DEC 3, 2021 / Internet

5 tips to improve your internet browsing skills

Think you’re an expert of surfing the world wide web? Here’s how to take your searches to the next level.

Internet browsers were at one time clunky applications that could serve up simple text or if you had lots of patience, low resolution images, but not much more.

The modern web is so much more, and with it, the functions hidden in your web browser have expanded massively over time. Sure, you can still pull up text and images, but with a few additional keystrokes or mouse clicks, you can do so much more. You might know some of these tips – but did you know them all?

1. You don’t have to go to Google to Google

Google is the practical “default” search engine for most of us, but what a lot of web users might not be aware of is that you don’t really have to go to google.com.au to start your web searches.

You totally can, but it’s an extra step on the way. If you type your search query, whether it’s for chocolate cake recipes (yum!) or the name of the guy who played the lead in Quantum Leap (Scott Bakula, fact fans) directly into the address bar at the top of your browser, it’ll resolve as a search query.

For most browsers (excluding Microsoft Edge) that’ll be Google itself, giving you a shortcut way to get to your searches faster. Microsoft Edge users can still use this trick, but by default it’ll use Microsoft’s own Bing search engine instead.

2. It’s easy to search within a web page for words or phrases

Nobody knows everything, although Google certainly tries its best. You’ve probably been on a web page at some point and hit some term or phrase you’re not exactly sure about, whether it’s an obscure foreign word, some kind of specific jargon, or just a concept that’s personally new to you.

The article you’re reading might not go into depth about that concept, because the writer presumed that everyone knew what they were talking about. You could always open up a new tab and use the address bar to search for that term as above, but there’s an even easier way to dispel your confusion.

In Google Chrome, highlight the word or phrase you want to know more about, and right click on it. Choose “Search Google for…” and it’ll open up a new tab with your search already prefilled and the best answers Google can give you on that topic. It’s also possible to highlight and then drag your phrase up to the address bar to then search for it that way.

Apple Safari users can access a similar service with a right click and a choice of “look up…” for single words, although for longer phrases it’ll often push you to a new Google search in a fresh tab.  On Microsoft’s Edge it’s likewise a right click and then a selection of “Search the web for…”

3. Tab groups are your friends

Ever been in the situation where you’ve opened one tab… then another… and another… and before you know it, your browser is a confusing clutter of tiny tabs that you can’t make out to find what it was you wanted?

What you want to use here are tab groups. These allow you to classify tabs however you’d like. Think of it like an old school filing cabinet, with one drawer for, say, your sports results, another for those chocolate cake recipes, and one more again for business matters, because the boss might just be watching.

To use Tab groups on Google Chrome, right click on any tab and then choose “Add Tab to new group”. You’ll be asked to name that group (it’s up to you) and then that tab will be added to a separately coloured group tab. You can then right click on any other tab, and the option to add it to your new tab group should be open to you. It’s an easy way to not only reduce your screen clutter, but also organise your browsing so you never lose “that web page I was just looking at” when you need it.

4. Set your own home page

When you start up your browser, it’ll typically default to whatever the browser maker wanted to most highlight when the browser was built. For Google Chrome that’s Google; Apple’s Safari will typically show you your favourites and frequently visited pages, and Microsoft’s Edge pushes you towards Microsoft’s busy news-centric start page.

All this is great if it’s what you want, but if you have a specific page you always head to when you start browsing, you can set your browser to go directly there. For Chrome, go into the settings (on a desktop that’s the three little dots icon at the top right), then click the “On Start Up” section. Here you can choose between a new tab page, continuing where you last were when you were online, or to open up a specific page or set of pages of your choosing.

If Microsoft Edge is your browser of choice, it’s the same three dots icon at the top left you want to click, then Settings, and then “Start, Home and New Tabs” where you can choose where you want to go when you start up Microsoft Edge.

For Apple Safari users, click on “Safari” at the top left of your screen when you’ve got Safari open, then “Preferences”, and set your new Homepage to whatever you’d like.

5. Chrome and Edge have hidden dinosaurs and surfers

If you’re a user of Google’s Chrome browser, you might not know that it includes amongst its code a hidden dinosaur. No need to panic Jurassic World style, however, as this is a relatively benevolent mighty lizard. If you’re browsing and your internet connection goes offline, you’ll get a browser screen telling you that there’s no internet connection available with a picture of a dinosaur and some cacti at the top.

They’re not just window dressing, but a small hidden game that starts up when you have no connection and hit the space bar. The dinosaur runs along and jumps with the space bar, until you hit a cactus at which point it’s game over. According to Google, it’s meant to be a nod to the days before Wi-Fi was (nearly) everywhere.

Going offline is never fun, but if you haven’t yet sampled the Chrome Dino, you can do so anytime without losing your internet connection by typing in chrome://dino/ into the address bar.

If you’re a Microsoft Edge user, you don’t get a dinosaur, but instead a surfing game when your browser goes inadvertently offline. It’s a touch more complex that Google’s simple Dino game, and you can invoke it at any time by typing edge://surf into an open browser window.

If you’re looking to up your browsing game, or are concerned that your internet or Wi-Fi network are running slow, Geeks2U can assist. Get in touch with our expert technicians today to see how we can help!

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Alex Kidman
Tech Journalist