14 February 2013

Pimp Your Browser

I've been asked to provide details of our Parent Tech Chat meetings for those who couldn't make it. So here's a brief summary of what we shared at the first event.

We looked at the way browsers have evolved in recent years and how they have become more powerful and central to so much of our technology use. They now connect us to so many essential services and may of us use a browser many times a day to access email, Facebook, our calendar, pay bills, watch TV or videos, listen to music,

It's often useful to start by looking back at how life used to be, and we're often surprised by how rapidly technology has changed. For our quick history lesson we saw that the first ever browser was invented in 1990. Many of us remembered Netscape that arrived in 1994, closely followed by Internet Explorer in 1995. Microsoft's dominance (which at one point claimed over 90% penetration), was challenged in 2003 and 2004 with the introduction of Safari & Firefox. Finally, Google's Chrome browser came along and has rapidly taken the lead in the Browser Wars.
Image: http://basecamp.com/help/guides/account/browser-requirements

So why should we want to Pimp Your Browser? Well think of buying a new car. You'll probably want to change it a bit, to make it work better for you. You'll make simple adjustments to the seat position, steering wheel and mirrors, use a cushion or add child seats. Or make more substantial changes - adding tints, GPS, leather seats, a bike-rack. All the things that will improve your experience and to fit your personal needs.

There are numerous ways you can tweak your browser to make it work better for you. Here are a few of our suggestions:
- Use tabs. Open new tabs for new sites so you can easily switch between them.
- For pages that you use daily, set them to open automatically when you open your browser.
- Chrome has a nice feature to 'pin tabs' so they always stay there - useful if you use webmail etc.
- Your browser may have the option to remember the sites you have open when you close down. They magically appear next time you switch on.
- Make an effort to organise your Bookmarks (or Favourites). Use the Bookmarks Bar for the most frequent sites you visit. Use folders to group them in categories.
- Choose a better homepage. You don't need to see the Dell or Apple website each time you start.
- Install web apps. Easy access to sites, apps and even games that run in your browser.
- Install extensions. Useful little tools that do a variety useful little jobs. Some favourites include YouTube Options, AdBlock Plus, Clearly and Hola.
- Other extensions link directly to other products that you use, like 1Password, Pocket, Google Drive, Evernote etc.
- Sync your bookmarks & preferences across devices. By logging into a browser you can mirror your settings between the computers that you use.
- Customise the tools along the top toolbar. Remove unwanted buttons & add more useful ones.

These are some of the things you can do. To find out how to do them, either poke around in the menus at the top, look in Preferences or Settings, or better still just Google your question.

Remember, with most modern browsers, you can type your search directly into the address box (if you have a separate search box, you may need to update your browser). And there's no need to start web addresses with www. anymore. Browsers can now work that bit out for themselves.

Note: not all browsers support all of these features. Everything mentioned above can be done in Chrome. Others like IE, Safari & Firefox each have other unique features.

Have a play around with your browser & see how you can make your internet experiences more streamline & user-friendly.

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