICO file types. It has numerous filters, effects and comprehensive screen capture capabilities. It is comparable to Paint Shop Pro in features. And, for those of us who change our mind, 20/20 also includes 4 levels of undo.
Some useful features of 20/20 that are great for web page creation include its ability to generate thumb-nail images and/or HTML. This is especially useful when organizing graphics into collections, allowing you to generate a web page with miniature representations of these pictures. And, if you have a scanner, it's Twain Support make it easy to use instead of the complex, often crippled programs that come with your scanner or camera. The program, although free, is Ad-ware (Advertisements are shown while the program is loading). Ad rotation occurs every 30 days through an internet connection but does not occur in the background or unattended. On the Macintosh platform, Graphic Converter does an excellent job as a shareware graphics editor, viewer and converter, as well as creating thumbnail images and then generating the HTML pages.
Sometimes, if you don't need to do graphics editing, then you can use Irfan-View (I-View for short). IrfanView is a fast graphic viewer. It can associate itself with many file types so that double-clicking a file will open it in IrfanView. There is also support for a large selection of graphics types and common sound formats such as WAV, MID, RMI, Quicktime Movies (MOV), AVI movies and sound files. As the program is a single fast EXE file, it is a great application helper to configure in your Internet browser plug-ins.
One of the common needs for web page designers includes developing animated graphics, often known as animated GIFs. These animations are simply multiple images that have been put together as one slide show. You can use programs like the Windows freeware program GIF Animator (GIF Animator allows easy creation of animated gifs. Paste an image into each frame, select the delay time for each and the number of times to loop the sequence.) or the awesome shareware program [[file:///Macintosh HD/software/win/wwgifapp.zip|WWW GIF Animator]] to create your own animated GIFS. A Macintosh GIF animation program--shareware--is GIF Builder.

-I'm worried about viruses off the Internet. How can I protect my computer from viruses yet not lose access to the Internet?

"No way my spouse will ever let me get a modem for our computer! We'll get a virus off the Internet!" The truth of this statement has certainly rung true for many. My first experience with a virus was one that made black boxes appear on my screen while slowly destroying my executable program files. Yet, with a few precautions, you can download software off the Web without worrying about being infected with viruses. And, many web sites that specialize in freeware/shareware do their own virus checking.
You can obtain antivirus software for free on the web. Although, it is now better to make the investment in McAffee's AntiVirus software or some other commercial antivirus software, I use F-Prot. The F-Prot AntiVirus software comes in a free DOS version with a Windows Microsoft Word macro virus (i.e. Melissa virus) scanner and disinfectant. F-PROT detects over 18.000 DOS/Windows viruses, over 3.400 Trojans, Word and Excel viruses, for a total of nearly 24.000.You can find this antivirus program on the web at: http://www.complex.is/f-prot/obtaining.html.
I often receive virus alerts via email--the majority of them are hoaxes. DataFellows keeps visitors to their web site up to date at http://www.datafellows.com/news/hoax/. You can find out about actual viruses at http://www.datafellows.com/vir-info/.

===-Are there any easy to use web page creation programs that are free?

=

Always on the lookout for free, quality web page editing tools? Some of my favorites include AOL Press (Windows), Netscape Communicator 4.6's Page Composer (Windows), and //FrontPage Express// (Windows only) that comes with Internet Explorer 4.x+. All of these programs provide simple creation and editing of web pages.
Of the programs above, only AOL Press allows for web site management. It also comes with extensive tutorials and online support and free graphics. Unfortunately, AOL Press has some serious drawbacks for some users, especially in the Windows version of the program--it requires users to be familiar with file paths and how they relate to saving. Although users with DOS background won't have a problem with this program, others might. Experienced users may overlook its peculiar quirks in regards to saving, but not its intolerance with adding javascript. Despite its faults, AOL Press is a great beginner's web page editor. More experienced, dual platform web spinners might want to work with Netscape's Page Composer.
Windows-only users should definitely take a look at FrontPage Express, the slimmed down version of the full-fledged web site management and editing tool, FrontPage 98/2000. FP Express lacks the FrontPage Explorer (site management component) yet provides a full-featured web page editor. It is not as strict in allowing Javascript and other web page enhancements and it also allows viewing and editing of the HTML code.
Speaking of HTML code, if you would rather not using a graphical web page editor like those mentioned earlier, try a text editors. There are a wide variety of text editors that you can use, not to mention notepad.exe that comes standard on your Windows machine (or SimpleText on the Mac). One of my favorite free, Windows text editors is //Texturizer// which provides an enhanced interface for text editing and management of open files. On the Mac side, I prefer the shareware //TexEdit Plus// to the popular, yet free and powerful //BBEDIT Lite//.
After you have created your web pages, you will have to upload, or send, them to the web page server. The programs most commonly used to accomplish this task include File Transfer Protocol (FTP) programs. WS_FTP LE (Windows) is a program that is free for non-commercial use. The Macintosh equivalent is Fetch, although I much prefer the Transmit shareware FTP program.

-How do I view Microsoft Office (i.e. Word, PowerPoint, Excel) documents if I don't have Office on my computer?

Did you know that if you use Microsoft Office products on your classroom computer, the license agreement allows you to install it on your home computer? Yet, this might not be something you want to do on your machine. If you occasionally have to view Office documents (i.e. PowerPoint, Word, Excel) on your computer, then you will definitely want to download Office viewers available for free on the web. Viewers include:
Another alternative is to download StarOffice, a Windows 95/98/NT Office-like suite of programs. StarOffice includes a word processor, spreadsheet, database, HTML editor, multimedia presentation program and much more. You can download StarOffice for personal use for FREE! What makes StarOffice unique is its compatability with Microsoft Office documents (i.e. PowerPoint, Word, etc.). Be warned, however, that this is a long download--44 megabytes.

-Where can I find all the freeware software needed to handle these questions?

Most of the software mentioned in this article can be found on the Educational Technology Services, Education Service Center, Region 20's Software Archives web page. I use much of this freeware/shareware software in professional development sessions, and tutorials are usually available for each of the programs. If you cannot find a tutorial for the programs referred to in this article, [[file:/Macintosh HD/Desktop Folder/search/default.html|search the web]]. I have found many free tutorials available on the web that have broadened my understanding of various software tools. One of my favorite freeware programs for use in the classroom is the concept mapping program known as [[file:/Macintosh HD/software/win/mmpersonal30-2e.exe|MindManager]]. It is available only for the Windows platform. The commercial version can be found at: http://www.mindman.com/. You can also find other classroom related programs such as gradebooks, test/quiz makers and more for both Windows and Macintosh platforms.
The sites listed below refer to web sites and/or pages I used to locate much of the software and information in this article. Special thanks to the Texas Educators Mac Users Group (TEMUG), Dr. Brent Fleming from Northside ISD's Theatre Arts for his FloppyKopy suggestion, and others for their suggestions as to freeware/shareware software. I encourage you to visit these sites as they provide a wide range of freeware programs that you can use in your classroom and at home without fear of violating a shareware license.
Cool Freeware for Windows 95. Includes an extensive list of freeware web sites.http://www.yankeewebworks.com/wck/freeware.html
Software Archives, Educational Technology Services, Education Service Center, Region 20: Includes a list of free software used in workshops. http://www.mguhlin.net/techserv/software/
Freeware Home: A clearinghouse for freeware software. http://www.freewarehome.com/
Key Freeware: All programs listed are free for home or non-profit use. Some programs are also free for commercial use. http://indigo.ie/~dermotc/
MS Office Viewers: A collection of Office program viewers. http://officeupdate.microsoft.com/writings/viewerscvt.htm
The Free Site: Software Collection. A large assortment of free software. http://www.thefreesite.com/software.htm
ZD Net's Software Library http://www.zdnet.com/swlib/specials/free.html

References

488think.mid. Classical Music Midi. Available http://www.ndirect.co.uk/~regr/edward.htm (7/7/1999).
mrcaboodles.gif. Caboodles Free Clip-Art. Available http://www.caboodles.com/ (7/7/1999).
Freeware Definition. Freeware Home. Available http://www.freewarehome.com/ (7/5/1999).
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Freewarehome. Available http://www.freewarehome.com/add_ons/faq.html (7/7/1999).
Key Freeware. Available http://indigo.ie/~dermotc/ (7/5/1999).
Shareware Definition. Association of Shareware Professionals. Available http://www.asp-shareware.org/1-faq.asp#share (7/7/1999).