NET GAINS: Decoding cyberspace

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Believe it or not, there are still those who have yet to venture on to the Internet. However, their first steps into this cyberworld can be made easier by letting the Web take the strain of tuition and advice.

Web Novice (www.web is just one of dozens of Internet help sites. A fair introduction, it features a forum where visitors can post questions and messages, a "how-to guide" to many basic Net skills and, better yet, a series of tutorials in plain English designed to get Uncle Boethius surfing, downloading and chatting in no time. There is perhaps too much background information given, but otherwise it's not bad.

Net for Beginners (netfor offers much the same, but has a wealth of links to areas and sites where you can put your new abilities to the test. Should you find yourself eager to learn more, Free Tutorials ( will help you swat up on web design, programming, graphics and a whole lot else besides. Perversely, for a site interested in recruiting unbelievers to the Internet, it is itself rather uninspiringly designed.

For an excellent, simple-to-follow introduction to the Internet, the Third Age site ( has a pleasingly non-threatening approach. Designed to appeal to the more mature surfer, it is in fact a good starting point for anyone. This site's appeal is boosted by the fact it's one of the few to include graphic illustrations.