You may have noticed in my basic computer skills test in my last column, I left out any reference to Internet browsing skills. I avoided browsers not because they’re not important, but they deserve a separate column on their own.
First off, what is a browser? Webopedia says,” Short for Web browser, a software application used to locate and display Web pages…most are graphical browsers, which means that they can display graphics as well as text. In addition, most modern browsers can present multimedia information, including sound and video, though they require plug-ins for some formats.” It is the updating of these add-ons and plug-ins that can give us fits when we are trying to display multimedia type content. By contrast a search engine is used to search for information on the World Wide Web, once found the Web Pages will be displayed in your browser of choice.
Which browser is right for me? I recommend them in this order: Firefox, Internet Explorer (IE) then Opera. But, you say I left out Safari which is an excellent browser. That is true, but it’s designed for Mac users and although it can be used by Windows users, it’s not an important alternative.
Let’s start with Firefox. Mozilla is a non-profit open source project that uses a global community of volunteers to build, maintain and update the Firefox browser and they make it free for download. The latest version is always available at FileHippo and other mirror sites as well as from the Mozilla.org site. It is a full featured browser, constantly under improvement and most critics consider it to be more secure to malware exploitation than IE. It is user friendly and will import your Favorites and Home Page from IE or other browsers.
I rate IE next, because there are some Web places you can’t get to without it. For example you need IE to manually download Windows and Office updates from Microsoft. Also, it is the biggest browser by usage Worldwide, including all its various versions. Quickly, if you have an older version like 6.0, upgrade for security reasons. If you are running version 7.0, go ahead and upgrade to version 8.0 which has some new features and is now compatible with windows XP as well as Vista and the Win 7 that it was designed for.
My third choice is Opera and for doing research I choose it first. Opera is also free for download at FileHippo and other sites. It has most of the features of IE and Firefox, claims to be faster and it adds something called “session saving”. This means you can do a search for example, open different Websites in separate tabs and save that “session” and come back to those same Web pages opened as in the prior session. This feature makes it easy for you to return to referenced sites when you are researching a subject.