Finding and Installing Navigator Helpers and Plug-ins
While Netscape Navigator provides a basic browser program for the Web,
there are additional programs that make Navigator even more powerful. These programs
are called plug-ins or helper applications, and they provide Netscape Navigator with
the ability to view documents that are not HTML files. These plug-in programs allow
you to extend the functions in Netscape Navigator to display multimedia (video, audio,
and animation), word and desktop publishing files, virtual reality, three dimensional
viewing, and real time chatting over the Internet. While these programs are not required
to use the Web, they do support advanced features not found in the standard Netscape
In developing our modules and activities, we made some assumptions about the hardware and software that would be available in the classroom for teachers who visit the LETSNet Website. We assume that teachers using our Internet-based modules or activities have a computer (PC or Macintosh) with the necessary hardware components (mouse, keyboard, and monitor) as well as software (operating system, TCP/IP software, networking or dial-up software, e-mail and a World Wide Web client program, preferably Netscape, but perhaps Mosaic or Lynx). In the section below, we specify any "special" hardware or software requirements for a module or activity (in addition to those described above) and the level of Internet access required to do the activity.
Even though Netscape Navigator is the most popular Web browser program available, the developers of Navigator realize they can't provide everyone with all the functions and features they might want. To extend Netscape Navigator to support "new" or "special" functions or features, there are separate plug-in modules that can be added to Netscape Navigator to allow it to view special files (such as audio files, video files, virtual reality files, and three dimensional files). These programs are not developed or supported by Netscape, but by third-party developers.
When Netscape first developed their Web browser, they decided they could never provide everyone who used it with every possible viewer for all files and they chose to open up their platform for outside developers. Netscape 1.0, 1.1, and 2.0 have all been developed to support external file viewing with plug-in modules which were called helper applications in versions of Netscape prior to 2.0 (i.e., 1.0 or 1.1). These add-in programs let Netscape Navigator view files it normally couldn't by using code written by other developers. (See the Netscape Navigator Components page in the Internet Resources section below for more on the functions of Navigator plug-ins and helpers.)
Netscape maintains a list of Navigator plug-in modules (see Internet Resources below). When you find a Website that contains a file that Navigator cannot view (for example, a realaudio file), and you try to view it, you will prompted with the following (or a similar) message:
This page contains information of type "audio/x-pn-realaudio" that can only be viewed with
the appropriate plug-in. What do you want to do?
In addition, if you click on a file to download (for example, Bosnia) that Netscape cannot view, you will see the following message:
You have started to download the file "Bosnia" of type "audio/realaudio". Click on "More Info"
to learn how to extend Navigator's capabilities.
You should click on the Plug-in Info or More Info button which will take you to the Netscape Information on Plug-Ins page. Find the option on this page that says "Look for an appropriate plug-in and installation instructions in Netscape's Plug-in Registry." Click on this link to go to the Netscape Inline Plug-ins page. From here, search for the plug-in module you need as identified by the application name you saw earlier.
Once you have downloaded a plug-in for Netscape Navigator, you must install it in the Navigator software. The process is straight-forward and only requires that you select the General Preferences option from the Options menu. This opens up a window where you select the Helpers button. This option displays all the Navigator Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) file types. These MIME file types are associated with specific Navigator plug-in modules that will be used whenever this type of file is encountered. All you have to do to install these plug-ins is tell Navigator to use the plug-in when it encounters that file type.
If you have trouble finding or installing a Navigator plug-in, visit the Netscape Navigator Components page (see Internet Resources below) for help and instructions.
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