Internet tips Software

Bright browsing: smart internet surfing

Different browsers have different benefits, and slightly different tools or shortcuts to those tools. So which browser are you using? Back in 2002 Microsoft’s Internet Explorer had captured 95% of the market but these days that’s been whittled down to 85% or so by Apple’s Safari and, perhaps more of a threat to Internet Explorer (IE), Mozilla’s Firefox (which also has a version that works on Apple computers).

Though security is an issue, there’s not much we can do about it save ensuring the browser is set to auto-update. Safari however is least likely to be hacked so if you’re scared your PC is threatened it might be wise to choose an Apple. To check your auto-update settings, head to the ‘Control panel’ rom the start bar and click on ‘Security Centre’. You can adjust your settings here to ensure they’re updated automatically daily in IE. If you’re using Firefox, go Tools/Options/Advanced/Update and tick all the boxes.

Some handy features common to all browsers are bookmarks, or favourites. If you’re not using the bookmarks feature on an all-in-one homepage then you may wish to use this. Simply browse to a website you want to add and choose ‘Add to favourites/Bookmark this page’. This brings up some options, and if you don’t have too many favourites, it’s best to add them to the toolbar folder or ‘Links’ in IE.

If you’re visiting a long web page of text and want to find a keyword somewhere in it, try hitting the Ctrl+F keyboard shortcut. A box will appear (in the left hand corner in Firefox), type in the word you’re after and pressing the return key will find that term on the page. If the page you’ve opened doesn’t support this – perhaps it’s a PDF, or the webmaster has disabled copy and pasting functionality from their site – try searching for the page using Google or Yahoo, then, when you find it in the search results, click on the ‘cached’ version. This is Google and Yahoo’s backup of the page and is stored in HTML, so it’s easy to find the keyword using Ctrl+F in this way.

It’s also a good way of finding information that has recently been removed from a website. It will only cover up to the last six months though, so if you want to go further back – even to 1995 – try typing the address, or URL, into the Wayback Machine which has archived billions of webpages over the years.

One of the great benefits that Firefox brought in, and IE is expected to follow up with in it’s version 7 release early next year, is the ability to use ‘tabbed’ browsing. This shows each separate webpage as a new tab at the top of the browser rather than as a box on the lower taskbar – which, if you’re like me and wind up getting umpteen webpages open all in one go – can make it difficult to find which page you’re after.

Toolbars for browsing the internet

The use of a specialised browser toolbar can aid your Internet searching and filling out of forms immeasurably. There’s a bunch of them out there – including Alta Vista, MSN, Yahoo, Google, A9 and AskJeeves. The most popular and well designed appear from ZD Net’s research to be Google’s and Yahoo’s, not least due to the quality of results these search engines provide.

Some of their many bonuses include blocking pop-up advertisements, showing your recent search and browsing history, and being able to search directly for news, images, sound and video files. But perhaps best of all is their ability to fill out forms with the ‘Autofill’ function. Head into the options of your toolbar and there’s likely to be a space where you can fill out your name, address, date of birth and (in a separate, password protected area) your credit card details. Pop them in and whenever a form comes up asking for those details, click the ‘autofill’ button and voila! You’ve advanced to smarter, faster Internet browsing!

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