From the November 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

Interactivity keeps visitors returning to Web sites. But the intricacies of installing these devices can frustrate all but the most savvy Webmasters. There are now easy, fast solutions, however. Put a guest book on your page in minutes by visiting Lpage at http://www.lpage.com . Brighten your page with a spiffy message board via Inside The Web at http://www.insidetheWeb.com . Using these tools to create lively interaction will keep your visitors returning to your site for more.

Numbers Game

Who hasn't stared at a number on a phone bill and wondered who the heck it is? The Web offers a cheaper way to find out than the "call 'em and ask" tactic. The reverse search feature in Yahoo's People Search lets you type in a phone number--and out pops the owner's name and address. Try it at http://www.yahoo.com/search/people

Open Space

Wnt to put up a Web site, but your Internet service provider doesn't provide free server space? Head to Geocities (http://www.geocities.com ) or Tripod (http://www.tripod.com ). Both services are advertising-supported and give members up to 2MB of server space--plenty for creating basic sites. Membership is free, but there is one caveat: Both services put restrictions on the content of sites (read the "TOS," or terms of service, posted on the services' home pages for the latest rules). Businesses will find this space most suited for erecting electronic billboards and providing customers with product and service information. But the price--it's free--makes them both very appealing for entrepreneurs who are looking to get a foothold on the Web.

Quick Change

Buy Microsoft Office 97 now, and what you get is not the latest version. You'll find the updates on Microsoft's Web site (http://www.microsoft.com/OfficeFreeStuff/ ). That's the rule for virtually all software today: Manufacturers post free software add-ons and "patches" (bug fixes) on their Web sites. One way to keep all your software current is to regularly troll the pertinent Web sites. A less time-consuming solution is to let CyberMedia's Oil Change do the hunting for you. Oil Change scans your computer for software and hardware drivers, then automatically heads to the manufacturers' Web sites. It tells you what updates are available, you pick the ones you want, then it installs them. An "undo" feature is built in so that updates that cause unexpected troubles can be dumped. Oil Change won't update all software--a few makers aren't in its database--but it's a smart way to keep a computer running at peak efficiency. An initial subscription is $39.99, with the yearly renewal costing $19.99. A free trial version is available at http://www.cybermedia.com .

Help!

When software refuses to work and the manufacturer's support lines are jammed (or closed, as is usually the case at night and on weekends), head to http://supporthelp.com . Type in a product or manufacturer's name, and, within a minute, you're presented with hyperlinked pointers to the company's Web site, bug fixes and technical info. And there's no cost to users.

Applet Of Your Eye

Whirling Java Applets tell viewers that a page is "cyber hip," but creating them has often required expensive, difficult-to-use software. Sausage Software's Swami program changes that. Swami's capabilities are limited to applying Java effects to text (not images), but it requires nothing more than typing in some words, then clicking the mouse a few times. The result is eye-catching text that bounces, warps or jumps across the page. The $40 program is one-trick software, but it does this trick superbly. Download a free demo at http://www.sausage.com .

To contact Robert McGarvey, visit his Web site at http://members.aol.com/rjmcgarvey/ .