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January 1996: Volume 2, Issue 1

Internet Assistant Version 2.0: Update

by David B. Demyan, Mendem Concord, Inc.

A previous article covered first impressions of Word Internet Assistant (IA) Version 2.0 from Microsoft (December 1995. This article presents an important update: the final version of 2.0 which supports GIF and table conversions.

An important update was made to the Internet Assistant 2.0 add-on for Microsoft Word for Windows 95. This new version is available at:

Actually, both versions 1.0z and 2.0z are available there for download. Choose version 1.0z if you use Windows 3.1 or 3.11 and Word 6; choose version 2.0z if you use Windows 95 and Word for Windows 95. I think the "z" stands for the final beta, or the version most likely to be ready for widespread use.

A Good Table Converter

None of the previous release of IA converted Word tables to embedded HTML-language tables (what was called Netscape Extensions to HTML; this table language was mainly incorporated into HTML 3.0). IA Version 2.0z does a good job of converting them. I threw all kinds of odd Word tables at it and it converted all, some better than others. For the most part, if your tables have data in each cell, they will convert flawlessly. If, on the other hand, your tables have empty cells and irregular shapes and sizes, look for problems in the conversion. Empty cells particularly cause problems and this is not necessarily IA's fault. Browsers typically ignore empty cells and create an odd-looking blank space in the table.

Graphic Conversion

If your files have embedded graphics from most any source, IA will spawn a process that converts them to inline GIF files. I found the results to be pretty much as expected, with few surprises. Of course, if your document contains many large graphics, expect some problems in the processing. However, most of my tests passed without a hitch. Basically, if you can import the graphic into a Word file, IA will handle the conversion to GIF and placement in the HTML file.

I still don't like the incorporated Web browser in IA. It displays the finished HTML file in a way that can be misleading if you intend your files to be viewed on more mainstream browsers. And if you reimport an HTML file into Word with the HTML template in place, it attempts to interpret the file in browse mode, not in edit mode. This can cause some unexpected changes to occur in your file. Here's an example: Let's say you edit a file in Word using the HTML (IA) template. You save the file and view it with Netscape. Then you go back in with a text editor to make some minor changes and get the file looking just the way you want. It looks fine on Netscape. Then suppose you open it again with Word. The IA macros see the .HTM filename extension and open it in the Word IA browser. Worse yet, if you save the file in this mode, it makes arbitrary changes to your code to satisfy the IA filters. Believe me, the results are unpredictable.

The best advice is still to open and edit the file once only; after saving as HTML, never open the file again with Word. Choose another text editor to make minor changes. This is a distinct disadvantage since IA does allow you to create some nice hypertext links to other places in the file, other files or other URLs. Just try to get as much work done as possible before you finish with IA.

Still a Good Bet

I like gambles that don't cost me anything. Microsoft's Internet Assistant for Word is still a good bet since the product is easily obtainable for free at the URL I've listed above. It is not huge, so the impact on your hard drive is minimal. Give it a try. Write to tell me your experiences and/or horror stories. I'll share them with readers in a future issue if you give permission.

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January 1996