NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, November 2004
Browser Power
by Vinny Labash, Sarasota PC Monitor, Sarasota FL PC Users Group

Imagine a gigantic library, thousands of times larger than any other library in existence. Imagine enormous shelves filling this library in every direction as far as the eye can see, so high you have difficulty seeing the tops of the shelves. The shelves are filled with books of various sizes. Some books are as small as one page. Others are hundreds of thousands of pages thick. The books are randomly distributed throughout the library.

Patrons of the library enter and leave at the rate of thousands every second. They examine books, sometimes copying portions or all of their contents. On the floor of the library are dozens of independent groups of workers cataloging, indexing, and classifying the library’s contents.

The library building is the structure of the internet. All of the hardware, connectors, switches, routers, cabling, and other assorted apparatus and paraphernalia that make up the internet are found in this cyberspace library. The shelves represent the World Wide Web. They are the containers that house information stored on web sites. The books stand for the websites. Some are small, like most personal web sites. Many are huge corporate web sites which can run into hundreds of thousands of pages. Millions of other web sites fall between these extremes.

Patrons of the library are people like you and me using it for data, entertainment, doing research, and many other things, traditional and unorthodox. The independent groups of workers are developing search engines and further methods to help us find what we want.

If you can imagine this scenario, you have a good grasp of how the internet actually works. It is the most magnificent assortment of information that has ever existed, with a really lousy card catalog.

Where does your browser fit? It’s the tool that allows you to access information stored on web sites. Information can be text which you can read. Information can be in the form of photographs, drawings, and other kinds of graphic images. Your browser’s versatility lets you listen to sound files and view video clips. In most cases you can transfer any of this information from a web site to your PC for your personal use without having to learn any sophisticated computer “tricks”. All that is necessary is for you to understand a few essentials about how your browser works.

Begin by opening your browser after starting your PC. You can do this from a menu option or click an icon on your desktop, but you probably already know that.

You are undoubtedly familiar with the Explorer’s standard tool bar and the basic browser internet navigation functions. Let’s look at some tasks not covered by the toolbar.

To do more than the basics with the internet, you need access to the latest internet news, software updates, tips, and tricks for using your browser. Microsoft devotes a portion of its website to this function and they call it “Microsoft at Home”. While some of the content is advertising for its products, the site does contain a lot of useful information. Here’s how to add it to your Favorites list. 1. On the File menu of your browser’s Menu bar, click Open.
2. Type "http://www.microsoft.com/athome/default.mspx.
3. Click OK.
4. From the Favorites menu, click Add to Favorites.
5. Select a folder if you like, and then click OK.

Before you leave the “Microsoft at Home” page, select Print Preview from the File menu. Notice that the material selected for printing is “truncated”, cut off at the edge of the right margin. Microsoft didn’t program that portion of its site with printing in mind. There isn’t a lot you can do about it because you can’t change Microsoft’s code. We bring it to your attention because you shouldn’t drive yourself crazy trying to fit the information on the page. This is not unique to Microsoft. Most internet pages are not concerned with printing material, but with displaying it properly while accommodating the eccentricities of different browsers.

Open the File menu again and move your mouse pointer over the Send option. The submenu allows you to email the whole page or email only the URL (recommended), which saves a lot of space on your email note. You can also create a shortcut to the site on your desktop.

If you see a picture you like on a website, move your mouse pointer over the image. If the pointer changes into a hand icon, right-click on the image. The popup menu will show that you can email the image, copy it to your PC, set it as background on your desktop or print it. Imagine that!

After performing a search, the browser brings you to a web site, and the word or phrase you searched on is nowhere in sight. Rather than scrolling through the site searching manually, hold down the Ctrl key and tap the F key. (Ctrl+F) This brings up a Find dialog box where you can type in the search phrase in the text area and your browser will find it for you. You can also access this handy tool from the Edit menu.

The View menu has a lot to offer. This is where you turn your toolbars on and off. If you are missing a toolbar, look here first.

Open the Privacy Report on the View menu and check if Explorer is restricting or blocking any cookies from the site. The Privacy Report dialog box also allows you to override cookie handling from any individual web site. Click on the Settings button and then the Edit button. You can specify which web sites are always or never allowed to use cookies, regardless of the site’s stated privacy policy.

Open the Tools menu and select Internet Options. On the General tab, look at the Home Page section. Select the web site you wish to have as your home page. Change it as often as you like. The History section lets you decide how long you want your wanderings on the internet to be stored on your computer. Select the number of days you feel comfortable about or delete the history altogether. The choice is yours.

Click on the Accessibility button. In the Accessibility dialog box, check the box that says Ignore font sizes specified on web pages. This allows you to adjust text size on web sites. You can do this from the View menu or hold down the Ctrl button and rotate the wheel on your mouse button.

There’s a lot more you can do with your browser than you might suspect, and this article hardly covers it all. However, you should now have a good idea of the power residing in your browser and be encouraged to explore its capabilities on your own.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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