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By Art Glick

Downloading from the Internet

(or FREE software for the taking - Part II)

(Originally Published in May, 1997)

Yesterday, I warned you of some of the pitfalls that you can encounter when attempting to download software from the Internet, and I told you how to download a file onto your hard drive. That was the easy part. Now we'll consider what to do once you are in possession of the file.

Let's assume that you followed my instructions from yesterday. You created a folder called DOWNLOAD somewhere on your hard drive, and then you created another folder under DOWNLOAD called EXPAND. You went to www.shareware.com, and you downloaded a program that piqued your interest. You selected a compressed archive file that ended in EXE, and it now resides in the DOWNLOAD folder on your hard drive.

The reason that I recommended a file with an EXE extension is that such files are "self-extracting" and require no other software for unpacking them. Old DOS users like myself will recall that EXE files are "executable", that is, they can simply be run as a program, and that's how you unpack them.

You should already know that you'll be using File Manager if you have Windows 3.1 and Windows Explorer if you have Windows 95, and you should feel comfortable about using such a program. There are excellent tutorials for both of these, which you are urged to run if you feel the need.

Before you unpack your file, however, place a copy of it into the DOWNLOAD\EXPAND subdirectory and work on it in there. Even though your DOWNLOAD folder may only have the one file in it now, eventually you will be downloading other files. Providing you have the hard drive space, you may wish to keep the compressed archives available to pass around, and I keep mine in my DOWNLOAD subdirectory.


So now you have two copies of the compressed archive file that you downloaded. One in the DOWNLOAD\EXPAND folder, on which you're about to work, and one in the DOWNLOAD folder, reserved for distribution to other users or your own later use (should reinstallation of the program become necessary).

Since your file ends in EXE, at this point simply run it, and you will see the compressed files in the archive expanded onto your hard drive. In some rare cases, after the archive is expanded, an installation routine is run automatically. More often, the process concludes once the expanded files have been created, and you must run the software installation routine manually.

The original archive is untouched, and if you look in DOWNLOAD\EXPAND, you will see that there are now probably several files in addition to the compressed archive. At this point, for most Windows programs, the process of installing the program is no different than it would be from a floppy diskette. You will probably see SETUP.EXE (or possibly an INSTALL.EXE) and there is probably a README.TXT file for you to look at for instructions. Most of the time you can simply run SETUP.EXE and follow the prompts.

The software installation usually creates a separate folder on your hard drive (typically prompting you to accept a default name for it), and, using the files you've just expanded, installs the software to this location. Once this process has completed, you can delete the contents of DOWNLOAD\EXPAND much as you would remove an installation floppy from the drive.

As stated above, occasionally, the self-extracting EXE file will automatically run an installation routine after its contents have been expanded, and following this installation routine, it may even automatically delete the expanded contents of the archive. However, the original archive will not be deleted automatically. Since you already have a copy in DOWNLOAD, there is no need for a second copy, and you should still go back to DOWNLOAD\EXPAND after completing the installation and delete the compressed archive in there.

Although a majority of the software that you can download from the Internet is Windows software in self-extracting form, and can thus be installed in the manner above, there are numerous exceptions. There are other forms of compressed archives, and the installation process may vary, especially for DOS software.

Take one of my favorites, for example, Extreme Pinball. If you go to www.shareware.com and look for this program, you will find a file called XPSW1.ZIP, which is over three megabytes in size. After you download this file, you will need a program called PKUNZIP to unpack this file.

You can download PKUNZIP from literally thousands of sites, including shareware.com. Look for a self-extracting file called PKZ204G.EXE, and, after expanding its contents copy these (but not the PKZ204G.EXE) to a folder in your command path. For Windows 3.1 users this will be C:\DOS or C:\WINDOWS, and for Windows 95 users, this should be C:\WINDOWS or C:\WINDOWS\COMMAND. (NOTE : To my own customers, this was obviously done before your system was delivered to you).

So let's assume that you'd like to play a little pinball. The installation for Extreme Pinball is probably as likely as any place to make a mistake. By the way, this archive's contents total over 6 Mb, so you'd better have plenty of room on your hard drive. If you follow the above method, you'll end up temporarily using twice this much space on your hard drive at one point. And, if you decide to save the original archive, you will have permanently used 9 Mb of its space.

Let's assume that you've already downloaded and installed PKZ204G.EXE, yielding several executable programs (including PKUNZIP.EXE), which have been placed in a folder in your command path as described above. You've downloaded XPSW1.ZIP (into the DOWNLOAD folder) and placed a second copy of it into your DOWNLOAD\EXPAND folder.

If you really know how to use your File Manager or Windows Explorer, you already know about "file associations". These are very similar to "helper applications" in Netscape. They tell the program how to handle a file based on its extension. Once you set up the proper association in File Manager or Windows Explorer, you simply double click on the ZIP file, and its contents are unpacked. The proper association would be to run PKUNZIP.EXE whenever a ZIP type file is encountered.

If you actually feel more comfortable with DOS, you need only go to the DOWNLOAD\EXPAND subdirectory and invoke the command PKUNZIP XPSW1 in this case (the file extensions are not necessary), and the contents of XPSW1.ZIP will then be unpacked.

There is also a third alternative, and that would be to use compression "front end" program, such as WINZIP. This is another program that you can download anyplace that offers shareware, and to a certain extent, it can automate the process of handling compressed archives. Be prepared to learn how to use such a program if you go this route. If, however, you are most comfortable with File Manager or Windows Explorer, there's much less for you to learn.

So, if you're following along with our pinball example, at this point you have almost 70 files in your DOWNLOAD\EXPAND folder. If you had been paying attention when you downloaded this compressed archive, you would have noticed that it came from the DOS category. It is not a Windows program, although it can be run through Windows.

What is so devious about this program is the fact that the archive contains a SETUP.EXE program, but rather than being a Windows installation program, this executable only sets up various options for the game. There isn't even the standard README.TXT file, so this archive can be a real challenge for the uninformed user.

For programs that don't offer an automatic installation utility (such as many DOS programs), after you unpack the compressed archive, you need to copy the files into their own folder. For our pinball example, a good name for this folder would be \EXTREME. Create this folder and copy (or move) all of the contents of DOWNLOAD\EXPAND into the \EXTREME subdirectory except the original compressed archive itself (XPSW1.ZIP in this case). You can then delete the contents of your DOWNLOAD\EXPAND folder.

In the case of Extreme Pinball, it will run as an icon in Windows, but will crash if started this way with the sound enabled (which is done through the SETUP.EXE program). If you want to run Extreme Pinball with sound, you must do it from the DOS prompt. In either case, the starting command for the game is simply EXTREME.

Finally, compressed program archives are not the only type of file that you can download from the Internet. There are a wide variety of video clips, with extensions like MPG, MOV and AVI as well as audio files with extensions such as WAV, VOC and AUD. In most cases, the default for each of these in Netscape's "helper applications" will be to "prompt user", which affords you the opportunity to save the file to the hard drive. In such a case, you would download and save the audio or video clip in the same manner as a self- extracting EXE file or a ZIP file.

Once on your hard drive, you would use software to view or listen to the clip. Most such software is already bundled with Windows 95, and Windows 3.1 users can try their Media Player, which will work on about have as many file types as the basic routines bundled with Windows 95. However, if the video or audio format of the file that you download is foreign to your version of Windows, you will have to go back to the shareware site and find a program that runs this type of clip. If needed, you can create an association in File Manager or Windows Explorer between that particular file type and the appropriate program needed for that type of clip. Then you only need click on the file to view or listen to it.

Last, but not least, you can also download to your hard drive for offline viewing any picture graphics that appear on any web site that you visit. This is most easily done using Netscape Version 2.0 or greater. Simply "right- click" on the graphic with your mouse and a box will appear that includes the choice of saving the graphic. Such graphic files usually have the extension GIF or JPG and are viewed in much the same manner as the audio and video clips mentioned above (you can also use your browser to view them).

If you have an older version of Netscape, in order to download a picture graphic to your hard drive, first double click on the graphic, which will produce a screen containing only the graphic (probably at a different size). Then click on "FILE", "SAVE AS" to save the picture to your hard drive.

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