Computers in Genealogy

Surfing the Web

Wayne Thalls

I am sure you have visited web sites which contain material you would like to keep. I have found cemetery records, marriage records, tax records and other data. Of course, you can print the information while you are connected to the site. This is often a very slow process, and you don't always get the associated graphics.

In most cases you should be able to copy the data to a file and save it on your disk. Your web browser makes this possible. A web browser is software which makes it possible to view the pages on the web regardless of how they were originally created.

Web browsers include Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which is an integral part of Windows 95/98. A version of IE is also incorporated into your AOL software. Other Internet Service Providers may use IE or Netscape or perhaps even some other browser.

I'll describe how to do these things using Internet Explorer and AOL. You should experiment with your own installation, whether a PC or a Macintosh user.

On Windows based systems you have additional functions available to you when you use the right button on the mouse. Become familiar with these functions. They apply to your system setup, manipulation of files and other things. The right button is the key to retaining web information.

Here is what I do to save the important information I find on the web.

When you find text files you wish to save, click the left mouse button on File on the toolbar. Click on Save As. Select the drive you wish to save to---I find it convenient to first save to a floppy. You could rename this file before saving. All the text is saved as an HTML file.

If there are graphics or photos you wish to save, move the cursor to the object and hold the right mouse button down. Move the cursur within the resulting menu window to save picture as. Either keep the file name as is or rename it. In some internet software you may be able to save the graphic in different formats; ie .gif, .bmp, .jpg, etc. With AOL software the image will be saved in .art format, which is unique to AOL.

After you have disconnected from AOL, or other service provider, you may view the items you have downloaded. While AOL or your browser program is still running, click on File then click on open and select one of the files you have just saved.

In the case of graphics and photos you can choose to save these images in a different format, such as .gif. You'll want to do this with all the .art images you have downloaded using AOL. You will now be able to open and manipulate these images in other Windows programs, such as Photoshop, Photoworks, Paint Shop Pro, or the Windows Image program. For you AOL 4.0 users there is some limited capability to manipulate images once you have opened them. Adjustments can be made to brightness and contrast for example.

When you open an HTML file via your browser, it appears just like it did when you were online. With Windows 95/98 the easy way to access these files at any time is simply to click on My Computer, then locate the desired file and double click on it. It will automatically open within the browser. That is the way some of the items on our library computer are accessed.

There are simple shareware programs available on the net which will convert HTML files to text files. Those files can then be opened within a word processor.

A Word of Caution

Anytime you download/copy something off the internet remember that copyright laws apply. If you plan to use the material for anything other than personal viewing be careful. You might need the agreement of the originator before you can incorporate these items into your own publications. In any event you must attribute the source.

Other Ideas

While visiting genealogical web sites you will often find pages which provide links to other sites. The outstanding example of this is the famous Cyndis List. That list currently contains something like 40,000 worldwide links. Most of those directories are much smaller. You will find several small lists on our own web site.

In order to use these lists again, you probably bookmark them so you can easily return there. There is another way.

While you are viewing a list on line, click on File, then click on save as. After selecting the destination disk, click on ok. You have now saved this HTML page. You will be able to view it offline using the process outlined earlier.

You could simply open the directory page and copy the URLs of interest. There is another convenient way to use this file. Once you are connected to the Internet Service Provider, click on File then open the directory file. Simply move the cursor to the site you desire and click. Your browser will take you there.

I have saved a number of these directories to a single disk. You can rename the files to make retrieval easier. It is like having a specialized internet directory on a 3.5 inch disk.

Let Me Hear from You

One purpose of this column, and of the Computer Interest Group, is to share ideas like these. I am particularly interested in hearing tips from you. What have you found to be peculiar to Macintosh systems, for example?

© 1999   From the newletter of the Genealogical Society of Santa Cruz County

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