In this part of the series, I’m going to tackle the ‘Web Browser’. What it is, and why you need it to be one of the most reliable pieces of software on your computer. But first, before we go anywhere, if you haven’t looked at Part 1, head over there now and follow that through to completion since if your system isn’t secure, you cannot trust it, and therefore you cannot trust anything you do on it.
In this series of articles I’m going to take a break away from my normal theme to relay to you how I do the “computer” things I do in an attempt to save time and minimize trouble caused by PC glitches. Prevention in this case, is far better, cheaper, quicker, than the cure. I touched upon this idea of being more time efficient with my article on Google Reader for tracking RSS feeds.
This particular article will deal with the program you use to surf the Internet – and since you do that a lot, why not give yourself the best tool for the job?
What is a web browser?
As I mentioned, you’re probably using a web browser right now to read this article. It’s basically a name for a group of programs that allow you to “surf” the internet. Many people equate the internet with “Internet Explorer” and the blue e found on nearly everybody’s desktop. This makes sense, because for a long time that was all we had that was usable. However, Internet Explorer is not, and for a long time has not been, the best choice for surfing the internet today.
When choosing your web browser, you should look for the following features:
- security - running a web browser that is tightly integrated with the rest of your computer is not a good idea – IE is unfortunately. Microsoft Windows wouldn’t know up from down if you removed its Internet Explorer. Given, as I mentioned in my previous article, that being connected to the internet is a liability in itself, you don’t want to be using a program that has it’s roots so deeply embedded into your operating system (Windows XP, Vista, 7 etc.).
- speed - there’s a lot of ho0ha about speed of the latest browsers, but the performance difference between the top offerings isn’t something you’ll notice. You will notice, however, their performance over IE and older generation browsers. IE doesn’t fall under the category of “top offerings”, in my humble opinion.
- customizable - this is where the latest browsers really shine and the topic really demands a whole article in itself. With the best web browsers you can add on lots of cool tools and spruce it up to do more than just “browsing”.
There is more to be said about what you want from your browser, but those are the basics. If you haven’t picked up already, I recommend that if you’re using IE as your web browser of choice right now, then you should read on to find out your options and switch.
There are many different browsers out there, but this article isn’t about doing a side-by-side review of everything, but to open your eyes to the fact that there are are alternatives and you should take a few minutes to try them out. Here they are, in no particular order
- Firefox. This is my browser of choice for several reasons, and has been since it was first released 6 years ago. When you first install it, you can import all of your IE favourites and settings etc. so the upgrade is very easy. It has thousands of add-ons and lots of themes to make your browser more aesthetically pleasing Seriously, once you start using it, you’ll never look back. (Download here)
- Google Chrome. If Firefox weren’t so good at everything I need it to do, I’d have Google Chrome on instead. It’s very nice. It’s fast, it’s economical on monitor real estate and it’s made by the best, so they’re quick to innovate and new releases are shipping every couple of months. If you’re a heavy user of Google Documents, this is a great choice. I don’t feel that Chrome is anywhere near as customizable as Firefox, but that could just be my ignorance of the software. I also don’t much like how Google installers manage to install a few extra things along the way. Firefox just is what is – a browser. (Download here)
- Opera. This browser would be my 3rd choice and it still holds support for Windows 98! So if you’re struggling away on IE 5.0, move today. There’s not much I can tell you about this, except that this too is fast. It is, for me, a little less customizable than the others, but again, that’s probably ignorance on my part. (Download here)
If you’re currently using IE, switch to any of the 3 mentioned about and hopefully you’ll start to begin to enjoy web surfing again.
“blah blah is not currently your default browser” – what does that even mean?
This is actually very simple, but many people don’t fully understand what they’re being asked when they get a popup like this from their browser.
To illustrate, what program do you use to play music? You double click a mp3 file on your computer and what opens up – iTunes? WinAMP? RealPlayer? (eeww!) Whatever it is, that program is your default player for music on your computer.
When your computer opens up a website link, say for example you click it in another program or in an email within Outlook, it will ask Windows what program to use in order to open it. Windows will reply with the default option. When you install one of the browsers mentioned above, the first time you open it, you will probably get a popup box asking you something about your default browser. Say ‘Yes’ to making it your default (especially if you only had IE before) and tick the little box that says, “Don’t ask me this question again.”
Done. But not quite. Now open up your Internet Explorer one more time. Since it’s no longer your default browser, it will ask you do you want to change it back. Say ‘No’, and again, check the box “Don’t ask me again”.
Save yourself any hassle in the future (for the likes of YouTube etc.) if you downloaded any of the 3 browsers above, and install the Flash player now. Go to http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/ and follow the steps to install. Just a note, on the right-hand side there’s a “McAfee Security Scan Plus” – un-tick that box since you don’t need it.
If you’ve come this far…
… you should now be happily enjoy life surfing the Internet once more. If you’re still limping along the internet with the browser that came with Windows, go to any of the 3 options listed above and download an alternative, install it, and make browsing fun again!