Eric Baker

Hints & tips
Internet browsing

v7.3  01 February 2018  © Eric Baker

How do I decide which browser to use?

You may not have much choice on a phone or tablet but on a real computer you do and they all seem desperate for you to use theirs. Firefox was my favourite for a while but now it's Chrome. It works pretty well and crucially synchronises all our bookmarks across two computers, two tablets and two phones. Safari is no longer being updated for Windows but I do use Opera whenever I want to browse via a VPN, ie to see what happens if it seems I'm located in another country. Strangely Microsoft Edge just doesn't seem to work effectively on my Win 10 PC.

In early 2018 reckoned that on desktops and laptops (where you have a real choice) Chrome was way up top with a 59% market share, trailed by Firefox and IE on 13% each, Edge and Safari 3% each, Opera 2%, the rest nowhere.

Other browsers I like the way Chrome and Firefox make it so easy to build up your own menus of favourite sites. Here's Chrome's top strip, with plenty of tabs open and an extensive DIY bookmarks menu strip.

IE browser


How can I improve my search results?

Google search Use double quotes. Copper wire bars in Google gets well over ten million hits (anything containing all 3 words). "Copper wire bars" in quotes gets under 14,000 - only pages with that exact phrase. Put -ingots after it (a word with a leading minus sign) and it drops under 10,000. If you are not sure about spelling etc use OR, eg "color palette" OR "colour palette" gets many more hits than either phrase alone.

In Google search, remember that sponsored links are there because they paid to be, not because they matched your search well. Eg search for a long discontinued camera and you'll get sponsored links, none of which are actually offering that model for sale. You should generally assume that sponsored links are only for outfits trying to sell you something. Search for free software and you'll get sponsored links from all sorts of odd sources and one site offers free software such as Firefox via a mandatory payment stage! The image on the right shows an entire page of paid ad content from a Google search for best accounting software. There is not a single genuine search result in view. Should that be allowed? I always try to skip past the ads but they are making it increasingly difficult.

Google streetview Use the best option for each search you make, eg in Google the news or images options are useful and map based searches are becoming excellent. I use viamichelin to plan road trips round Europe, streetmap for local UK maps, Google maps to find tyre sellers nearby and so on. On Google maps in many areas you can click your way into street view, allowing you to travel along a street as if you were there - the pic shows a bit of central London.

How do I keep my Google list when searching?

The key is when you want to investigate a link in your Google search results list do not click on it. Instead right click on it (long press on a tablet or phone) and choose Open in New Tab. That way it comes up in another tab in the same browser window. When you close that tab, your Google list is still there, just as you left it. Ctrl left click does the same thing but quicker. In all the modern browsers clicking a link with the middle scroll wheel button opens it in a new tab too. You can also close a tab by clicking on it with the scroll wheel button.

How do I grab an image from a web page?

Make sure it's not copyright restricted, especially if your use is at all commercial. Then tap the PrtScn (Print Screen) key to load what's showing on the screen into memory (or Alt PrtScn for just the current part screen window). Then run an application to receive the image. A word processor will just about do, as you can crop and resize the imported image. But a proper image processing application is best. Eg in Photoshop Elements you choose File, New from Clipboard, then crop to what you want, add text, resize or whatever and save as a jpg, gif or png which can then be used in all sorts of ways. Right clicking on an image then Save Image As is often an alternative. There are also some excellent screen grabbers you have to pay a bit for, eg the superb Faststone Capture (free back when I found it). And the Win 10 Snipping tool is quite good.

How do I change my home page?

Browser settings pages will let you switch to a different startup site easily but I much prefer the option to start up with the tabs open when you last closed it.

How do I put a web address in an email or document?

Highlit URL Go to the site/page you want then click on the web page address to highlight it. Then Edit Copy (or Ctrl C) to load it into memory. Go to the email or document (or wherever you want to use the link) and Edit Paste (Ctrl V) to insert it. Tap the space bar whilst at the end of the link and it will turn blue/underlined in many applications and take anyone to the web page with a click of the mouse. On a tablet you long press for copy and paste.

What are Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for?

Search me. Facebook seems to be a way for young people to tell the world in far too much detail what they're doing in an endless quest to get more 'friends'. And it seems to have a very cavalier attitude towards privacy. In late 2017 the journalist Jonathan Taplin said that the average Facebook user "works for two hours a day for Mark Zuckerberg", for free. Instagram could be fun for ten minutes but I can't be bothered to sign up for a photo site that for years said all images must be square - that didn't fit reality. Twitter seems very one-sided: you need to be Stephen Fry or Joan Rivers to get anyone to pay any attention to your tweets.

How can I increase the viewing area in the browser?

Most browsers respond to F11 to switch between normal view (where they occupy a lot of your screen space) and full screen view (where the website gets the full screen area). This is particularly important with modern wide but shallow screens. Great for watching movies but not ideal for many other things. If you want a screenshot and the content doesn't quite fit Ctrl - (minus) will shrink the content on a PC/laptop. On tablets and phones browsers tend to hide the top area when it's not in use.

Search results

How can I find favourite websites quickly?

You can always put favourite sites in your favourites or bookmarks list - make sure you make subfolders to keep them tidy. But I like having my real favourites in a personalised toolbar. Internet Explorer makes this quite difficult but it's dead easy with Chrome or Firefox. Below is a portion of our personal toolbar, with lots of sites under the folders and to the right are extra bookmark folders:

How best to keep kids safe online?

There are software solutions which aim to formalise parental control of children's online browsing. But kids tend to bypass these quite easily (if only by going round to a friend's place or just using your password to sign on).

With wi-fi, smartphones and tablets so ubiquitous, trust and discussion is becoming the only realistic option. Some ISPs have crude filters but do you really want your internet browsing to be limited to someone's idea of what's suitable for a 13 year old?