Surfing the Web is easy, but spinning a Web site can be lots more difficult.
Since most of us don't think in HTML (hypertext markup language), it doesn't come naturally to write.
That's where Web site design packages step in, taking care of all the gobbledegook while you worry about looks. One of the nicer ones available is Visual Page 2.0 from Symantec Corp. of Cupertino, Calif.
Visual Page has a point-and-click interface that's as easy to use as your favorite word processor. In fact, if you have enough skill to do a newsletter in your word processor, you have enough to use Visual Page to create a Web page.
That's because Visual Page does most of the heavy lifting for you. As a novice, for example, you might wish to add a bitmap (BMP) image to a Web page, but you don't know that net browsers don't want to know from bitmaps. Visual Page automatically saves the file in GIF format for you.
Those who already have some experience designing Web pages can also take advantage of absolute pixel positioning, where the location of an object on a Web page doesn't change the position of other objects, and other advanced design tools.
One of the nicer features of Visual Page is a site-wide approach to tools. Let's say you have a 20-page Web site and you discover that you've misspelled your employer's name on every page. A site-wide search-and-replace tool lets you fix that without doing it page by page.
You can also do site-wide spell checking and link repair and preview your creation in multiple browsers, since site appearance can vary with the browser.
Visual Page also has built-in FTP support to allow you to publish or download your Web pages. Although on-line help is available, the software package comes with really outstanding documentation, with a "getting started" section that takes the novice by the hand through creating of a site.
System requirements for Visual Page: a 486-66-megahertz or better chip with 8 megabytes of RAM and Windows 95 or higher. It also supports Windows NT 4.0 or higher, but that takes 12 megabytes of RAM. In all cases, a VGA color monitor is required and the installation takes 20 megabytes of disk space.
The suggested retail price for Visual Page is $99.95. Symantec products are widely available at retail. The company Web site is http://www.symantec.com.
Scanners are becoming commonplace, and the software bundled with most of them has a "copier" feature that scans a document and sends a copy to the printer. For about $250, Lumina Office Products of San Jose, Calif., offers the Lumina Personal Color Copier, which will make copies even if the PC is turned off. That's a great idea, since the entire learning curve is "press the button marked copy." The copier is compatible with Hewlett Packard DeskJet and LaserJet printers and also Epson Stylus, Epson Inkjet Lexmark ColorJet and Canon Bubblejet series. It comes with a document feeder and will handle material up to 8´-by-14 inches.
Of course, it can be hooked to the PC and function as a standard scanner and fax machine, and it includes bundled OCR software as well as image-editing software. But being able to make copies without wrestling with software is an excellent idea and great convenience. The company's Web site is http://www.luminapcc.com.
Questions and comments are welcome. Send them to CompuBug, PO Box 626, Summit, NJ 07901. Or e-mail via the Internet Larry--Blasko@ap.org. Please include your own e-mail address in the body of the message.