1. Make a special download directory
Downloading can get messy. Unless you neatly file away new software, you'll be bogged down in no time. To keep track of software you download, you should save it in a special location. Methods for creating a new download folder or directory vary depending on whether you're running Windows 95/98/NT, Windows 3.x, or the Macintosh OS, but the good news is that you can make the folder or directory once, then reuse it time and time again. And if you call your in-box something intuitive like Downloads, you'll always know where to find it.
To make a special folder for storing your downloaded programs (you can also point your Web browser's Save dialog box to this spot), follow these steps:
Right-click anywhere on the Windows desktop.
2. Select New/Folder from the pop-up menus.
3. A folder will appear on your desktop with its default name, New Folder, highlighted. Type the word Downloads over the old name and press Enter.
In File Manager, click the root directory (usually C:).
2. Select File/Create Directory.
3. Type the word Downloads to name the directory and click OK.
1. In the Finder, select New Folder under the File menu.
2. An untitled folder will appear on your desktop. Type the word Downloads over the folder's current label, then click elsewhere on the desktop.
2. Find and download the software
Downloadable software is available everywhere on the Internet--from FTP sites, Web sites, and special collections like that of CNET Download.com. If you're looking for a particular piece of software and you aren't sure which FTP site to visit, searching Download.com is your best bet.
The process is easy enough: just head straight for the Search box, enter one or more search words, and click the Go button. You'll get a list of software that matches the word (or words) you searched on. You can sort these results in a variety of ways by clicking the hyperlinked words (title, date added, or number of downloads, for instance) that appear at the top of the page. Download.com also lets you filter the results by using the drop-down boxes (labeled software license, category, and operating system) at the bottom of the page. For more search tips, click here.
On the other hand, if you know what type of software you're looking for but don't have a specific program in mind, select a category of software from the list under the search box to narrow your search.
Once you've homed in on a program you want to download, click its hyperlinked title to get more information about the program. To download it, just click the "Download now" link on the right side of the page. This will automatically initiate the download via the best available download site. If you'd like to choose among all the sites that offer that program, click the link directly below the "Download now" link.
What happens next depends on your Web browser. In most cases, you'll get a dialog box that confirms where your download is saved. Before you click OK, make sure that the file is saved in the Downloads folder you created in step 1.
If your browser isn't configured to view compressed files, you'll get a message like this: "No viewer available for this file type. Do you want to save to disk?" You should uncheck the box that says "Always ask this question with this file type" (so that in the future you'll be able to begin downloading automatically) and click OK. Then, select your Downloads folder as the saving destination. If you encounter other problems, click here for more troubleshooting tips.
3. Decompress the archive
Practically every file you'll ever download from the Internet is compressed. A compressed file not only reduces download times, but also makes it possible to download all of a program's files (like help files and drivers) in a single file. Overall, dealing with compressed files makes the whole download process go more smoothly--until the file is on your hard disk. At that point, the file may have one of these unfriendly looking extensions: ARJ, ARC, BIN, EXE, GZ, HQX, SEA, SIT, UU, UUE, ZIP, or Z. How you handle these files depends on whether you're using a Mac or a Windows PC and what software you use to decompress these files. (The most popular decompression program for the Mac is StuffIt Expander, and most PC users rely on WinZip to handle compressed files.)
If the file you've downloaded has the extension EXE, it's likely to be a self-extracting file that will decompress when you double-click it. Before you do this, though, drag the file into your Downloads folder or directory to keep your hard drive tidy. After you double-click the file, your installation should be complete and you can skip straight to step 5.
If you've downloaded a file that ends in ARJ, ARC, GZ, ZIP, OR Z, however, you'll need to decompress it with a program such as WinZip. Here's how to decompress a file using WinZip:
1. Double-click the file you want to decompress. WinZip will automatically start up and show you all the compressed files contained in the zipped file.
2. Click the Extract button.
3. Select a destination folder or directory for the files (to create a new directory, just type in a name for the new folder and press Enter) and click the Extract button.
You can dowload WinZip for Windows 95/98/NT or WinZip for Windows 3.x at www.download.com
If you've downloaded a file that ends in SEA, it's a self-extracting file that you can decompress simply by double-clicking it. For files that end in CPT, HQX, or SIT, you'll need a decompression program like StuffIt Expander. Some browsers (including most versions of Netscape Navigator) already contain StuffIt as a helper application and will launch StuffIt automatically when you click a compressed file. If you don't have StuffIt Expander, you should download it now. After you install it, you can open compressed files simply by dragging them onto the StuffIt icon.
You can dowload Stuffit Expander for System 7.5.3 and later at www.download.com
4. Install the software
Merely removing programs from their compressed archives doesn't always mean you can run them right away. Many programs need to be installed.
WinZip can make it easy for PC users: if a ZIP file contains a program called either Install or Setup, WinZip detects it and creates a button labeled Install at the right end of the WinZip button bar. Before you click this button, check the archive's read-me file for any special instructions. Once you know what you're getting into, click the Install button, and let WinZip take it away. Since installation routines vary widely, you'll have to follow any instructions as they come up.
If an Install button doesn't appear in WinZip, you'll have to install the program yourself. This process varies among programs, so check the app's read-me file to know for sure.
Mac users should open the read-me file after expanding an archive to get specific installation instructions.
5. Delete the compressed file
Before you start enjoying your newly downloaded and installed software, remember that the compressed file (which you'll no longer need) is taking up valuable disk space. If you want to pass the software on to friends, or if you think you may need to reinstall it, hold onto the file; we suggest you move it to a floppy disk. But if you're finished with the compressed file, just delete it.
That's it. You're now ready to enjoy your new program.