Browsing the Web from your UNIX Account with Lynx

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Lynx is a UNIX program that lets you browse the World Wide Web. No you can't see the pictures, or play the radio programs, or watch the little animated icons. On the other hand, you don't have to wait for the files that contains those amenities to arrive on your computer before you can see the Web page.

For those of you still living a mouse-free existence, you can still do some serious Web surfing. Indeed, considering how slow it can be to load up all the pictures in Netscape, picture-free Lynx can be a welcome change.

Because Lynx is a text-only browser, there are some things it can't do. Within those limitations, though, it's a good program.

Life with Lynx

All UNIX shell providers should have Lynx available because itís free. To start it, you type lynx at the UNIX shell prompt. It starts up and displays a home page on the screen.

Because most text screens can't do underlining, the links are shown in reverse video. Bracketed text or the word [IMAGE] appears where a picture would be displayed. One link on the screen is current and is highlighted in a different color. (On our screen, it's yellow rather than white text, which doesn't show up on a black-and-white page. Use your imagination.) Lynx thoughtfully puts some help information on the bottom two lines, which makes it much easier to use.

Wandering around

Nearly all Lynx commands are single keystrokes.

The up and down arrows move from link to link on the current page. If the page is more than one screen full, the page scrolls as necessary. To move to the next screen of the current page, press the spacebar or press + and @ms to move forward and backward a screen at a time.

You use the up and down arrows to move from link to link, even when the links are next to each other on a line. For example, you might have a few lines on the screen like this:

Famous philosophers:

[Moe] [Larry] [Curly] [Socrates]

If the highlight is on Larry, you press the cursor Up key to go to Moe and press the cursor Down key to go to Curly. The left and right arrows mean something else, which we address next.

After you have a link you like, press the right-arrow key or Enter to follow that link. After Lynx fetches the new page, you can press the arrow keys to move around the new page as well. Pressing the left-arrow key takes you back to the preceding page. You can press the left arrow several times to go back several pages.

There are a few things Lynx just can't do, most notably image maps. It tells you that there's an image, but because you can't see the image and you can't use a mouse, there's no way to click on it. Fortunately, any sensible Web page that has an image map offers some other way to get to the places the image map would otherwise take you. There's either a set of text links under the image or, in some cases, a link that says something like "Click here for a text-only version of this page." Lynx gives you a nice, clean, image-free page from which to work.

To go to a specific URL, press g for go-to, and then type the URL on the line that Lynx provides, followed by pressing Enter.

Leaving Lynx

When you're finished with Lynx, press q to exit. Lynx asks whether you're sure that you want to quit; press y.

Fill out this form, please

Lynx handles forms just like Netscape does (one of Lynx's best features). You move from field to field on a Lynx by pressing the up- and down-arrow keys, the same as always. To submit a form, move to the Submit button and press Enter.

Save me!

Sometimes you want to save the information on a Web page. How you do it depends on whether you want to save a page that Lynx knows how to display or to do something else.

Whenever Lynx saves something to disk, it saves it to your Internet provider's disk. If you want it on your own PC or Mac, you have to download it yourself, using a file transfer program from the UNIX machine to your computer. Check with your Internet provider for details.

To save a page that Lynx can display in a file, first move to the page so that it's displayed on your screen. Then press d for download. Lynx prompts you with the various ways it knows to save the page; usually the only option is to save to disk, which lets you specify on your provider's system a filename in which to save it. Alternatively, you can press p for print, which gives you three options:

  • Save to disk, just like d.
  • Mail to yourself, frequently the most convenient option.
  • Print to screen. Turn on "screen capture" in the terminal program in your PC, which saves the contents of the page as it goes by on the screen.

This is the easiest part. If you choose a link that goes to an image, program, or other sort of document that Lynx can't handle, it stops and tells you that it can't display this link. You press d to download it to a local file, for which you specify the name, or c to cancel and forget that link.

Where was I?

Lynx, like Netscape and most other Web browsers, can store the URLs of interesting Web pages so that you can come back to them later. Lynx's bookmark scheme is a complete anticlimax compared to Netscape. It's controlled by two (count 'em, two) letters.

To add the current page to your bookmark list, press a. Lynx gives you the choice of adding a link to the page on the screen (d for document) or copying the highlighted link (c for current).

To look at (view) your current bookmark list, press v. When you're looking at your bookmark list, you move through it and choose links in the same way as you do on any other Web page. You can remove links from the bookmark page by pressing r.

If you're using Lynx on your own UNIX account, your bookmarks are saved in a file between Lynx sessions. On the other hand, if you're using telnet to connect to a Lynx system somewhere else, the bookmarks exist only through a single Lynx session, and they're discarded when you quit.

Printing pages

Printing in Lynx is easy in principle: You press p. But if you're dialed in to your provider, printing on your provider's computer doesn't do you much good, so Lynx gives you some options, the most useful of which are save to disk (so that you can download it and print it locally) or e-mail it to yourself (so that you can download it and print it locally). Are you detecting a pattern here?)

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