A small Internet handbook for novices


The main problem with Internet searches is how to access the information one needs without being bombarded by an avalanche of “hits”. This is not intended to be a real Internet handbook (there are many of those in any bookshop, for the novice or the more advanced user), but a few simple tips may come in handy.


Search engines

It is necessary to acquire some knowledge of the advantages and disadvantages, strength and weaknesses of different "web browsers" or “search engines”, like Google, AltaVista, Yahoo or Lycos. 

An often used way to begin a search is to address the very fast Google, http://www.google.com/, but you risk running into an enormous number of hits, arranged in a rather haphazard order.

Also good is http://www.teoma.com/   

http://vivisimo.com/ , http://www.alltheweb.com  or  http://ixquick.com/ are “meta” browsers. They search through a great number of other browsers but this takes longer and, as they usually give you a limited number of hits from each source, you may miss interesting links.

It is essential to clarify beforehand what you are looking for and where you are most likely to find it. Several search engines, like http://www.about.com , http://www.yahoo.com/http://www.altavista.com/  or http://www.lycos.com/, are "catalogue" engines: They have been filtered and structured through human minds. They seem a bit slower in finding the object you are looking for, but in the end you may have gained time–in Google you have to do your own filtering. (AskJeeves, http://www.ask.co.uk/ , gives you the possibility to word a simple question in ordinary language.)

Some web browsers have specific language versions that you can opt for on their homepages. Others may have a national address ending like .uk, .de or .fr, and you are more likely to find French slang dictionaries under .fr than under .de. You can often choose from a “field of interest” page, so that you are not overwhelmed by “The Art of...” everything from Abbreviation to Zymurgy, when you typed in “art” because you were looking for a handbook on modern painting.

Certain browsers are specialized, like http://geocities.yahoo.com/home , that searches only Yahoo’s free homepages.

Inside many home pages there is a local browser or subject list of some kind.


What are you looking for?

Specify the search. Handbooks often say that this is done by using “Boolean algebra”, but even the most classically educated translator should not be alarmed by this term. The “search page” usually has a link to a “help page” or a simple user’s manual that instructs you on how the question should be worded. 

If this is not the case, you have to try different ways. It is simply a question of using the words AND, OR, NOT and NEAR and parentheses (or very often symbols like + and -) between the key words in a logical manner, e.g. “dictionary AND (slang OR idiom) NOT english” or "dictionary +(slang OR idiom) -english" will give slang and idiom dictionaries in all languages but English. Some search windows will automatically put in the AND or + if one writes several words. Do not forget that some browsers can use “wild cards”, usually an  *   (“subtitl*” will come up with “subtitles” and “subtitling” as well as “subtitler”).

Sometimes there is an alternative: You can choose to search for a string of words “as a phrase” or you can write the string in quotation marks. If you do this, the browser will only find pages where these words appear in exactly that order: “English slang dictionary” will list dictionaries with that title, but not e.g. a Dictionary of English Slang.

(It happens–rarely–that a browser will distinguish upper from lower case letters and thus can not find a “Book Store” when you typed “book store”. But usually lower case is all right.)


Use the links

They can save a lot of time and give much side information (but they can also be very time-consuming, just like an encyclopedia: one article leads to another...) A good example is Helsinki University’s CAT page, with over 60 links under the headings Languages, Translation, Subtitling, Terminology, Dictionaries, CAT, MT, Libraries, Corpora, etc., most of which lead on through other links.

Save the interesting addresses under Favorites or Bookmarks. It saves a lot of time, next time. And organize the favorites under headings like Dictionaries, Libraries, Bookshops, etc., or you will not find them again. Their names are sometimes not very telling, so don’t hesitate to re-baptize them.

Think twice before clicking on the “Print” button. The checklist of the Inter­national Trademark Association (INTA), for example, will give you close to 100 pages when printed out, and the next time you want to look at it, you will probably prefer to do so on screen anyway, as the list will certainly have been updated by then. 


Discussion groups

Do not forget that there are very many “discussion groups” on practically every conceivable subject. As usual with the Internet, the problem is to find the interesting ones. There are several indexes, however (one is found under http://groups.google.com/). Here also it is important to specify what you are looking for: “Slang” will give many thousands of hits; “French slang” or “punk slang” is a lot better.

To join a discussion group, you usually have to become a subscriber. This is in most cases free of charges, but the group needs an address for the messages. You become a subscriber either by clicking on a “subscribe” button or by sending a message to the group administrator.

And sometimes there are fringe benefits: The exchanges in the discussion groups can sometimes provide you with tips on matters that are far from what you are looking for, but still valuable, interesting or amusing.


Save money

One can often save money by downloading big files onto the hard disk, checking out of the Internet and looking at the files without the high costs of being online. There are programs that facilitate this, often “shareware” or free, that can be downloaded.


Error 404–The page cannot be found

Net addresses often change, so do not despair if the given address is not valid or the request fails. Very often, the webmaster has just reorganized the page, and this can be easily remedied: Shorten the address from the end, step by step, by deleting the letters after the last slash. Like this:


http://www.logos.it/ow-wt/   If this does not help, repeat the shortening:


Then look for how to go on from there to find the sub-page you are looking for.

And if that does not work: Search with another browser or with different search strings.


http://www.archive.org/  The “Internet Archive,” also called the "Wayback Machine," is a library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. A broken Internet link can sometimes be reestablished by pasting its address into this site's 'http' window.


The technique of shortening the address from the end also works if you think that the choice offered is too limited or specialized – you can work your way up in the folder tree and choose another sector.


Internet search manuals


There are good tutorials for how to search information to be found on the Net. One of the best and simplest is  http://med-libwww.bu.edu/library/tutorial/index.html

It is designed to familiarize you with HIV/AIDS consumer health
resources on the Web, but the methods taught are valid for all information search.

A much more comprehensive tutorial for deeper studies is


It offers a progression from beginning information to advanced searching and beyond and it is kept updated.


Hoax links


If you receive an e-mail containing a warning about virus infection, it may be a false warning that will install the virus on your computer if you follow the instructions given. Check with a couple of the following hoax lists:

http://www.symantec.com/avcenter/hoax.html  Symantec Anti Virus Research Center 

www.mcafee.com/support/hoax.html McAfee Associates Virus Hoax List

http://www.f-secure.com/virus-info/hoax/ F-Secure Hoax Warnings

http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/  U.S. Department of Energy's Computer Incident Advisory Capability 

Hoaxes of all kinds can also be found at e.g.:

www.urbanlegends.com  The Urban LegendsWeb Site

www.snopes.com  UrbanLegends Reference Pages



Books about computers and the Internet for the translator:


http://www.internationalwriters.com/toolbox/  Translator Jost Zetzsche's excellent The Translator's Tool Box - A Computer Primer for Translators, Version 8, a 370+ pages PDF ebook (November 2009), is available exclusively as a password-protected PDF file. It is very well worth the price of 50$ (update from earlier version 15$) and is accompanied by a newsletter for people in the translation industry, the Tool Kit 

Austermühl, Frank, Electronic Tools for Translators, (2001, Translation Practices Explained 2,  St. Jerome Publishing, paperback, 192 p.). Very rich and well-structured guide to the efficient use of the Internet, CD-ROMs, translation memories, etc.

Morris, Evan, The Book Lover's Guide to the Internet (1998, Fawcett Columbine/Ballantine, paperback). Still useful for the beginner. (EM is also http://www.word-detective.com/ )

Zimmer, Dieter E., Die Bibliothek der Zukunft. Text und Schrift in Zeiten des Internets, (2001, Ullstein, paperback) Has many link addresses to libraries and online texts.



Updated 11.11.2009           <----Home                  Top of page