Offline browsing tools let you blow through Web pages and browser-based e-mail and newsgroups at the speed of your computer's processor, not at the snail's pace of your modem connection. Browsing offline cuts down on ISP time, makes text-heavy research a cinch, and enables you to save critical Web pages to your desktop for later reference.
Here's how it's done: Internet Explorer (IE) allows users to visit any page in the cache offline. Simply visit all the pages you want to see later, then select "Work Offline" from the "File" menu. You can visit all the pages stored in your cache in a flash, graphics and all.
IE also lets users "subscribe" to a Web site, meaning it will check specific URLs regularly, then download any changes to your hard drive. After adding a site to your "Favorites" list, you can select a partial subscription, meaning it will alert you to any changes on the site, or pick a full subscription--a total download to your hard drive for later reading. You can also set times for IE to download pages while you sleep for offline reading later.
Netscape is a bit more complex but allows more flexibility. In addition to viewing Web sites offline, IMAP mail users can respond to e-mail and newsgroups without tying up phone lines.
First, synchronize your hard drive with the network by going to the "File" menu, selecting "Offline" and then selecting the option to "Synchronize Now." Synchronizing takes a snapshot of your mail folders, newsgroups and directories and downloads them to your hard drive. Also, when you make changes offline, Netscape reflects these changes, deleting messages or e-mailing correspondence when you connect again. To reconnect, select "Work Online" at "Offline" under the "File" menu.
If your browser version is below 4.0, you won't have these capabilities. If you have questions, use the "Help" tools that came with your browser of choice.
Web geek Karen Solomon (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes about technology and e-business for a number of publications, including Wired and Business 2.0.