Now Where Did I Put That?
by Clark and Kathryn Kidd

With these techniques you can find your lost site on the Internet again.

We usually use this column to alert you to Internet sites that are interesting, useful, or just downright fun. This time we wanted to do something different, and give you some hints for keeping track of those useful places that you find during your own Internet travel adventures. There is nothing more frustrating than finding a useful Internet site, only to lose it forever because you forgot what it was named. Hopefully, we can make you aware of some features already present in your software that will prevent too many of these lost sites.

The most common way of keeping track of your favorite sites is using a feature called Bookmarks (if you run Netscape Navigator) or Favorites (if you run Internet Explorer). Look for buttons with those names on the browser toolbar, or as an option in the pull-down menus. Commercial services also have similar features, such as the Favorite Places option on America Online. Regardless of what it is called by your particular piece of software, the function is the same. Creating a bookmark is the electronic equivalent of taking out a notebook and a pencil and writing down an address. Your browser maintains a bookmark file of all the web addresses you tell it to remember. Once you have told the browser to add a bookmark, you can simply use the bookmark function to review all the previous addresses you have saved. But you don’t have to create many bookmarks to realize that some type of organizational system is necessary. Most browsers give you quite a bit of flexibility in terms of managing your bookmarks. They will usually allow you to create multiple folders, so that web sites with similar functions can be grouped in the same folder. For example, looking at the bookmarks on one of our computers shows folders with names such as, “LDS Sites,” “Search Engines,” “Travel,” “News and Weather” and the generic “Fun Stuff.” You can also have multiple levels of folders. For example, selecting our Travel folder will reveal secondary folders with such names as, “Airlines,” “Destinations,” “Hotels,” and “Cruises.” Most browsers also support an import and export function so you can move bookmark lists from one computer to another. You can export the bookmarks by writing them to a small file, probably on a floppy disk. Then when you are using the computer that is to receive the bookmarks, you simply insert the floppy and do an import function.

Managing Bookmarks
There are really quite a few options when it comes to managing bookmarks, and you can spend a lot of time creating folders and sub-folders, and getting your bookmarks into just the right format so that you can use them without difficulty. Like most PC software, however, many of the Bookmark editing features seem difficult to understand and use, and the online “help” isn’t very helpful. You may want to export a copy of your bookmarks for safety before you start to experiment too much. Then if the worst should happen, you can always import them and get back where you started. Most browsers also support an “Undo” function, which allows you to cancel the last operation you performed. You can usually go back several operations, and get yourself out of some serious problems assuming you catch yourself in time.

If you’re already bemoaning a lost site, you may be able to recover that as well. If you only visited that lost site recently, you may have a pretty good chance of finding it.

When you type in a web address (technically called a URL), you will notice that there is probably a downward-pointing arrow button to the right of the box where you type in the address. This is called a drop-down button, and if you press on it, the browser should produce a drop-down list of all of the sites you have visited recently. If you recognize one of those as the site you wanted, just click on the name and you will be taken there. Now remember to bookmark the site this time, so that you won’t lose it in the future.

The History Log
If the site you lost isn’t in the drop-down list, all is not lost. A final option is to check in the history log of the browser. Each browser maintains a history file of all the different sites that were recently visited (you tell the browser how many days it should remember these sites when you set the options). If you use Netscape, select the “Communicator” menu item, then the “Tools” option (may not be present on older versions), and finally the “History” option to cause the history file to be displayed. For each site in the history, the URL is recorded, along with the title of the web page (what appears in the title line of your browser when you display it), the dates of first/last visit, the number of times the site has been visited, and the date and time the entry will be removed from the history because of inactivity. If you click on the titles at the top of each column, it will sort the entries based on that column. For example, clicking on “Last Visited” will sort the history by the date/time each site was last visited, with the most recent visits at the top of the list. Click on the title again, and it will sort in the in reverse order, so the least recent visits appear at the top of the list. To change the number of days entries are kept in the history, select “Edit,” then “Preferences,” and then double-click the word “Navigator.” You can specify the number of days to keep entries, and can also use a clear function to remove all the entries from the history.

Displaying the history file when using the Internet Explorer is a matter of selecting “View,” then “Explorer Bar,” and then “History.” The history entries can be displayed using a number of different criteria, and there is also a useful search function that allows you to search for a specific word. This appears to do the search using the actual web pages associated with the sites in the history, rather than just the name of the web page or the web address. Right-clicking the mouse on a web address and then selecting “Properties” will show you such information as the date and time last visited, and the number of times the site has been visited. Select “Tools,” followed by “Internet Options” to clear the history file or change the number of days that entries should be kept.

In our book A Parent’s Survival Guide to the Internet, we make the point that the browser history file can be a good way of keeping track of the type of sites being visited by those using your computer. Looking at the URL address and the site Title can give you a pretty good idea of where Junior has been spending his time. If you see something that raises questions, just click (Internet Explorer) or double click (Netscape Navigator) on the entry to visit the site and see for yourself. Keep in mind that someone trying to cover his tracks can erase individual entries in the history, or the entire file. Thus you won’t be able to catch an expert hacker by using the history file, but you may be able to track down the Internet trail of an average user. There are some ethical issues with using this feature to spy on others, so we will leave the decision to you regarding your use of it for anything other than finding a useful web site you visited somewhere in the recent past.

One final feature that may help you locate a lost site is the type-ahead feature incorporated into both Netscape Navigator and Internet Explorer. If you start typing a web address such as “www.ld,” Navigator will complete the address for you, based on recent sites you have visited. For example, it might overlay what you already typed with If this is not what you wanted, type the next letter and it will guess again using that longer prefix. Explorer does something similar by producing a drop-down list with all the sites that match the prefix you have typed thus far. Selecting the one you want is just a matter of clicking on the address. This feature probably just searches the history file to make its guesses, but if you think you remember the first part of the name, it is probably faster than searching through the file yourself.

There are too many useful sites on the Internet to not have something to help us keep track of them. Understanding the features and tools already built into our software will make our online time more productive and less frustrating. We hope this column helped a little in that regard.

2001 Meridian Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.