Sams Teach Yourself Windows 95 in 10 Minutes
by Sue Plumley
ISBN 0-672-31316-2, 208 pages
$12.99 U.S., $18.95 Canada, £11.99 U.K.
I have not previously given even ten minutes’ thought to Windows 95, so I am a perfect test case for this ambitious little book. It offers “quick steps for fast results,” with a promise that readers can “get the skills you need in just 10 minutes.”
(Start the countdown, while I breeze through the book. Pause. Okay. After two minutes I’m finished with Lessons One and Two. What did I learn so far?)
At first glance, Windoze 95 does indeed resemble Mac 84, as many of you already know. I now understand how to start up the computer, navigate the Windows Desktop, use the Taskbar, scroll and move windows, shut down the computer, and a bit more. Not bad for a newbie, right?
This Teach Yourself XYZ in 10 Minutes series from Sams press is new to me, and I am impressed. I’ll now proceed a little deeper into the book. Just a sec. Pause.
I’m back, having made it through Lesson 13 during the last minute or so. I stopped at Lesson 14, “Adding Graphics with Paint,” because this is not something I do very often on my Macintosh. Get to the point, John, please.
Very quickly now, I’ll fast forward through the final dozen chapters. Ha! Now *here* is something amazing, a THREE PAGE tutorial on using Internet Explorer. Talk about streamlined instructions!
I’ll get serious now. For demanding users of any application, this series would hardly be adequate, but for newcomers, Sams Teach Yourself Windows 95 in 10 Minutes is surprisingly comprehensive. I admit that if I was forced to sit at a Win 95 computer and be productive, armed with this book I could do something either elegantly convincing or astoundingly stupid, with consummate panache.
Many of the books we cover here in Book Bytes presume at least a basic knowledge of the methods and applications involved. For first time Windows 95 users who know their way around a Mac, and who appreciate down-to-earth text plus plenty of tips and screen shots, I RECOMMEND this book.
HTML4 for the World Wide Web,
Visual QuickStart Guide
by Elizabeth Castro
ISBN 0-201-69696-7, 336 pages
$17.95 U.S., $24.95 Canada
Go, Peachpit, go! Go, Liz, go! Book Bytes is getting repetitive, but I absolutely adore the Visual QuickStart series. This new book on Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), current to version 4, is outstanding. Let’s look inside.
Starting at the back of the book, Appendix D, entitled “HTML and Compatibility,” lists and describes HTML tags (with the appropriate page numbers mentioned), and identifies which browser and HTML version is currently compatible. The rear cover contains a fold-out page displaying both “The Sixteen Predefined Colors” and “117 Colors in Hex” for Web page creation, which are explained in Appendix C. Special characters and symbols are itemized in Appendix B, and software solutions for HTML editing, images, and graphics are covered in Appendix A.
Jumping to the front of the book, the Introduction provides a clear explanation of the book’s features and uses. As in each of the Visual QuickStart Guides, HTML4 for the World Wide Web is structured with excellent side-by-side text and illustrations, in two-column format, with one topic and tip per page. Liz Castro addresses the reader, stating: “In this book, I refer to the person who designs Web pages as ‘you,’ (or sometimes the programmer or designer). On the other hand, the ‘visitor’ is the person who will look at your Web pages once you’ve published them.”
HTML codings are printed in boldface type to facilitate reading and learning. Special mention is provided in point-by-point detail for HTML code that is only recognized either by Netscape or Internet Explorer browsers. This book is current to version 4 of both Navigator and Explorer. I heartily applaud the use of the color red for lines, text, and graphics to highlight the specific item being discussed or demonstrated on any given page. Bravo! Peachpit should consider adding this feature to *every* QuickStart guide.
The instructions and tips are right on target. I was a total beginner prior to reading the previous edition of HTML for the World Wide Web, and I now have sufficient knowledge to be very dangerous. Keep me away from your page templates. You have been warned.
Chapter 4, “Creating Images,” contains outstanding lessons on GIF and JPEG images. Subsequent chapters feature the entire range of Web page creation topics, including layout, links and anchors, tables, frames, and plenty more. Macintosh and Windows receive equal mention throughout, as do Netscape and Explorer.
You guessed correctly: I -HIGHLY RECOMMEND- HTML4 for the World Wide Web, Visual QuickStart Guide. Buy it, read it, use it.
The Web Design Wow! Book
by Jack Davis and Susan Merritt
ISBN 0-201-88678-2, 218 pages
(large format; plus CD)
$39.95 U.S., $55.95 Canada
If I had an extra dozen hours every day I would gladly lock myself inside my office and cozy up to my trusty Macintosh, with any of the “Wow!” series of books from Peachpit Press. Last month we looked at several fine books in the series, plus a few others, aimed at the talented members of the graphics, art, and design community. This latest book is a worthy addition to the hearty, helpful heap.
The subtitle of The Web Design Wow! Book is “Showcasing the Best of On-Screen Communication,” which by itself is very tempting. Does the book deliver? Let’s go inside.
Chapter One is a primer on contemporary design principles, using colorful real-world print and Web illustrations. I must explain that the entire book’s large pages are laid out horizontally, in three columns, allowing plenty of room for vivid examples and instructive text.
I am now groaning with satisfaction, and I’m only in the middle of Chapter 2, “An Interface Checklist,” which includes, among other topics: windows, panels, frames, typography, video, music, and animation. Chapter after chapter provide in-depth and user-friendly descriptions for accomplishing basic and complex projects, covering a tremendous range of Web design situations. Familiar sites such as Discovery Channel Online (http://www.discovery.com) and Travelocity (http://www.travelocity.com) plentifully illustrate every page.
Chapters begin with thumbnail shots of the pages and URLs to be featured. Then, each extensive chapter concludes with a gallery, in which specific top-quality Web pages are described in detail. All the project contributors are itemized in Appendix A, including email addresses and fax numbers. Darn good job!
In total, there are ten chapters, such as: Marketing, Education and Training, Publishing, Portfolios and Presentations, and Sales. Each one is delivers a knockout punch which currently has my head buzzing with overstimulation. Please, Web designers, buy and use this book and CD, and watch your sites sizzle. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Creating Cool HTML4 Web Pages
by Dave Taylor
IDG Books Worldwide
ISBN 0-7645-3201-4, 433 pages (plus CD)
$29.99 U.S., $42.99 Canada, £ 28.99 U.K.
While we’re on the subject of creating HTML Web sites from scratch, let’s check out this new book. The author has very impressive credits, including over 1,000 Web pages, more than 800 published articles on the Internet, and many well-known books and software programs.
The book progresses from basic, general background (“What’s a Web Page? What’s a Browser?”) to more advanced material. Netscape and Explorer are both covered in equal depth. Pages are liberally sprinkled with specific URLs, plus abundant Notes and Tips. HTML examples are plentiful, as you would expect. Each chapter ends with a summary, including the tags used in the chapter. Thanks!
Dave Taylor takes a utilitarian, no-nonsense approach to HTML. He writes personally, and keeps his tutorial momentum going at a steady pace. The look-and-feel of Creating Cool HTML4 Web Pages give the book somewhat of a textbook-approach, which I commend for this rather complex subject. He is very thorough. Page after page is loaded with HTML source code alongside screen shots of how the Web pages will look in browser windows.
This book will probably appeal most to HTML authors who learn systematically and methodically. It is definitely not a crash-course. One of the most critical chapters, “Adding Graphics to Jazz Up Your Pages,” should be required reading for all newcomers to Web page creation.
The 19 chapters are each weighty in the best sense of the word, meaning well-conceived and executed. By the final chapter, “Dynamic HTML and The Future,” Taylor has become the reader’s friend and mentor, and has imparted knowledge and confidence. He offers personal assistance, and generously provides his email address.
Taylor’s CD is loaded with valuable software. His five Appendices are themselves worth much of the price of admission, including:
• Building Your First Page: A Primer
• Step-by-Step Web Site Planning Guide
• Finding a Home for Your Web Page
plus a Glossary and HTML Quick Reference section.
Overall I find Creating Cool HTML4 Web Pages to be a valuable project-oriented reference work, and I definitely RECOMMEND it.
Creating Web Pages for Dummies, Third Edition
by Bud Smith and Arthur Bebak
ISBN 0-7645-0357-X, 357 pages (plus CD)
$24.99 U.S., $35.99 Canada, £23.99 U.K.
Gee, whiz. Can I really create “dazzling home pages in no time!”? That’s what the cover says. No time like the present to find out.
Dummies books are great, most of the time, for bona fide beginners. For example, the inside cover contains a tear-out cheat sheet with a “sample Web page in HTML” on one side, and common HTML tags and character codes on the other side. I like this book already.
Creating Web Pages for Dummies aims to assist the “Webophile,” the “Browser,” and the “Webophobe”, each of whom is defined in the Foreword. Part One, “Get Started with Web Publishing,” defines the basics of the book, and treads the treacherous path between a simplistic and a comprehensive approach to the confusing world of HTML and Web publishing.
Throughout the book, the authors go to great lengths to define Web terminology and anticipate readers’ questions with plain-English answers. Screen shots of real-world Web pages, and ample boxed sidebar tips, are particularly useful. Workshop-method tutorials walk users through “just enough HTML” to get started, and understand what they are doing in the process.
Part Two covers “A Home Page in a Day,” first using GeoCities as the host site (http://www.geocities.com), and then patiently explaining how to set up a personal site both on an online service’s network (such as America Online) and on an ISP server.
“Better, Stronger, Faster Sites” get special treatment in Part Three, including external links, tables, graphics, multimedia, and then publishing the result. A variety of Web authoring software is covered in Part Four, but Claris HomePage is conspicuously absent, which is not a crisis (but is a serious omission, in my opinion).
In the Appendices, common-sense reminders and a useful Glossary are followed by my favorite parts: the “Quick Guide to HTML Tags” and a basic list of practical URLs for reference Web support sites. The CD contains many of the applications mentioned throughout the book. (Oh, now I understand why Claris HomePage is left out. No license.)
Overall, Creating Web Pages for Dummies is a darn good introductory volume on the subject. I’m no dummy, and neither are you, so if you are starting from scratch with Web page authoring, consider this book RECOMMENDED by Book Bytes.
Setting Up an Internet Site for Dummies,
by Jason Coombs and Ted Coombs
(http://www.science.org), and David Crowder
and Rhonda Crowder
ISBN 0-7645-0358-8, 380 pages (plus CD)
$29.99 U.S., $42.99 Canada, £28.99 U.K.
Once your Web page is up and running on a commercial host site, you might start thinking about creating your own full-service site. This book claims to be the “fun and easy way to establish and expand your own Internet domain.” Sounds promising so far.
The authors explain that “Setting Up an Internet Site for Dummies is the ideal book for anyone who wants to create a permanent Internet presence for personal or business purposes.” Then it plunges in head-first, with nuts-and-bolts commentary on the principles of internetworking, domain names, and working with both DNS (domain name system) and virtual servers.
A decent chunk of the book consists of a pared-down version of the previous book, Creating Web Pages for Dummies, covering Web page creation and layout. I had no personal experience with “Setting Up an Internet News Server,” but I’m beginning to comprehend it after reading Chapter Seven. Did you ever give much thought to email autoresponders and mailboxes, or how FTP really works? I am impressed with the depth in which these topics are addressed. Ditto for establishing an automated electronic mailing list. Serious stuff!
Part Four brings us back to the surface, and includes hearty chapters on electronic commerce and promoting your site. URLs encompassing a wide range of tips and techniques, plus a ton of sensible suggestions, make up Part Five. The CD has a surprisingly large array of software to assist in site creation and setup.
I admit that Setting Up an Internet Site for Dummies is the first book I have read dedicated solely to this worthwhile pursuit, so I have no non-Dummies basis of comparison. Spend a few minutes with the book before you decide to part with money for it, and consider it RECOMMENDED for newcomers to the topic.
Quicken 98 Bible
by Kathy Ivens, Thomas E. Barich,
and Stephen I. Bush, CPA
IDG Books Worldwide
ISBN 0-7645-3211-1, 613 pages
$ 34.99 U.S., $49.99 Canada, £33.99 U.K.
My comments on this weighty tome would have been extremely concise if Intuit had carried out its threat to discontinue Quicken software development for the Mac platform. I am a huge fan and user of Intuit products, and the loss would have been terrible. Now that Quicken is “back,” we can embrace this latest bible with open arms.
I consistently applaud IDG’s “bible” series, and the new Quicken 98 Bible is no exception. From “Organizing Your Shoe Box” to “Using Online Financial Software,” the book has it all. An impressive amount of paper and ink is devoted to “Installing and Setting Up Quicken,” plus “Quicken Basics.” Starting out on the right foot is probably worth the entire cost of the book.
By page 75 users are entering checkbook transactions, and then special transactions. Everyone’s favorite, “Balancing Your Checkbook” is next on the agenda. Explanations are thorough and patient, and easy to read and understand. Essential financial arrangements conclude with sections on automating transactions, then writing and printing checks. Screen shots are from the Windows version of Quicken, which does not appear to matter with this application.
Quicken is noteworthy for users’ ability to customize it, and for creating charts and graphs. The Quicken 98 Bible provides guidelines and examples for all these operations.
The second half of the book contains extensive material on file management (hint: BACKUP your financial files!), working with budgets, financial planning, and tracking investments. My favorite chapter is “Preparing for Tax Time.” Oh, what fun.
Wait, there is more: how to use Home Inventory, Emergency Records, and the many bonus and business features in Quicken Deluxe. The final chapters cover the burgeoning area of online finance, and are a well-conceived primer on this important topic.
My advice is clear on this book. If you are totally comfortable with Quicken 98 and its many features, you probably don’t need this book. If you want to make the very most of your favorite financial software, though, please take my RECOMMENDATION, and consider the purchase of Quicken 98 Bible soon.
New Riders’ Official World Wide Web
Internet Directory, Seventh Edition
New Riders Publishing
ISBN 1-56205-881-9, 1214 pages (plus CD)
$29.99 U.S., $42.95 Canada, £28.49 U.K.
Of all the dozens of books that cross my threshold every year, my consistent favorites remain the Web yellow pages and Net directories. My gut feeling is that they are dying out, with the increasing popularity and effectiveness of Web-based search engines, directories, and content providers. For me, though, there is nothing like a big, thick book, full of pre-selected sites, newsgroups, and mailing lists.
This seventh edition of the popular New Riders’ Official World Wide Web Internet Directory replaces their previous yellow pages. The new book is different from its predecessors in several ways:
• Strategically-located references to newsgroups, plus gopher and FTP sites.
• Listservs and mailing lists are included wherever appropriate.
• The book is divided into *many* more categories.
• Boxed selections of “Top Picks” for every subject area.
• Readers must obtain their basic “what’s the Net?” info elsewhere, because the encyclopedic introduction is gone.
• The main pages for each topic are not numbered, which is very annoying.
• Commercial sites are much more numerous than in the past, but there are still plenty of fine amateur and personal listings.
The fonts and design of the pages have been cleaned up, making the new edition easier to read and browse. Each heading concludes with URLs for “Related Sites,” which I find particularly useful for investigating subjects in greater depth.
Nineteen named authors give the book a more specific, personal feel than had the objective, generic approach of past editions. The result is a huge bunch of listings that are both individualistic and idiosyncratic, which is what the Internet is all about.
The increased quantity of categories leads to some peculiar juxtapositions of subjects on adjacent pages, such as we find on pages 472 – 479: Folk Music, Football, Foreign Policy, Formal Apparel, and Four Wheel Drive Vehicles. As on the Net itself, there is never a dull or predictable moment in New Riders’ Official World Wide Web Internet Directory.
As you would expect, the book is strong on computer-related and Internet topics. Also, there are the usual overflowing listings of sports, entertainment, and more sports. The mix throughout is diverse, eclectic, and fun, especially for this reader. Yes, it is a very different directory than in the past, and I can’t wait to get back online and put the darn book to work for me.
Think of this book as sort of a “Yahoo in print” concept, and you will understand why I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it.
Well, friends, that does it for July. Next month Book Bytes will examine several new books on a variety of Internet topics, plus a few surprises. As always, I welcome your comments on the books and my reviews of them.