Tuning In with Web TV

[Zap!] Updated: Oct 19, 2002

Tuning In with WebTV

  • Using WebTV
  • E-mail on WebTV
  • The Web on WebTV

We assume you already have a Web TV or MSN TV, so in this section we'll tell you what to do with it. For more details, get WebTV For Dummies, 2nd Edition (by Brad Hill, published by Wiley Publishing).

On Your Mark, Get Set, Click

We make the bold assumption that if you've chosen WebTV as your way of getting on the Net, you already know how to use a remote control. The WebTV remote has a few special functions. The green buttons at the top turn on the power to your TV and WebTV. Turn on your TV first and then press the TV/Video button at the top to select video mode (you see the word Video on the screen). Then power up WebTV. The ``thermometer bar'' is there to let you know that something is happening. We hope that you find it reassuring.

After you're connected, press the up and down arrows on the remote to select the account you want to use (assuming that you have more than one account) and then press the Go or Select button (in the middle of all the arrows) to activate your selection. Pressing this button is equivalent to clicking with the mouse button or pressing the Return or Enter key on a computer keyboard. To help you tell what's what as you move up or down on the screen, WebTV draws an orange border around the portion of the screen that is ``active.'' You can always use the arrow keys to move the active area left, right, up, or down. If you try to move off the screen, you hear a little ``thunk'' noise. In the following sections, whenever we say select an icon or a button on the screen, we mean that you move the orange border to the correct place and then press the Go or Select button on the remote or Enter on the keyboard.


You can buy WebTV without a keyboard, although we don't think that's a good idea. Without a keyboard, you have to pull up an image of a keyboard and use the remote to select each letter you want to type -- the 90's equivalent of setting type 19th Century style, by picking individual metal letters out of a type case. (At least one of your authors actually did that. It was fun for about the first 20 minutes.) You can get the remote keyboard from WebTV for $70 or buy a computer keyboard for about $15 and plug it in to the back of the WebTV terminal. If you like your couch, buy the remote keyboard.


Watch those phone bills

When you first sign up for WebTV, your WebTV box calls an 800 number at WebTV headquarters and looks up local access numbers that you can call for free. At least, that's what it tries to do. We've heard at least one report where it guessed wrong and a large phone bill arrived at the end of the month.

To see which phone numbers WebTV is using, visit WebTV's home page by pressing Goto and then typing www.webtv.net and pressing Return. Select the small ``local access'' link at the left side of the page and then enter your area code and the first three digits of your own phone number. WebTV will show you the numbers it's dialing. If any of those numbers are not a local call for you, call WebTV on the phone and see if they can straighten it out before you run up a huge phone bill.

All in the family

When you first sign up with WebTV, you create a master account (the one that gets the bill for the service). From this account, you can create other accounts, each of which can have its own password and receive its own e-mail. You can bar subaccounts from using e-mail or chatting.

You can set up subaccounts to use Internet screening programs to protect your kids. Choose from two screening levels: SurfWatch, which restricts access to pages they consider inappropriate, and Kid friendly, which allows access to only approved pages.

Getting E-Mail on Your WebTV

Until you tell someone, nobody, except for the folks at WebTV, will know your e-mail address. If you want to get mail, spread the word.

Your e-mail address is accountname@webtv.net. (Replace accountname with your WebTV account name.) You can prove that this statement is true and make sure that your mail is working by sending a message to our robot at internet7@gurus.com. You can tell us what you think of WebTV and what you think of this book because we peek over the robot's shoulder and read its mail, too.

Reading your mail

When you sign on to WebTV, you get a nice letter from the president of WebTV. If you have unread messages, the Mail icon on the Home Page shows an envelope sticking out of the mailbox. To read your mail, select the Mail icon. Your mail is always kept at WebTV Central. The WebTV e-mail program displays a list of the messages you have, showing whom the message is from, along with the subject of the message and the date received. Messages you have not read yet are highlighted. To read a message, select it.

When you select a message to read, the body of the message is retrieved from WebTV Central, and a new table of options appears on the left. You can discard, save, reply to, or forward the message. Or you can move to the next or preceding message or return to the List of Messages page.

WebTV keeps four folders of messages: current messages, saved messages, sent messages, and discarded messages. Messages you discard are kept for a week before they are permanently erased.

To see if new mail has arrived, press the Mail button on the keyboard, or press Home on the remote and select the mailbox.

Sending mail

To send mail, select the Mail icon. Then choose Write to begin writing your message. Be sure to fill in the To and Subject lines. To use the address book, press the Select button while you're in the To or CC fields. The address book opens, and you can select an entry from the book.

Select the Send button in the lower-right corner to mail your message. Watch WebTV stuff an envelope into a mailbox and slam the mailbox door shut. Klunk.

Where's the Web in WebTV?

To get to a Web site from WebTV, press the GoTo button on your keyboard, or the Options button on your remote control, and GoTo on the panel of choices that slides onto your screen. Another panel slides in with a place to type an address, already started with http://. Type the URL, and press the Go To button. (Don't know what a URL is? Read Chapter 6.)

To search for something special, click the Search button on the remote or keyboard. It'll take you to the Infoseek search system (the same one that the rest of the world finds at www.infoseek.com).

The bottom of the WebTV home page has links to select from a list of topics, such as Economy and Sports.

Traditionally designed Web pages look a little different on WebTV from what they look like on a computer. On your WebTV, you may have to scroll to see a whole page. Links are highlighted with an orange border, and you can move from link to link by pressing the arrow keys on your remote. Press the Select or Go button to follow a link.


Keep pointers to your favorite Web sites by pressing Save on the options panel, which puts links to them in your Favorites pages.


Press the Recent button on the remote or keyboard to see the last dozen or so pages you've visited; select any one of those pages to return to it.

Chatting on WebTV

Like every other Internet provider, WebTV provides online chat. On the WebTV home page, select Community and on the community page select Chat, then the large TalkCity box on the chat page.

WebTV's chat is provided by a service called Talk City, which any Internet user can get to via www.talkcity.com. You can join any of the chats that WebTV's chat page suggests, or you can go directly to www.talkcity.com and choose from a larger set of chats there.

On normal Internet accounts, TalkCity has a fancy Java-based talk program that requires Netscape or Internet Explorer, but it recognizes when you're connecting from WebTV and automatically uses WebTV's simpler but adequate chat scheme. Either way, it's the same set of chats and WebTV users can chat with anyone else.


Although in theory you can chat without a keyboard, it's hard to imagine anyone patient enough to do it (and other chatters willing to wait while you pick the letters out of the virtual type case.)

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