Computer Users Manual, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Democratic Republic of East Timor
Chapter I: Hardware and Software
Chapter II: Networks and Communications
Chapter III: Operating Systems
Chapter IV: ApplicationsWebbrowsers
Chapter V: Basic Coding and Programming
Chapter VI: Basic System Administration
Appendicies: Ministry Policy
This chapter, the longest in the manual, deals with the programs that users are most familiar with – applications. Applications are user-orientated programs that provide instructions to the operating system which then in turn sends commands to the hardware. There are thousands of applications available for the variety of operating systems, with varying degrees of complexity. Most however can be described as particular types; namely webbrowers, email clients, word processors, spreadsheets, databases and presentation programs. This section can only hope at making passing comment at the most common types of application and the specific applications used in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, however, once a strong sense of familiarity is gained with the applications discussed here, no other applications should be beyond the user.
The most commonly used application in the Ministry is undoubtedly a webbrower. This is usually used to implement the hypertext transfer protocol, but other protocols (such as the file transfer protocol and network news protocol) are also discussed. The most commonly used webbrowser is Internet Explorer; however, there will be also discussion of the alternative Mozilla and the light and fast K-Melon browser. Other browsers that users should be aware of include Opera, Arachne (for MS-DOS) and Lynx (for UNIX shell).
Following the use of webbrowers, this chapter will discuss two major application suites which, specifically the MS-Office suite, which consists of MS-Word (word processor), MS-Excel (spreadsheet), MS-Outlook (email client), MS-PowerPoint (presentation) and MS-Access (database). An alternative suite, OpenOffice, has the packages of the OO-Writer (word processor), OO-Calc (spreadsheet) and OO-Impress (presentation) and OO-Draw (graphics), of which the first three are described, as is the Evolution email client. Other application suites that users should be aware of include Corel's Word Perfect OfficeSuite and IBMs SmartSuite. Word Perfect Office consists of the Word Perfect (word processor), Quattro Pro (spreadsheet), Corel Presentations (presentation) and Paradox (database). SmartSuite consists of WordPro (word processing), Lotus 1-2-3 (spreadsheet), Approach (database), Organizer (personal information manager) and Freelance (graphics and presentation).The same organization also produces the Lotus Notes email client.
Webbrowsers: Internet Explorer, Mozilla and K-Melon
Webbrowsers are client applications that connect to a uniform resource location (URL) server with a protocol. The protocol that is most commonly used is the hypertext transfer protocol or http, however most browsers are capable of also accessing other network services such as file transfer protocol (FTP), a quick method of retrieving files, telnet, a remote login protocol and network news through the network news transfer protocol (nntp).
Network News or Usenet
Usenet is the publicly accessible news, information and posting system. Think of it as a collection of thousands of mailing lists each with their own specialized topics. Usenet has been around since the early 1980s, and prior to the world wide web, it was what most people understood as 'the Internet'.
Usenet is divided in hierarchies of information, including alt (for the alternative hierarchy, any conceivable topic), biz (for business products and services), comp (for computer products and services), humanities (literature, fine arts), misc (miscellaneous), news (usenet news information and assistance), rec (recreation), sci (science), soc (societies and cultures), talk (issues and debates), plus local hierarchies e.g., aus (Australia). Newsgroups branch out from these top level hierarchies to form specific newsgroups (e.g., soc.culture.portuguese).
To access, post or read a Usenet group you usually require a newsclient, which connects to a newserver. If you don't have access to a newsserver, or your Internet Service Provider doesn't provide that service, Google also gives access, through the webaddress groups.google.com.sg.
Usenet is a very good way to answer difficult questions, especially on technical or even psychological concerns. The people there are usually quite helpful, at least on the specialist newsgroups. The more chatty (alt.devilbunnies) or politically opinionated groups (talk.politics.mid-east) tend to be less helpful, although the former is a pleasant enough community in its own right. Some usenet groups are moderated to ensure that discussions stay on topic (for example, the excellent news service misc.activism.progressive).
One particular downside to Usenet is that it is a favourite means for mass-mailing agents to collect email addresses and send out all sorts of unsolicited email. For this reason many people falsify their email address when posting to Usenet.
Any webpage has a source code lurking behind it. This can be viewed by going to View -> Page Source (Mozilla) or View -> Source (Internet Explorer) on the menu bar. This code is stored at the webserver. When you connect to an Internet site your client, usually a webbrowser, attempts to connect to the target machine through a particular software port (in the case of the Hypert Text Transfer Protocol or HTTP, the default is port 80). Assuming the connection is successful, the webserver sends the source and any other media (pictures, sound, movies etc) to the client and the client interprets it according to the application used. The more data that is required to be sent, the longer the webpage will take to download.
The webbrowsers clients described in this manual (Internet Explorer, Mozilla and K-Melon) are sufficiently similar that they can all be described in this single section. Internet Explorer is the webbrowser designed by Microsoft and comes pre-installed with Windows. It only operates on the Windows operating system and Intel personal computers. Mozilla arose from Netscape from a decision in 1998, it was decided that Netscape Communicator would become free and open source. Mozilla operates with a range of operating systems (MS-Windows, MacOS, Linux) and hardware platforms. It has a greater range of options (see "101 Things the Mozilla browser can do that IE cannot at http://www.xulplanet.com/ndeakin/arts/reasons.html), and integrates a mail and news applications as well (thus making it like MS-Internet Explorer and MS-Outlook combined). Another great advantage of Mozilla is that is when the Internet connection is poor and text has been written into a web form Mozilla will remember the entries, whereas Internet Explorer will lose it, requiring the data to be rewritten. However Mozilla is also significantly more resource intensive – Mozilla typically uses up about 20 megabytes of memory to operate, whereas Internet Explorer only uses 10 megabytes, although this difference is rapidly reduced as multiple instances of the application are opened. This is an issue on some of the Ministry's older computers. In comparison, K-Melon is a stripped down version of Mozilla that is fast and performs the basic tasks of webbrowsing with remarkable speed. It is however, still under development (currently at version 0.7).
Each browser has an address bar where a url is entered (for example: http://www.mfac.gov.tp) and a navigation toolbar which allows the user to either move backwards or forwards along visited websites, a reload button to send a new request to a server and thus provide the most update version of the website, a home button to reach the default webpage and a stop button which ceases an attempt to reach a site. Mozilla offers a left hand side bar that includes related sites, a search engine (actually, three search engines), bookmarks/favourites and a history of visited sites. In Internet Explorer, equivalent options are part of the standard toolbar. In K-Melon, bookmarks/favourites exist as a separate toolbar which must be activated (View -> Toolbars) and the search button sends a query to google. As with nearly other application command, learning the shortcut keys or using the menu is invariably quicker than using the mouse to navigate. Fortunately, across all three applications described here the shortcut keys and menu commands are almost the same: Alt+Left Arrow for back, Alt+Right Arrow for forward, Alt+Home for the home page and Cntrl+O to open a web location in Internet Explorer or Cntrl+Shift+L for Mozilla and K-Melon. In the Menu bars, Mozilla and K-Melon both have a Go command, whereas in Internet Explorer one uses View -> Goto. All use File -> Open (Weblocation or File) to access new websites or internal files.
Search engines are a quick way of finding information on the web. There are quite a few of them of varying quality. Certainly Google (www.google.com.sg) is the most popular and it does have some significant advantages, such as the ability to search phrases that is expressed in quotation marks (now a common feature in other search engines) and restrict searches to specific top-level-domains or even particular sites (e.g., site:.edu). In general this can help a user determine the quality of the content. Usually .edu sites, being higher education institutions are the most reliable, whereas .com sites, being commercial sites are the least reliable. Other search engines worth investigating include Altavista (www.altavista.com), Hotbot (www.hotbot.com) and the carefully hand-edited Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org). The latter doesn't provide an extensive list of sites, but it does provide a better, more selective, list.
Internet Explorer, Mozilla and K-Melon all provide the opportunity for wesbites to be saved in a variety of methods (File -> Save As), either as a complete webpage (including graphics), plain html (without the graphics, but with text markups), or as plain text. Likewise all three can send the page or link (File -> Send) via the default email browser and, of course, they can print the page (File -> Print). Particular care needs to be taken when printing webpages, particularly when a page comes with frames and sections – only print the section that is necessary. Mozilla also provides the option to edit pages from the File command menu (File -> Edit) which launches the Composer webpage editor. The equivalent command for Internet Explorer is the Edit button on the standard toolbar which launches MS-Frontpage as a default. In both cases, use of these webeditors is expressed with caution. Designing webpages that don't match standards is too easy. Whilst they may be useful for basic layout, all webpages must have their source code checked for xhtml compatibility (see next Chapter). Note that K-Melon doesn't have a webpage editor.
Basic editing functions such as copy, select all and find are available across all three browsers with the same menu commands (Edit -> Copy, Edit -> Find etc). In most cases a user will not be able to use the cut command unless they are editing material that it is expressed in a web form that they are editing. In Mesilla, the Edit command menu also gives access to a wide range of preferences covering the general appearance of the application, history, languages, composer options, mail and newsgroup options, security features and a range of advanced features which includes scripts and plugins, use of the cache, and proxy servers. In Internet Explorer some of the equivalent preferences are found from the menu command Tools -> Internet Option. In K-Melon, the preferences screen is again found under the edit menu command, but with a significantly reduced range.
Much of the View and Go menu commands have already been discussed, particularly in relation to website navigation. Another important command from this menu includes options for increasing and reducing the size of text (View -> Text Zoom in Mozilla, View -> Text Size in Internet Explorer). Also, the page source view (View -> Page Source in Mozilla, View -> Source) is an excellent method of doing edit changes to a website. With Internet Explorer this loads notepad as a default (remember to save the file as *.html), whereas in Mozilla one receives a display of the file and from there one must edit it through Composer. Internet Explorer also offers the opportunity to view a website with a full screen presentation from this menu (View -> Full Screen).
Shortcuts to URL's are established through the Favorites menu command in Internet Explorer and the Bookmarks command in Mozilla and K-Melon. Despite the difference in name, the implementation is very similar. The key commands are adding a shortcut (Favorites -> Add to Favorites in Internet Explorer, Bookmarks -> Bookmark This Page in Mozilla and K-Melon) and managing the shortcuts (Favorites -> Organize Favorites in Internet Explorer, Bookmarks -> Manage Bookmarks in Mozilla and K-Melon). Mozilla also offers the option of adding shortcuts directly to a folder with the Bookmarks -> File Bookmark command. Both Mozilla and K-Melon provide an option to import favorites bookmarked in Internet Explorer.
The command associated with the tools menu item are significantly different between Mozilla/K-Melon and Internet Explorer. Mozilla includes links to search engines (Tools -> Search the Web), form and cookie managers (cookies record information about site visits to aid future visits), and image, pop up windows and password managers. How a user sets these is entirely dependent on their own taste on what information they want to receive. The fact that Mozilla specifies these according to particular sites however is very useful. For example, if a regularly visited website includes annoying "popup ads", one can block pop-up windows from that site, but still keep them for others.
In Internet Explorer the tools command menu provides a link to the Outlook (or other) Internet newsgroup reader or email client (Tools -> Mail and News), a means to check that webpages viewable offline are using the most up-to-date version (Tools -> Synchronize), updating to the latest version of Internet Explorer (Tools -> Windows Update), viewing related links (Tools -> View Related Links) and most importantly, the options command. (Tools -> Options). Options allow the user to set their default home page, manage their temporary Internet files and history (keeping a long history – say 20 days – is recommended), security, privacy and content (default options are recommended), default programs, connection options, and advanced options. Note that many of the equivalent commands in Mozilla and K-Melon is found in Edit -> Preferences.
The most important Help menu command in Internet Explorer is Help -> Contents and Index, which provides a four-tab method option for assistance (Contents, Index, Search and Favorites). In comparison Mozilla (Help -> Contents and Index), also provides a four tabs, but the options there are instead (Contents, Index, Search and Glossary). Mozilla also provides advanced debugging options under the Debug menu command, although these are unlikely to be of use to the end user. Finally, Mozilla being an opensource project also provides a menu command for programmers who wish to be involved in the project (QA).
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, GPA Building #1, Ground Floor, Dili, East Timor
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