Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Five tips to turbo charge your web browsing habits

Of all the programs installed on your computer, the web browser is probably the most frequently used. Since you spend so much time surfing the internet, why not learn some ways to do it quicker and more efficiently? This post will highlight five browsing habits that will enable you to spend less time clicking buttons in a browser and more time viewing websites.

1. Take advantage of tabs

Tabs allow you to have multiple pages open at once and are great for multitasking and research on the web.

Tabs have been around for a while, and for a reason—if you're not using them, you're missing out on one of the best ways to browse the web. Tabs basically allow you to keep multiple webpages open at once, and you can switch between open tabs quickly. Rather than using a single window, open up new tabs to keep other webpages open and ready for you to return to.

Tabs can normally be opened by right-clicking on a link and selecting “Open in a new tab” (exact option varies by browser). You can also open a link in a new tab by middle-clicking the link with your middle mouse button/scroll wheel.

As an example of how tabs can improve your browsing experience, let's say you're researching something on Google. Rather than open each new link in the existing window, open the links in tabs so you can return to your search results quickly. Plus, if you find a site you want to keep open for reference, you don't have to navigate away from it—simply leave it in an open tab alongside your search results.

Be careful to close tabs after you're done with them, though—having lots of tabs open can slow down less powerful computers.

2. Use keyboard shortcuts

Why use the mouse when you don't even have to take your hands off the keyboard? Keyboard shortcuts take a bit to learn, but they shave valuable seconds off common tasks. A few seconds here and there might not seem like much, but they add up. Some of the most common and useful keyboard shortcuts for web browsing are as follows:
  • Ctrl-L highlights the address bar, allowing you to immediately begin typing a URL or search term.
  • Ctrl-T opens a new tab.
  • Backspace returns to the previous page, unless you're in a text input field.
  • Tab advances to the next input field—useful for when you're logging into a site and have to jump to another text box.
  • Enter/Return typically sends data if you're filling out a form.
  • Ctrl-H opens your browsing history.
  • Ctrl-D adds a bookmark/favorite.
There are many more shortcuts out there, and some are dependent on the browser you're using. These were tested using Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, but they should be universal.

3. Store frequently accessed bookmarks on the bookmarks toolbar

The Bookmarks toolbar can be enabled by
right-clicking near the top of the browser window.
There's no better place for your most frequently visited sites than the bookmarks toolbar. It's conveniently located and even displays colorful icons for your bookmarks, making them easier to recognize.

The bookmarks toolbar might already be present in your browser—it's usually right below your address bar. If you can't find it, it's easy to enable. Right-click on the top of your browser window and select “Bookmarks toolbar” (or “Favorites bar” if you're running Internet Explorer). You can move existing bookmarks to the toolbar and place new bookmarks directly onto it.

4. Ditch third-party toolbars

The Java installer includes the Ask Toolbar. If you don't
uncheck it during installation, you'll end up with the
toolbar in your web browser.
There are good toolbars and there are bad toolbars. Third-party toolbars such as the Ask Toolbar or Yahoo! Toolbar would qualify as the latter. If you have too many of them, they can be detrimental to your computer's performance.

The functions of many search toolbars can be replicated by simply using bookmarks in the bookmarks toolbar, so why take up valuable screen real estate?

To completely get rid of third-party toolbars, you'll have to uninstall them from your computer. You can do this by going to Programs and Features in the Control Panel.

5. Take search shortcuts using DuckDuckGo

If you really want to take your web browsing to the next level, consider using search shortcuts on DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo is a search engine just like Google. One of the nice features it offers is the ability to use shortcuts to directly search other sites like Wikipedia, Amazon, and many more.

DuckDuckGo uses special keywords preceded by a “!” character to search other sites. (A complete list can be found here.) For instance, if you want to search for “library” on Wikipedia, you can just type “!w library” into your address/search bar. This brings up the appropriate Wikipedia entry in your browser almost instantly.

By entering the above search query into DuckDuckGo,
you will be presented with the Wikipedia entry
for the term "library".

If you combine this method of searching with keyboard shortcuts (particularly Ctrl-L to access the address bar quickly), you can open pages in mere seconds, all without touching your mouse!

DuckDuckGo has the added benefit of being a privacy-oriented search engine that doesn't track or profile you, unlike Google. Don't get me wrong—Google is great for searching the web, and I still find myself using it as a secondary search engine. That said, DuckDuckGo is my primary portal to the web these days.

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With these five time-saving tips, you should be able to use your web browser more quickly and efficiently, with a little less clutter along the way. I think everyone can agree that the time you normally spend fighting your web browser's interface is better spent actually surfing the web.

-Jesse

1 comment:

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