As the World Wide Web grows in popularity and Internet technology improves, the experience of surfing the Web is becoming both more interesting and more useful.
Browsers themselves have been augmented by hundreds of add-on programs that can greatly expand the Internet experience.Many of these programs are free. These programs are often referred to as plug-ins, since they plug into and work with your Internet browser to extend its capabilities. Often these programs offer the capability to play audio or video or to view data in a unique way.
Computer users will rejoice to find that most of the more useful plug-ins are totally free and can be quickly downloaded from the manufacturer’s Web site. Since most plug-ins are browser specific, you will need to use a different version for Netscape Navigator than Internet Explorer. If you happen to use both Netscape and IE, you would need to download a version of each of your browsers. The good news is that, other than for upgrades, you only have to install a plug-in once for it to be available for all of your Internet browsing. Also, you don’t have to worry about whether or not you have already installed a plug-in. If you have not installed a plug-in that is needed to view and/or listen to the data on a Web site, a pop-up window will appear requesting you to download the necessary software. Since so many plug-ins are available, you may want to be judicious in your choice of programs. Here are a few of the most popular plug-ins that you might want to try.
First, there is a document reader called Acrobat Reader created by Adobe. This wonderful program facilitates a reliable, efficient, and effective way to share information electronically. This plug-in allows you to view and print many documents found on the Internet. It is often used for instruction booklets as well as for forms. With Acrobat Reader, you can view the file as it initially looked, without having to own the application that was used to create the original document (another big plus for the end user).
The IRS Web site and many government sites use Adobe Acrobat for tax forms and other documents. Installing Acrobat Reader on your computer will enable you to read and print those documents. Any files that have the extension PDF (portable document file) will need Acrobat Reader. This is a popular plug-in used by many informational Web sites
Multimedia effects are often enjoyed on the Internet with two plug-ins. The first of these is a very popular one called the Flash Player. Flash has become the Web standard for vector graphics and animation. This program is a must-have if you want to experience much of the animation and entertainment on the Web. Flash makes the Internet come alive to the senses. Many of the newer Internet browsers come with the Flash Player pre-installed. Flash was created by a company called Macromedia, but it is now owned by Adobe. If you don’t have it, you can download the Flash Player at the Adobe Website.
The other multimedia plug-in is called Shockwave. This program lets users interact with presentations right in a browser window. Animation, clickable buttons, links to URLs, digital video movies, sound, and more can be integrated within the presentation. Shockwave, although not as popular as Flash, is used for many quality interactive games, multimedia, graphics, and streaming audio on the World Wide Web. Download Shockwave at the Adobe Website.
Another useful plug-in is Apple’s QuickTime program, which lets you experience QuickTime animation, music, MIDI, audio, video, Virtual Reality panoramas, and objects directly on a Web page. This plug-in has been around for a long time, and it keeps getting better and better. Download Apple Quick Time at Apple’s Web Site or just visit the site to get a feel for the power of this program. By the way, Apple QuickTime is not only for Apple computers; it can be used by Windows computers, as well.
RealPlayer by Real
For listening to sound files, RealAudio has been one of the most widely used plug-ins. The RealAudio player has been incorporated into RealPlayer, which combines both audio and video. RealPlayer which can be downloaded from the Real Web site
is free for individual download and use. It instantly plays live and on-demand RealAudio, RealVideo, and RealFlash animation. Although the Web site will entice you to purchase the RealPlayer Plus version, the free version will probably be adequate unless you are very involved in audio and video. RealPlayer is facing some fierce competition from Microsoft’s Media Player. While previously it was a must-have, now you may only need it for a few websites.
Microsoft’s Media Player
You may already have Microsoft’s Media Player installed on your computer. If you do not, it is a free download at the Microsoft Web site . Media Player installs as a part of Windows, so it is not viewed as an official plug-in on a Windows computer, but it handles media files just like the RealPlayer plug-in. Microsoft’s Media Player is gaining popularity and, like RealPlayer, offers access to much good music and audio.
Your Internet experience should be as rich and rewarding as possible. Plug-ins can augment your Internet experience, so don’t shy away. These add-on programs have been created to help you enjoy the World Wide Web as much as possible.