Magento can use more human looking and search engine friendly addresses for it's pages if you switch on 'Use Web Server Rewrites'. This relies on two things.
- Apache's mod_rewrite module. All our servers have this installed and enabled.
- A .htaccess file in the same folder as your Magento install. Magento comes with a .htaccess file for you to use that should work as is.
If you switch on 'Use Web Server Rewrites' and get 404 errors then check that the .htaccess file is installed.
Some FTP programs may not show .htaccess files or upload them without switching on an option to show 'hidden' files. On UNIX based operating systems, files beginning with a period such as .htaccess are not shown in listings with the usual ls command. You can view them on the command line with 'ls -a' to show all files.