Recommended Browsers, Plug-ins, Media Players & Viewers

To properly view the Library's Web content, a browser and various Plug-ins, Media Players and viewers are needed. This page lists the necessary components for viewing most Web content and the minimum version for each component. This list is for the Windows operating system; however, most of these programs have Macintosh equivalents and some also have Linux and Unix equivalents; however, there have been reports that Internet Explorer 5.0 for the Macintosh does not properly render pages, so you may wish to use a different browser for the Library's web site. All downloads are free except where noted, and all downloads are very large. This page is updated periodically as requirements change.

While we try to maintain compatibility with older browsers, this site can only be fully experienced using a current, standards-compliant browser. In particular, we no longer fully support Netscape 4. Individuals using Netscape 4 who wish to retain a similar interface should consider moving to the Mozilla browser. Also, some of the database providers' sites are not accessible with older browsers. We recommend any of these three browsers.

Internet Explorer (highly recommended) is the most compatible browser. All sites are designed to work with it. Internet Explorer 6 is currently the only version offered for download; however, if you have version 5.5, we do not recommend upgrading due to compatibility issues with some software (e.g. some virus software).

Mozilla / Firefox is highly compatible and not as intrusive as Netscape 7 which is built around the same underlying software. It has an optional built-in mail and chat client. This browser offers the easiest upgrade path for users of Netscape 4 since the interface of both the browser and mail client are familiar.

Opera is fast and highly compliant. It has a free, ad supported version or can be purchased for $39. Versions prior to 7 have some compatibility problems.

No Netscape browser is recommended.


Plug-ins provide additional functionality for the browser.

Adobe Acrobat Reader (highly recommended) is used by most databases for full-text content. Versions 4 and above are generally compatible with most sites.

Macromedia Flash & Shockwave are two of the most common formats for animated content. Versions 4 and above are generally compatible with most sites.


Although each of the following three media players states that it will play most media types, compatibility is not perfect and all three are still needed.

Real Player is necessary for streaming audio and video and RealPresenter versions of PowerPoint presentations. Version 8, which is available at the site linked here, is not the latest version of the Real software, but is compatible with almost all sites and is not as intrusive as the Real One Player.

Windows Media Player is another format used for audio and video content. Versions 6.4 and higher are compatible with most sites. A version of Windows Media Player is generally included with the Windows operating system.

Quicktime is another audio and video player which is widely used for movies. Versions 5 and higher are generally compatible. Version 6 is required for MPEG 4 content.


Documents are occasionally posted to the Web in Microsoft Office format. These viewers allow you to open Microsoft Office documents for viewing and printing but not editing. They are useful for computers that do not have Microsoft Office installed. NOTE: the first three links are direct downloads for the viewers.

Word Viewer opens word processing documents created in Word format (.doc), Rich Text Format (.rtf) and ASCII text.

Excel Viewer opens spreadsheets created in Excel format only.

PowerPoint Viewer opens presentations created in PowerPoint format only.

Access Snapshot Viewer opens snapshots of Access databases (not the full database).


ieSpell is a free Internet Explorer browser extension that spell checks text input boxes on a webpage.

Google Toolbar contains a spell check feature and it is useful for checking spelling errors in database and library catalog searching.


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