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The Internet Gopher, or simply Gopher, is a distributed document delivery service. It allows users to explore, search and retrieve information residing on different locations in a seamless fashion.

What is Gopher

When browsing it, the information appears to the user as a series of nested menus. This kind of menu structure resembles the organization of a directory with many subdirectories and files. The subdirectories and the files may be located either on the local server site or on remote sites served by other Gopher servers. From the user point of view, all information items presented on the menus appear to come from the same place.

The information can be a text or binary file, directory information (loosely called phone book), image or sound. In addition, Gopher offers gateways to other information systems (World-Wide Web, WAIS, archie, WHOIS) and network services (Telnet, FTP). Gopher is often a more convenient way to navigate in a FTP directory and to download files.

A Gopher server holds the information and handles the users' queries. In addition, links to other Gopher servers create a network wide cooperation to form the global Gopher web (Gopherspace).

Who Can Use Gopher

Gopher uses the client-server model to provide access to the Gopher web. You must be on the international TCP/IP network (the Internet) in order to use a client on your computer to access Gopher.

How to Get to Gopher

Users explore the Gopher menus using various local clients or accessing a remote client via an interactive Telnet session.

Local Clients

Public domain clients for accessing a Gopher server are available for: Macintosh, MS/DOS, OS/2, VM/CMS, VMS, NeXT, Unix, X-Windows, and MS-Windows.

The clients are available for anonymous FTP from many FTP sites (e.g. in the directory /pub/gopher).

Remote Clients

Some sites allow public access via Telnet to a client. To access such a remote client, telnet to one of these sites: Australia (login: info) Columbia Ecuador Sweden USA USA USA (login: panda)

At the login prompt type gopher R (unless specified otherwise) and the top level Gopher menu for that site will be displayed.

Users are requested to use the site closest to them.

Using Gopher

The implementations of the Gopher clients on various platforms are slightly different to take advantage of the platforms' capabilities (mouse, graphic functions, X-Windows server) and to offer the popular look and feel. Even with different implementations, the same set of functions and commands is available.

When issuing the gopher command, you will be connected automatically to the default Gopher server specified at the installation. The format of the command is:


where hostname is an optional alternative Gopher server to which you want to talk.

When connected to a Gopher server, it is still possible to access another server by exploring the Other Gopher servers in the rest of the world branch. To locate them more easily, the Gopher servers are distributed in geographical regions:



Middle East

North America


South America

and then by countries.

Access to a Gopher server is identical whether using a local or a remote client: a simple menu driven interface which doesn't require any special training or knowledge from the user.

Here is a sample menu:

Internet Gopher Information Client v1.1

Information About Gopher

1. About Gopher.

2. Search Gopher News <?>

3. Gopher News Archive/

4. comp.infosystems.gopher (USENET newsgroup)/

5. Gopher Software Distribution/

6. Gopher Protocol Information/

7. University of Minnesota Gopher software licensing policy.

8. Frequently Asked Questions about Gopher.

9. gopher93/

10. Gopher example server/

11. How to get your information into Gopher.

> 12. New Stuff in Gopher.

13. Reporting Problems or Feedback.

14. big Ann Arbor gopher conference picture.gif <Picture>

Press ? for Help, q to Quit, u to go up a menu

In the example above, any item can be selected by typing its line number or by moving the cursor (>) next to it.

An item could be:

a subdirectory

a text file

a binary file

a sound file

an image file

a phone book (directory information)

an index search

a Telnet session

Items are displayed with an identifying symbol next to them. In the example above, "<?>" means a full text index search, "/" means a subdirectory, "<Picture>" means an image file and no symbol means a text file.

Some Gopher clients are not able to handle certain file types (e.g., sound files). Some clients display only files of types they can handle orfiles in which they suppose you are interested. Others display all types of files.

Most Gopher clients allow you to create, view and select bookmarks. A bookmark keeps track of the exact location of a Gopher item, regardless of where it resides. It is useful when you often need to reach a file or a service located far from the top level directory. A collection of bookmarks is like a customized Gopher menu.

Some capabilities of a local Gopher client are bound to the capabilities of your own computer. In fact, for sound files, image files and Telnet sessions, the Gopher client looks for the appropriate software on your computer and passes control to it to perform the requested task. When the task is completed, control is returned to the Gopher client.

At any time, it is possible to terminate the session (quit command), to cancel the current processing or to get the online help (help command).

An item is processed according to its type:

a subdirectory

its contents are displayed. To go up one level, use the up command.

a text file

the file is displayed. Then you can browse it, search for a particular string, print it on a local printer or copy (save) it onto your local disk space in a userspecified file (the last 2 functions may not be available to you).

a binary file

the remote file is simply copied onto your local disk space in a userspecified file. Binary files are binhexed Macintosh files, archives (.ZIP, .TAR,...), compressed files, programs, etc.

a sound file

the remote file is played through your local audio device if it exists, as well as the appropriate utility. Only one sound file can be active at a time; you will be warned if you try to play a sound before a previous one is done.

an image file

the remote file is displayed on your computer screen if an image viewer exists on your computer.

a phone book

you are prompted for a search string to look up people information through the selected phone book. Since different institutions have different directory services, the queries are not performed in the same fashion.

an index search

you are prompted for a search string which may be one or more words, plus the special operators and, or, and not. The search is case insensitive. Usually, an index is created to help users locate the information in a set of documents quickly. e.g.:

terminal and setting or tset

will find all documents which contain both the words terminal and setting, or the word tset. or is nonexclusive so the documents may contain all of the words.

The result of the index search looks like any Gopher menu, but each menu item is a file that contains the specified search string.

a Telnet session

Telnet sessions are normally textbased information services, for example, access to library catalogs.


Veronica was designed as a solution to the problem of resource discovery in the rapidly expanding Gopher web, providing a key word search of more than 500 Gopher menus. Veronica helps you find Gopher based information without doing a menu-by-menu, site-by-site search. It is to the Gopher information space, what archie is to the FTP archives.

Veronica is accessible from most toplevel Gopher menus or from the Other Gopher servers... branch. There is no need for opening another connection or another application.

There are two search methods: the simple Boolean search method and the partial Boolean search method. When you choose either search method, you will be prompted for a search string.

The searches are carried out on an index of Gopher menu titles. They are NOT full-text searches of data at Gopher sites. Veronica queries are case insensitive.

Simple Boolean search method

The search string may contain keywords optionally separated by AND and OR. AND is assumed between 2 words. OR takes precedence over AND. e.g.:


will give you a list of menu titles that contain eudora:

Electronic Mail: Eudora on Macintosh, Micro08

Modem Setting Eudora Slip.

A UNIXbased Eudora reader for those that ...

Eudora: Popmail for the Macintosh.



eudora and macintosh

will give you a list of menu titles that contain both eudora and macintosh:

Eudora: Popmail for the Macintosh.


Micro News: Eudora A Mailer for the Macintosh.

Eudora: Electronic Mail on Your Macintosh.

ACS News Eudora Mail Reader for Macintosh.


Partial Boolean search method:


The search string contain keywords optionally separated AND, OR and NOT. The evaluation is done from left to right. NOT clauses are evaluated after all the other clauses are evaluated. e.g.:

red and blue or yellow but not green and orange or black but not white

will be interpreted as:

((((((red and blue) or yellow) and orange) or black) not green) not white)


An asterisk (*) is the wildcard character, which can replace any other character. It causes a partial search on the substring it follows. e.g.:


will give you a list of menu titles, including:

The Help Desk.

Keene State College Press Release COMPUTER ON EVERY DESK.DESKQview/X... An alternative to Windows???.

Ethernet at Your Desktop/


A string surrounded with a pair of quotes (') or doublequotes (") causes a exact match search (case insensitive). and, not, and an asterisk (*) may occur in the literal string, they have no special meaning. The first part of a literal string must be a word, rather than a delimiter symbol, to get a successful search. e.g.:


will give you a list of menu titles, including:

Mac on Your Desk.

Information Desk.

Available at the Help Desk ....

The result of both search methods is a Gopher menu composed of items (with an identifying symbol) whose titles match the search string. Like any Gopher items, you can process them: open subdirectories, display text files, etc.

Learning More About Gopher

The Internet Gopher is developed by the Computer and Information Services Department of the University of Minnesota. Bug reports, comments, suggestions, etc. should be mailed to the Gopher development team at:

Mailing list:

To subscribe send a mail to:

Usenet newsgroup: comp.infosystems.gopher

A comprehensive description of veronica search methods is available from the veronica menus.

Veronica is being developed by Steve Foster and Fred Barrie at the University of Nevada. Bug reports, comments, suggestions, etc. should be addressed to:


We would like to express our gratitude to the authors and developers of these tools for making their work available to the networking community. We have consulted their documentation, and the documentation of others, in preparing this guide, and for this we are also grateful. We have used their descriptions and explanations when suitable, but any errors or inaccuracies are the sole responsibility of the EARN staff. Consult the sources listed at the end of each section for specific queries and original detailed information.

This document is available from: listserv@earncc.bitnet

Send the command: GET filename

where the filename is either:

GOPHER PS (Postscript)

GOPHER MEMO (plain text)

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