The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Netscape Communicator 4

Matthew R. Gomez (Matthew Gomez is a graduate student in Rollins College’s Master of Arts in Corporate Communications and Technology program.)

Campus-Wide Information Systems

ISSN: 1065-0741

Article publication date: 1 March 2000



Gomez, M.R. (2000), "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Netscape Communicator 4", Campus-Wide Information Systems, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 23-24.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

What does it do for a computer user’s self‐esteem when a self‐proclaimed idiot teaches him how to take advantage of the Internet?

Though the question is rhetorical, the premise behind it sparked a series of computer learning guides that has proved a successful, dependable method of instruction for people intimidated by anything involving technology. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Netscape Communicator 4 offers another strong addition to that popular series.

Consider that the first step toward learning involves an admission of what needs to be learned and you’ll understand why these guides have found an eager audience. The book even comes with a handy “Speak like a geek” glossary – an irreverent, indispensable archive of terms and definitions for hip computer users.

The Guide to Netscape Communicator 4 helps first‐time Netscape users acclimate themselves with the look and feel of the Netscape browsers, bells and whistles. Readers can get a firmer grasp on the usage capability of Netscape Navigator, Netscape Messenger, Netscape Composer and other components, all packaged in the Communicator 4 environment.

Simply by following the guide and painstakingly executing all of the suggested maneuvers, a user can, with marginal aptitude, set up an e‐mail account, surf the World Wide Web, activate interactive downloads, transfer files using Gopher or FTP and create Web pages.

The tutorial text allows for simple navigation, although assuming it is idiot proof may invite a challenge for some. Each chapter shares a similar construction, anticipating frequently asked questions and providing simple, direct solutions to what may otherwise be perplexing problems. Essentially, this book provides a compass for navigating the Web and a suggested destination map for making Netscape an all‐purpose Web communication tool.

Throughout the book, the author provides quirky illustrations that lend comic relief for frustrated computer users. The illustrations are short bursts of information which offer encouragement and explanations of high‐tech jargon sprinkled sporadically through the text. They serve as stops along the way toward learning and convenient pause points for persons attempting to digest information in tiny bites. Screen captures help clarify the concepts discussed in the book, showing in print the familiar Netscape browser screen that will become a home port for information creation and transfer as readers become more savvy Communicator 4 users.

Much of the terminology and application of Netscape Communicator 4 program features may seem pedestrian to computer and Internet veterans. Yet, the author is consistent in presenting advice and instruction to help eliminate bad habits and broaden the scope of a user’s knowledge in the Netscape environment.

The book was designed with the busy learner in mind. Each chapter provides a quick introduction to concepts and ends with a welcome segment called “The least you need to know”. While it is preferable and advisable to scour the book with computer at the ready, this section encapsulates bullet point information that can be memorized or copied and pasted to the side of a computer monitor for easy access. If the reader does nothing but read this section, he or she will be well on the way to shedding the bonds of idiocy.

Arguably, the most well‐read section of the book involves the creation of Web pages in Netscape Composer. This component, similar in usefulness to Microsoft Front Page, helps Web users make their own mark on the WWW without learning complicated HTML coding. By simply typing in text, the Composer formating tools change the look and layout of the text to conform to the WWW environment. Consistent with other portions of the guide book, the author provides step‐by‐step tutorial suggestions that are easy to follow and hard to dispute. Early attempts at Web page design and content may find a friend in this format.

Author Kraynak lends a confident, affable voice to the clutter of computer books on store shelves. While the books in the Complete Idiot’s Guide series have been dismissed by technically proficient computer users, they remain popular among newbies. That is the key to their success. This book does not try to be anything it is not. It is not an academic treatise on the origin of Netscape and the Internet. It is what it is – a user‐friendly guide that invites further inspection and frequent use.

If you’re going to consider yourself an idiot, you may as well be an insightful one.

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