CHRISTMAS FOOD SPECIAL: MAREK KOHN'S GUIDE TO FAST-TRACKING

The New Festive Spirit: A Christmas food special

The Web can feel as big and crowded as a department store. But the advantage of the former is that you can speed things up with a few simple tricks and short cuts, turning the Net from a labyrinth into a fast lane.

l Although you can use the Web to avoid a trip to Tesco, the Net comes into its own in its ability to provide access to smaller suppliers, who may be based the other side of town, or the other side of the country. These will typically be specialist outfits, such as The Teddington Cheese (www.teddingtoncheese.co.uk).

l If you are looking for products made by a particular company, or you know the name of a supplier who is likely to sell those products, try putting "www." in front of the company's name, and ".com" afterwards. If that doesn't work, try ".co.uk" instead of ".com".

l If you aren't looking for goods from one particular supplier, a directory may be more use than a search engine. Web directories are lists of links to sites, compiled by humans and organised into subject categories. The oldest and most popular directory is Yahoo! Confusingly, it is usually described as a search engine. Strictly, it's a directory combined with a search engine facility: this is also true of other "search engines", such as Lycos. A Yahoo! search will thus typically deliver links to both individual Web pages and to categories. As in a public library, categories are extensively sub-divided, making it easy to narrow a search down from, say, "food" to "cheese". A longer-established brand of directory, Yellow Pages, is also on-line, where it's known as Yell (www.yell.co.uk).

l Use quote marks to make search engines look for phrases, such as "Ford Focus". While some will automatically treat the keywords "ford" and "focus" as a phrase, others will waste time serving up endless references to cameras and Indiana Jones.

l Although search engines are being souped up all the time, even the most powerful of them only register a small proportion of sites on the Web. If you're having difficulty locating an obscure product, you could try using a meta search engine, such as Ask Jeeves (www.askjeeves.com). These activate searches on a number of other engines at once, combining the results on their own pages. Recent versions of Apple's Macintosh operating system incorporate a facility for hailing several search engines at once, called Sherlock.

l Some people enjoy visiting overseas sites to find items that are cheaper abroad, such as CDs. However, once delivery costs are added in (and customs duty, for expensive items) the savings may disappear. It's also far more trouble to deal with the supplier in the event of any problems. If you want to restrict your searches to local suppliers, the easiest option is to use a search engine or directory with a UK front page, which offers the option of restricting searches to British sites. Yahoo!, LookSmart, Yell and Lycos all offer this facility; all have `.co.uk' addresses.

l Many people are still uneasy about sending their credit card details into the strange new medium of the Internet. But most of us are prepared to hand our cards to underpaid waiters and to read the details out to total strangers over the phone. The risks of using credit cards on-line are probably far lower than those of shopping in the real world. Security systems are now highly developed: banking via the Internet is becoming commonplace, and it has become standard practice for on-line traders to publish information about their security procedures. Look for these pages, and for logos indicating adherence to security standards.

Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Arts and Entertainment
Crowd control: institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are packed

Art
Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices