Make your In­ter­net browser do more for you

The Peterborough Examiner - - OPINION - Ray Saitz, a Peter­bor­ough res­i­dent and teacher, writes a reg­u­lar col­umn on the In­ter­net. He can be reached at rayser3@co­geco.ca

It’s re­mark­able that one of the most im­por­tant pieces of soft­ware on any­one’s com­puter, lap­top, or mo­bile de­vice is free and easy to use, has many features and en­hance­ments that are hardly used, and causes a lot of con­fu­sion.

This of­ten baf­fling pro­gram is called an in­ter­net browser and you use one to see and ex­pe­ri­ence the in­ter­net. It’s the pro­gram you open to visit your favourite web­sites, read the news, do your bank­ing, watch Youtube videos, and up­date your Face­book news feed.

Of the dozens of browsers avail­able there are three that dom­i­nate the field. Their names are Fire­fox by Mozilla, Google’s Chrome, and Edge which is in­cluded as the builtin browser in Win­dows 10 and re­places the an­cient and flawed In­ter­net Ex­plorer.

Chrome and Fire­fox are also avail­able for your smart­phone or tablet.

Of the three, it seems that Google Chrome is the one that causes a ton of con­fu­sion. Google (www. google.ca) is a web­site where you en­ter terms and search for in­for­ma­tion or web­sites on the in­ter­net and you can ac­cess it from any browser on your com­puter or mo­bile de­vice. Google Chrome, on the other hand, is an in­ter­net browser made by Google and, co­in­ci­den­tally, it’s the most pop­u­lar one in the world.

Yet, even though there are only three pop­u­lar browsers, many peo­ple are pretty vague about which one they use or what it ac­tu­ally does. A very quick way of find­ing out is to go to a web­site ap­pro­pri­ately called What’s My Browser (www. whatsmy­browser.org) which will au­to­mat­i­cally tell you the browser you’re us­ing along with other info about your com­puter.

If you’d like to ex­am­ine a se­lec­tion of the many browsers avail­able, Top Ten Reviews has rat­ings and reviews of what it con­sid­ers to be the ten best (http://tinyurl. com/ju­vclz8). You can go ahead and down­load sev­eral in­ter­net browsers with which to ex­per­i­ment since they’re all free and can be in­stalled on your com­puter with­out any con­flicts.

Any browser will let you ac­cess the in­ter­net but not all of them are equal in terms of the num­ber of ex­tra features and en­hance­ments avail­able. Fire­fox and Google Chrome stand out be­cause each has thou­sands of add-ons which will im­prove how the soft­ware works or pro­vide new features or en­hance­ments. You can even choose from thou­sands of themes to change the ap­pear­ance of each browser, such as em­bel­lish­ing it with flow­ers or giv­ing it a Star Wars look.

To browse the add-ons avail­able for Fire­fox open the pro­gram, click on the three lit­tle lines at the top right, click on Add-ons, and then Get Add-ons, or you can go di­rectly to the Add-ons web­site (https:// ad­dons.mozilla.org/en-US/fire­fox). Be aware that there are over 300,000 add-ons to choose from so you could start by check­ing the list of the best ones ac­cord­ing to the Life­hacker site (http://tinyurl. com/l72pdbr).

I in­stalled the Cana­dian English Dic­tionary (http://tinyurl. com/5lbp48) which mon­i­tors my spell­ing when I’m typ­ing e-mails on­line or fill­ing in forms. The Im­age Zoom add-on http://tinyurl.com/2qb8yc) lets me en­large any im­age with a right mouse click and Ad Block Plus (http://tinyurl. com/3qt­gneg) makes web pages so much more pleas­ant by strip­ping out in­tru­sive ads. In­stalling an add-on is as sim­ple as click­ing on an in­stall but­ton.

Google Chrome has tens of thou­sands of sim­i­lar ad­di­tions which it calls ex­ten­sions. To get an idea of what’s avail­able take a look at 35 top-rated ones at the Bee­bom site (http://bee­bom.com/best­google-chrome-ex­ten­sions). To browse or search for and in­stall ex­ten­sions open the Chrome browser, click on the three lit­tle dots in the top right, then More Tools, and Ex­ten­sions, or go di­rectly to the Chrome Web Store (https://chrome.google.com/ web­store/cat­e­gory/ex­ten­sions).

If you are us­ing the Edge browser with Win­dows 10 there is some good and mostly bad news. Fi­nally, af­ter al­most a year, Mi­crosoft has made ex­ten­sions avail­able for Edge but there’s only a hand­ful, although you’ll find some pretty use­ful ones among the pal­try se­lec­tion. The Make Use Of web­site (http://tinyurl.com/j6qrj99) has a re­view of the 10 best Edge ex­ten­sions and in­struc­tions for in­stalling them.

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