A web browser (commonly referred to as a browser) is a software application for accessing information on the World Wide Web. Each individual web page, image, and video is identified by a distinct Uniform Resource Locator (URL – An address), enabling browsers to retrieve these resources from a web server – A device that can store, process and deliver web pages to a huge number of users. Often this is done simultaneously.
A web browser is not the same thing as a search engine, though the two are often confused. For a user, a search engine is just a website, such as google.com, that stores searchable data about other websites.
The internet is a global network of computers, some public and some private. Web pages that are public are often referred to as the Internet. Private pages, for example within an organisation are usually referred to as an Intranet.
Searching for, or going directly to, a webpage requires knowing the URL. As mentioned above using a URL, is very similar to using the postal system, only at sub-second speeds. Just as the postal service enables people to send one another envelopes containing messages, the internet enables computers to send one another small packets of digital data – Be these emails, Facebook messages or requests for website pages.
Every smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer comes with a browser pre-installed. All of them serve the same function, but some are better than others. Most act and are used in a relatively similar way so as to allow uniformity.
For the purposes of this event I am going to demonstrate a browser produced by a company called Mozilla. The browser in question is called Firefox. The download for Firefox can be found at this URL (Address) – https://www.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/new/ – If you copy and paste this URL into the browser on your device it will take you to the download page.
How to copy and paste
Windows and Mac
- click and drag the cursor until the text you want to copy is highlighted, then release the click.
- If using a trackpad, depending on your computer’s settings you can perform that right-click by either using two fingers to click the trackpad or by tapping the far-right side of the trackpad with a single finger.
- A menu (called a context menu) will appear – Select copy
- Go to the address bar on the browser, right click and select paste, then hit return on the keyboard – Sometimes if there is already text in the address bar, the letters will become mingled and the browser may not find the address you are looking for. To prevent this, before the pasting step clear any text out of the address bar, then do the right click, paste and hit return.
Android, iPhone or iPad
Warning – Until you get used to this action you will find it fiddly!
- To select text, tap in the text and drag a control point over the text you to copy, want until the text you want to copy, and paste is highlighted, then release the click.
- From the menu that pops up select copy,
- Open the app you want to paste into and long tap in the area you want to paste into and from the menu that appears, select paste. The keyboard should appear then hit return.
The Firefox browser
Note – As with email applications, the layout of the browser may change slightly if Mozilla makes any changes, additionally the appearance may differ across operating systems, but the functionality remains the same. The details below are based on the Windows version.
When you first open the browser, you should see the default webpage (known as the homepage) – On the same line as the address bar, you will see a button shaped like a house. This is a link to your browser home page (the default website that opens when the browser is launched).
A feature of modern browsers is that within the browser application you can have several web pages open simultaneously. Each is opened in what is called a tab. Each tab shows the title of the page that is open in the tab, together with an X, which allows you to close that tab (if you only have one page open then clicking on the X will also close the application.
It is helpful, if you haven’t already done so, to enable Menu and bookmarks toolbars. To do this right click in the blank area to the right of an open tab. From the context menu select first Menu Toolbar, then repeat the process to enable the bookmarks’ toolbar.
You will now see a number of menu options (I will only describe the main functions):
- File – Options are new tab, new private window (doesn’t allow most trackers), Open File (e.g. a saved web page), save page as (allows you to save the current web page to your hard disk), email link (copies the current pages URL to your default email app), Print, Import from another browser (bring in bookmarks for example) and exit (closes down browser).
- Edit – Undo\redo (if you paste something into the current page you can undo or redo!), cut (in theory remove an item of text or a picture to paste elsewhere – In reality most website have protection to prevent you doing this), paste (e.g. paste a URL into the address bar), delete (delete highlighted text on a page such as the URL or information in a form), select all (allows you to select the whole webpage to paste into another document) and find in this page (allows you to search for a specific word or phrase).
- View – Toolbars (Alternative way to set up the menu bar and bookmark toolbar), sidebar (places history and bookmarks to the left of the browser screen), zoom (enlarge the content of a browser window) and full screen (press F11 to fill your monitor screen with the current browser and F11 to undo)
- History – Show your browsing history, clear recent history, restore previous browsing session, see recently closed tabs and recently closed windows
- Bookmarks – Show all bookmarks, bookmark this page (some variations of the Firefox browser have a transparent star on the right of the address bar, which you can click to bookmark the page. If you visit the page again the star will be blue, showing the page has already been bookmarked), Bookmarks toolbar (bookmarks saved to the toolbar, possibly sites you visit frequently), other bookmarks and Mozilla Firefox – access to help documents and pages.
- Tools – Downloads (shows recent files downloaded, usually when the browser is shut down, this list is cleared), Add-ons (add-ons or extensions are programs that can be installed into Firefox to change the browser’s functionality. This includes adding new features or modifying existing behaviour in Firefox to fix bugs, add extra functionality, or increase the browser’s security), Sign in To Sync (if you use Firefox on multiple devices, you can create an account so that bookmarks and add-ons are shared across devices) and options (allows you to customise the browsers settings).
- Help – Access to help files on Firefox
Browsing the internet
Modern browsers allow you to search the internet from the address bar. Just type in the search term (e.g. BBC, fish cake recipes, hotels in Manchester etc) and press enter on the keyboard.
Once the search is complete, you will be presented with a list of results. In theory these are listed in order of nearest your search term(s) – Be aware that some results are sponsored and so will appear at the top of the results list even though they may not be related to your search).
Click on an appropriate result and you are taken to the site’s web page. If it’s a site you like you can bookmark it as described above or using the left arrow button (which is to the left of the address bar) move back to the previous page or keep using it to move back to previous pages. Once the left arrow button become greyed out, you have gone back to the point you originally started at.
Helpful search methods
- Use quotes to search for an exact phrase
This one’s a well-known, simple trick: searching a phrase in quotes will yield only pages with the same words in the same order as what’s in the quotes. It’s one of the most vital search tips, especially useful if you’re trying to find results containing a specific a phrase.
- Use an asterisk within quotes to specify unknown or variable words
Here’s a lesser known trick: searching a phrase in quotes with an asterisk replacing a word will search all variations of that phrase. It’s helpful if you’re trying to determine a song from its lyrics, but you couldn’t make out the entire phrase (e.g. “imagine all the * living for today”), or if you’re trying to find all forms of an expression (e.g. “* is thicker than water”).
- Use the minus sign to eliminate results containing certain words
You’ll want to eliminate results with certain words if you’re trying to search for a term that’s generating many results that aren’t of interest to you. Figure out what terms you’re not interested in (e.g. jaguar -car) and re-run the search.
- Compare items using “vs”
Can’t decide between a burger or pizza for dinner? Type in “rice vs. quinoa,” for example, and you’ll receive side-by-side comparisons of the nutritional facts.
- Use “DEFINE:” to learn the meaning of words—slang included
Streamline the dictionary process by using, for example, “DEFINE: mortgage.”
To manage Bookmarks in Firefox, go to Bookmarks > Show all bookmarks. This opens a new Firefox window, with a number of options in the left-hand column.
The first item is history, and this shows a list of websites that you have visited.
The second is downloads, this shows all downloads that have taken place – Note that this list often clears when the browser is shut down.
The third item is tags – It is possible to tag bookmarks where there is a common theme, for example a hobby. This enables you to search for websites that you have bookmarked with a common tag.
The following items are Bookmark folders. Folders are a useful tool if you wanted to keep bookmarks sorted into themes (similar to tags). To create a new bookmark folder, look at the top of the window and you will see the word organise. Click on this and from the drop-down menu select New Folder, give the folder a name, and click Add.
To bookmark a website, click on the transparent star and a pop-up window will appear. The window will show the name of the website (you can edit this yourself), below that is the folder that Firefox wants to place the URL in – If you want to use another folder, click on the downward arrow against the folder name and select another one (there is also an option to create a new folder).
Once you are finished click done or cancel if you change your mind.
On the same line as the address bar you will see three lines in a stack (known as a hamburger). This takes you to the browser settings, together with duplicates of other menu items found elsewhere.
To find out more about the settings’ menu items I would suggest reading the Firefox help documents found under help at the top of the browser page.
Safety Tips for Making Online Transactions
As the Internet makes it easier than ever before to shop, pay bills and even bank, this brave new world is also attractive to criminals.
There’s nothing quite like hitting the Internet armed with a prepaid gift card or credit card.
Here are some tips that can help keep yourself safe while they’re online:
- Insist that antivirus software is turned on and updated during any online shopping session
- Insist that only known and reputable sites are used
- Be certain that personal identifying information is only entered onto sites that offer encryption. To check for this, make sure the URL (or web address) starts with an :https//. A “lock” icon can also signal this
You should also steer clear of links to favourite stores\sites that are sent in emails since these might be phishing scams. It’s best to go directly to the desired site through the browser.
When online shopping is a habit, be sure to check bank and credit card statements as often as possible. This is the best and fastest way to make sure no fraudulent charges appear. It’s also best to avoid the use of debit cards online. The “cash’ swiped by bad guys in this case comes straight out of a bank account and can prove quite problematic to recover.
Online Bill Paying
Check accounts regularly and make sure bills are paid in the correct amounts and on time. It’s important to ensure antivirus and other protection software runs when online bill paying is in progress, don’t use public or shared computers or unsecure wireless connections for bill paying.
Never access accounts on public or shared computers. Be sure wireless connections are secure. Also, firewalls and other security software packages are a smart idea to help keep hackers from managing to swipe login and account information. As it is with shopping and bill paying, don’t click on links in bank emails to access their website. Go directly to the bank website using the browser just to be 100 percent sure an email isn’t a phishing scam. Hackers have become incredibly sophisticated in their ability to create very official looking emails.