Although the Internet boasts as many as 20 million users, the process of accessing and browsing "the Net" intimidates most computer novices. Soon, however, even a duffer will be able to locate and capture information from any Internet location without knowing the system's arcane commands.

By the end of this year Quarterdeck Office Systems, based in Santa Monica, Calif., will introduce software for Windows that, for less than $100, will open the Net to inexperienced small-business users. The offering is a commercial version of Mosaic, a navigation package developed at the University of Illinois's National Center for Supercomputing Applications. The user selects a link -- a string of text by which documents with related information are associated -- and Mosaic automatically navigates to the appropriate sources. The program displays the linked documents and downloads files. If there's a multimedia link, Mosaic can play tunes and run videos.

The package can also be used to set up a stand-alone information-retrieval system on a single PC or, more expensively, to operate an internal multisite information network. Quarterdeck predicts that the latter is a major step toward the paperless office.

For details, call Quarterdeck at 310-392-9851. Also available: MKS Internet Anywhere ($149), a Windows interface that simplifies participation in Internet electronic mail and news groups, from Mortice Kern Systems (800-265-2797), in Waterloo, Ontario.

* * *