For those new

to the Internet,

finding things can

be a nightmare.

Here's a guide

to using "search

engines" and

other useful

Internet tools.

Back in grammar school, we learned to find things in libraries. School libraries were usually small affairs, and the librarian was helpful. "You'll find fiction over there, alphabetically by the author's last name," she'd say while pointing. "You'll find the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature in the reference section over there. If you have trouble, come back and I'll help you."

They were small enough to browse, and thin books -- ideal for book reports -- were easy to find.

Sometime in junior high school we were introduced to the Dewey Decimal System, the librarian's secret code. However, only valedictorians and an occasional salutatorian ever learned the system. It was more convenient to ask, or go automatically to one's favorite section.

Then we got computers and online services. We had to send e-mail to ourselves, just to make sure it was working. But now nearly everybody is connected. E-mail today is number one in Internet traffic volume. Number two is the World Wide Web, followed by usenet and gopher.

The World Wide Web isn't as difficult as the Dewey Decimal System, but it has its own complexities and peculiarities. For one thing, it's more like a giant flea market than a library. Mixed up with the old National Geographics and toaster ovens are bronze baby shoes, copies of high school papers, ads, notes passed in class, and some "adult magazines." People sometimes disappear into the Web, and don't surface for days at a time because there is so much of it.

Nevertheless, its incredible size means that if you know what you're looking for, chances are you can find it. The trick is knowing where to look, without losing track of what you were looking for.

INDEXES

Most people who use the Internet use the Netscape browser. A browser doesn't "browse," and it isn't a search engine, it's more like a telephone than the yellow pages. You tell it where to go and it will take you there. So there you sit -- heat rising from your Pentium, a 28.8 modem sparkling like a Christmas tree, the latest version of Netscape glowing on your screen, cursor blinking on the address field -- and no place to go. It's like the guy who spends all his time working on his car, finally gets it running, licensed, waxed -- and sits in his driveway with the engine running wishing he had a date.

That means it's time for an index. Like most indexes, a Web index is a yellow-pages-style listing of categories and subjects to help narrow down your search.

Yahoo and several other indexes are linked to your browser. Somewhere there on the browser screen, you'll find a button labeled "Web Index" or "Web Search." Click on it and you'll find links to different systems to help you find things.

Yahoo was one of the first indexes. Like many computer technology companies that began in garages, Yahoo was originally a list of the favorite Internet sites of two Stanford students. Later it was indexed and became the most widely used way of finding things. Yahoo is probably the easiest system to use. If it's not linked to your browser, you'll find it at: So now, you have an address to enter into the address field of your browser.

SEARCH ENGINES

Search engines are a little more sophisticated than indexes. They have their own peculiarities, just like librarians. Some are very sophisticated and require some study before you can use them. However, if you're looking for a golf course in Finland or the