The Math Forum

Mathematics and the Internet
DIMACS Research and Education Institute 1999
19 July - 6 August, 1999

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DREI99 workshop page || Resources
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How to Download Software from the Web

Step Zero: Security

Conduct a background check on the software you wish to download. In particular, answer these questions before downloading: If you cannot answer all of these three questions, you may be better off not downloading the software.

Step One: Downloading

Control where the software will reside on your computer: create a new folder where you want, and remember its location in the hierarchy of your folders. Alternately, download to a floppy disk (the "a:\" drive) or to the computer's desktop (caveat about downloading on lab or otherwise public machines).

Select this destination at the outset of downloading: with your pointer over the link for the download, click and hold down the mouse button (Macintoshes) or click with the right mouse button (PCs) until you see a pop-up window with the choice "Save this Link as . . ." Then browse through the hierarchy of folders until you find the one you designated. In any case, remember the name of the file you're downloading so that you can always search to find it on your computer.

Step Two: Decompressing

Now take a deep breath . . . whoops, wrong kind of decompression:)

To expedite download time, most bulky files such as software are stuffed, zipped, binhexed, tarred, or otherwise compressed, as suggested by their extensions (e.g. ".zip"). Depending on what decompression applications you have configured on your machine and on how the download was compressed, the file may automatically decompress. If you do not see decompressing activity immediately, decompress the downloaded file by double-clicking on its icon or by running appropriate decompression software such as StuffIt Expander or WinZip. During decompression, remember into which folder you're decompressing the download.

For an in-depth treatment on downloading and decompressing, check out ZDnet's "How do I . . .?" Internet help, which offers several tutorial guides, as well as an Easy-Does-It-Downloads step-by-step guide and a guide to zipping and unzipping Files. The Forum offers some "Web Helper Applications" for Macintoshes and "Compress/Decompress Apps" for Windows.

Step Three: Installing

The final step in the process is actually installing the downloaded software -- much as you would install, from floppy disks or CD-ROMs, a piece of software that you've purchased. Double-click on the icon named "install" (for Macintoshes) or on the decompressed file with the extension ".exe" (for PCs).

The installation process will, by default, create a new folder inside your "Applications" (for Macintoshes) or "Program Files" (for PCs) folder on the top level of your hard drive where it will install the software. If you want the software elsewhere (e.g., in the same location as the downloaded, decompressed files), you'll have to "browse" to that destination at the appropriate juncture in installation.


Example

Try downloading the "Groups & Graphs" package, one of the many software listed in the Math Library's collection of Software.

Step Four: "If all else fails . . ."

You may come across some wonderful software that you simply can't download successfully. Depending on where in the process the problem lies:

Step Five: Cleaning Up

Once you've confirmed that the software is up and running, delete (or archive) the compressed file that you first downloaded.

Step Six: Ongoing Use

Be a responsible user: Most software worth its salt does get updated by its creators, so check back at the download site for new installments.
Caveat
In library or computer lab public machines, the destination for downloads is sometimes restricted to a "user folder," located on the top level of the hard drive. Often, the contents of user folders are automatically deleted upon restart; so if you're working at a public machine and want to save downloaded information, bring a disk and copy the contents of your user folder to it before leaving the public machine.

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