Web Browsers as Research Tools

A workshop presented at the
Resources for the Electronic Classroom Conference
West Chester University, Pennsylvania
May 10, 2001

Paula Edmiston, Matrix Magic

We adore chaos because we love to produce order. - M. C. Escher

Bringing order out of chaos is the nature of the web browser. The Internet has been an informational depository since its beginning and Image of Bookmarks the World Wide Web continues the grand experiment in information dissemination. The browser is the way we interface with the World Wide Web and facility with the World Wide Web is becoming part of the core competency for education, government and industry. Browser bookmark files can be surprisingly powerful tools for bringing order to Internet-based research, offering many specialized features and options for managing online research, note-taking and tracking web sites.

In today's workshop we'll look at options for using bookmarks, or favorites, to assist in research projects, and we'll take a look at how browsers can be using in uploading and downloading files. We will work with a sample bookmark file, in Netscape.

As a librarian I am extremely interested in both identifying useful web sites, and in making my records of sites accessible. I run various sets of bookmark files, including my large at home bookmark file.


All browsers offer a method for making note of web sites we want to return to at a future date. In this workshop we'll look at the Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer (MSIE) browsers. Netscape named this list, Bookmarks, and MSIE calls these collections Favorites. The two companies handle bookmarks differently. Netscape creates a single file named bookmark.html but MSIE creates an individual file for each bookmark, stored in a special subdirectory.

You can bookmark files that are not web pages! You can use your bookmark file to access directories and individual files on the hard drive of your own computer as well as accessing your own research materials that you keep stored online. This means you can bookmark word processing files, spreadsheets, any kind of file. When you select such a link your browser will prompt you to launch the proper program to open that file.

Be careful what you do bookmark. If you plan to upload your bookmark file then it can become accessible to anyone in the world, especially if it gets picked up by the search engine spiders. I don't bookmark sensitive materials that are on my personal computer. Protect sensitive material by creating a web page that resides only on your hard drive, which links the private material.

The Netscape Tips and Tricks handout covers general features such as how to break out frames, how to print, how set the headers and footers to contain the URL and date printed (essential information for bibliographies). This guide also shows you how to upload your bookmark file to your web server so that you can access the file where ever you work. In today's workshop we'll take a look at how these features work.

The Netscape Bookmarks handout presents an in-depth guide to managing bookmarks. A handout for the Microsoft Internet Explorer Favorites, in development, is a guide to managing favorites. In today's workshop we will look at the following features of the bookmark file, using the sample bookmark file.

  • Default Bookmarks
  • Adding/Editing Bookmarks
  • Searching Bookmarks
  • Organizing Bookmarks with Folders
  • The Personal Toolbar (Netscape) and Link Bar (MSIE)

Image of the Netscape Toolbars
Sites associated with the personal Toolbar folder give you instant access.

Nota Bene

The global network of computers and smaller networks. We access many services via the Internet, including email, telnet, FTP and the World Wide Web.
Uniform Resource Locator. The address of a resource available via the WWW, usually web pages.
The World Wide Web (WWW)
A service that is provided via the Internet. The agony and the ecstasy of the World Wide Web is that is was designed to be a document delivery system.

Last edited 8 May 2001