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Tool Time

Download this! What every online shopper needs.

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You don’t really need to smell the flowers online. As a result, most Net stores offer fancy multimedia only if it works with the Java code already embedded in browsers like Netscape and Internet Explorer (for a cool use of Java, see ”Your Personal Model” at http://www.landsend.com). Truth be told, no plug-ins are essential for shopping, but two are really helpful: RealPlayer and Shockwave.

Realplayer G2

You’ve never heard the Backstreet Boys, but you want to listen before you fork over $15. Download the free G2 player to sample audio (and video) snippets from almost any music store. If you must have one plug-in, this is it. Available at http://www.real.com/products/player.

Shockwave

It seems like most online explosions/fighting/animation sequences require the free Shockwave plug-in. You’ll also need it for games, advertisements, film trailers, and at some shopping sites like Boo.com, which allows users to rotate sportswear so you can see a pair of shoes, for example, from all angles. Available for downloading at http://www.macromedia. com/shockwave/download.

Additional Plug-Ins

Depending on the site, you may need other browser add-ons to hear songs, see video clips, read documents, and experience 3-D worlds. Our advice: Download only when necessary.