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Spinning Your Own "Web"


By Eugene Koh

Back in the old days, when kings and queens wanted to hear music, the summoned live musicians to play for them.

Today, when we want to hear music, we flip on the compact disc player.

Last year, when large companies began coming online in droves, they searched far and wide for computer programmers who knew HTML, the "hypertext markup language" used to develop World Wide Web pages.

Today, Microsoft Word Internet Assistant is here, so anyone can create Web pages as easily as creating a typical Word document. A knowledge of HTML is no longer necessary to create those colorful Web pages you see when you fire up Mosaic or Netscape.

The big "M" has taken a leap forward in Internet support with the release of this free add-on to Word. The concept is simple--with the release of Microsoft Word version 6.0 last year, it became possible to create exceedingly complex documents incorporating a wide variety of text styles, graphics, and even sound, using the word processor alone.

Someone thought it might be nice to harness this power so that the same tools could be used to create documents whose destination is the online "Web" page rather than the printed "paper" page.

The result: Word Internet Assistant, which Microsoft is making available free to the public via the World Wide Web (to download it yourself, use Mosaic or Netscape to open the URL

All that is necessary to use Word Internet Assistant is an installed copy of Microsoft Word for Windows version 6.0a or later. (Public statements by Microsoft indicate that a Macintosh version of Word Internet Assistant is not likely to make it to market very soon, if ever.)

In essence, Word Internet Assistant turns Microsoft Word from a paper publishing system into an online publishing system.

The key to parlaying a Word document into a Web page is a new variant on the old "Save As..." command. This command, called "Save As Hypertext Markup," converts Word documents, including any special bells and whistles like custom formatting, to equivalent HTML code which can be "spun" onto the Web via a Web server (a computer specially configured to handle Web requests from other computers around the world).

It is this latter step of what one might aptly call "spinning pages onto the Web" that makes Word Internet Assistant especially useful to Harvard students, since, unlike most folks in the general public, we all have direct access to a Web server: the "fas" machine.

In particular, if you have a "fas" account, you can set up your very own Web page by creating a directory called "public_html" within your home directory and making it "world-executable." (By "world-executable," I mean that anyone on the Internet--anywhere in the world--can execute files located in that directory.)

Any HTML documents that you prepare with Word Internet Assistant can be placed in your "public_html" directory on "fas." So long as the HTML documents are made "world-readable," anyone on the Web can access them as Web pages.

A world of caution, however, in making files "world-readable" and especially in making directories "world executable": by changing the access rights to your "fas" files and directories in this manner, you are unlocking the already-flimsy virtual "door" separating your home on "fas" from the rest of the Internet. So be careful.

For more details about how to set up your own Web page, visit http:/ on the World Wide Web (this site is maintained by the Harvard Computer Society).

Until next time, happy Webbing.

Eugene Koh '96-'97 is Remote Staff Manager, Media Services, at America Online, Inc. He may be reached online at "" His ramblings will appear for the final time this semester on Wednesday, May 3.

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