Basic Internet Skills


This brief introduction will help those of you who may be using a browser to view webpages on the World Wide Web for the first time.

  • What is the World Wide Web?
  • Using your browser's toolbar
  • Browsing a webpage and using links
  • Favorites
  • Internet addresses

The World Wide Web is a worldwide network of interconnected information resources that contain text, graphics, animations and videos. The Internet is the computer network it runs on. The World Wide Web is often called the 'WWW' or 'the Web'. You may hear the two terms, the Internet and the Web, used interchangeably. However, it is important to remember the difference: the Internet is the computer network, and the WWW is the information on it.

To access information on the WWW, you need a software tool called a Web browser. The two most common Web browsers are Internet Explorer and Firefox.

All common Internet browsers such as Netscape and Internet Explorer provide you with a navigation toolbar that lets you move between pages and to go back to pages that you have already seen. The toolbar also contains other features to help you 'surf' the Internet by moving from one hyperlink (or linked webpage) to another.

In this section, we'll use the Internet Explorer 6 toolbar as an example to illustrate some navigation features you'll find in all common browsers. Make sure that you are connected to the Internet so that you can use these functions.

The IE navigation toolbar is at the top of the IE browser, just under the menu bar.

The toolbar has several different buttons. Let's go through each of the buttons, one by one.

Clicking on this button returns you to the previous page in the history list. You can click on the small triangle to see a list of the pages to which you can go backward.
Clicking on this button displays the next page in the history list. You can click on the small triangle to see a list of the pages to which you can go forward.
Sometimes it takes a long time to download information. This may be because either the network is very busy or the files are very big. If you get tired of waiting for a page to download, you can stop it by pressing this button.
Sometimes there are problems with downloading a page -- it may stall (that is, just stop before it is completely loaded) or the images may not all load, or you might have clicked on the Stop button to interrupt a transfer (see above). If this happens, try clicking the Refresh button to load the page again.
This button prints the page you are looking at.

The text box in the centre of the toolbar is the Address Bar.

The Address Bar's primary function is to let you type in the webpage address that you want to visit. For example, if you want to visit the HKSAR homepage, you go to the Address Bar, double-click on it to select the current address shown, then press <Delete> on the keyboard to clear it. Then type in the webpage address for the HKSAR Government: <www.gov.hk>. When you hit <Enter>, your browser will retrieve the page you've specified. It should look something like this:

This section introduces you to some skills you need to move around webpages once you've accessed them.

  1. Start Internet Explorer by clicking the IE icon on your desktop , or by selecting it from the Start menu. Your browser will show your homepage when you first click the IE icon and program opens. It doesn't matter what that homepage is for our activity.

    Next, find the Address Bar on the screen you're looking at. It's the text box in the centre of the toolbar, and looks like this, except the text you see will be different:

    Now delete the text you see there, and type in the following: <http://www.weather.gov.hk/>. Then press <Enter>. You should now see the Hong Kong Observatory webpage, as it appears below. (Don't worry if it's a bit different, since the Observatory may have updated its page since this website was prepared.)

    We know that this is the homepage of the Hong Kong Observatory because we can see its name and logo on the screen, and also because we can see its website site address (http://www.weather.gov.hk/) in the Address Bar at the top of the screen.

  2. With the Hong Kong Observatory entry page displayed on your browser, move your mouse cursor over the webpage. Notice that sometimes it changes from an (arrow) to a (finger). The finger indicates a link to another webpage. Clicking on a link enables you to move directly to that webpage.

  3. Click on the link that says .

  4. A new page displaying a number of weather-related services will appear, as shown below.

    On this page, click the menu for public services of Hong Kong Observatory -- it looks like this:

    You'll be taken to a page that looks much like the one on the next page, with a list of public services provided by the Hong Kong Observatory.

    You've now successfully navigated to a useful webpage using Internet Explorer. Those of you using Firefox will find the experience to be very similar. You can now explore the Hong Kong Observatory webpages if you like, or type in a new Web address and start exploring on your own.

Typing in addresses into the Address Bar every time you want to visit a website can become rather tedious, particularly if the addresses are long. It's all right if you're visiting the site just once, but for sites that you visit frequently, you don't want to have to memorize and type addresses every time. Your Web browser provides a solution to this problem: Internet Explorer with a feature called Favorites, and Netscape with a facility called Bookmarks. These tools help you store website addresses for future reference so that you can gain access to them with just one mouse click.

Adding a favorite in a browser

  1. Type <http://www.weather.gov.hk/> in the Address Bar in IE and then press <Enter>. This will bring up the homepage for the Hong Kong Observatory.

  2. Click on Favorites from the pull down menu at the top menu of the screen, and then select Add to Favorites.

  3. Now click on the button to go to your default homepage. Select Favorites again and see what happens. A new entry -- Hong Kong Observatory -- has appeared at the bottom of the Favorites menu.

  4. Click on this new entry and you will go to the Hong Kong Observatory homepage again. The address of the page has been stored in your list of favorites.

This section explains what is meant by the different parts of a typical Internet address. We'll use the very well-known Internet address <http://www.microsoft.com> as our example. What do the different parts of this address really mean?

First, you need to know that each computer connected to the Internet should have a unique address in much the same way as individuals and organizations have postal addresses. A postal address has a certain hierarchy -- country, city, street, building, etc. An Internet address has a similar hierarchy, but it is expressed in a more condensed form. The following are some examples of Internet addresses.

www.microsoft.comThe World Wide Web server at Microsoft, which is a commercial company (com).
www.ouhk.edu.hkThe World Wide Web (www) server at the Open University of Hong Kong (ouhk), which is an educational institute (edu) in Hong Kong (hk).
www.info.gov.hkThe World Wide Web (www) server at the Government Information Centre (info) that provides information about the Government (gov) of Hong Kong (hk).

A typical Internet address has the following format:


The address format has the following meanings:

Country is a short form to specify the country where the computer is located. For example, hk stands for Hong Kong, cn stands for China, and jp stands for Japan. Not all addresses have a country code: the Internet started in the USA so computers there don't have a country code, and large corporations with offices in many different countries also tend not to use one.

Type_of_Organization specifies the nature of the organization; the following are some common examples that you often encounter:

  • gov -- government
  • edu -- education
  • com -- commercial
  • net -- network-related company

Europe and some Asian countries have slightly different conventions. For example, the United Kingdom uses ac (for academic) instead of edu for education. Some countries use co for commercial corporations instead of com. As you gain experience with the Internet, you will come across many other examples.

Organization is the name that an organization or company has registered to use on the Internet. Most organizations choose to use a name as close to their real name as possible so that others can easily recognize them. For example, appledaily stands for Apple Daily, a Hong Kong newspaper.

Computer name identifies a computer on the Internet. Each computer has a unique name. The name is sometimes related to the services a computer provides. Examples are:

  • www -- www service
  • mail -- email service
  • news -- newsgroup service

A computer that provides services on the Internet is called a server, so instead of the computer name, we often refer to the server name. For example, is the www server at OUHK, and is the news server for OU students.

To fully enable the functionalities of the OUHK website when using Internet Explorer 7.0, please modify your computer settings according to the following steps:

Turn off Phishing Filter

Start Internet Explorer, on the menu bar, select: Tools -> Phishing Filter -> Turn Off Automatic Website Checking.

Select 'Turn off automatic Phishing Filter", then click the 'OK' button.

(Note: The Phishing Filter reinforces your computer's security, therefore, we suggest that you turn on the Filter after browsing the OUHK website.)

Disable Popup Blocker

If you have installed toolbars on your Internet Explorer, e.g. the Google Toolbar or the Yahoo Toolbar, the popup blockers from these toolbars may affect the OUHK website's operation. Please follow these steps to disable it:
(As popup blockers prevent unintended window pop-ups, you may want to enable this function after browsing the OUHK website.)

Google Toolbar

Start Internet Explorer, on the Google Toolbar, select: Settings -> Options.

Click the 'More' tab in the 'Toolbar Options' dialog box, then uncheck the 'Enable Popup Blocker' option under 'Popup Blocker'.

Yahoo Toolbar

Start Internet Explorer, click on the 'Popup Blocker' button on the Yahoo Toolbar. Uncheck the 'Enable Pop-Up Blocker' option to disable this function.