Ray Saitz: Your internet browser can do so much more | #firefox | #chrome | #microsoftedge

There’s a reason a mobile device may be simpler to operate than a laptop or desktop computer. It’s because of the apps. Each app, such as the one for Facebook or YouTube, is designed to handle a single task. A computer on the other hand may have only a handful of programs but each can perform numerous jobs in a variety of formats. This multifaceted nature of computer programs may explain why probably the most important program on your computer is the source of the most confusion and is being used for only a fraction of its potential.

The program is your internet browser which may seem unfamiliar but you probably use it several times a day. In simple terms, a browser allows you to see and use the internet. It’s used to display websites, post items on Facebook, access Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo mail, bank online, order goods from thousands of merchants, and view YouTube videos.

There are plenty of internet browsers but the big three are Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Edge. Chrome is the source of some confusion since Google is a website that does searches, whereas Chrome is a browser developed by Google. Edge comes pre-installed in Windows 10 but Firefox (https://www.mozilla.org) and Chrome (https://www.google.ca/chrome) are readily available free downloads. Safari is the default browser on Macs, iPhones and iPads, but each of the other three browsers can be installed to replace it.

Which browser should you use? That depends on your needs and priorities. Firefox is the most secure of the three, Edge has the most features, such as the ability to read aloud a website, but Chrome is the most popular browser.

If you’re unsure which browser you’re using, visit a handy website called What’s My Browser (www.whatsmybrowser.org). If you need some help deciding which browser might be the best for you or is the top-rated then peruse the ratings at Top 10 Reviews (https://tinyurl.com/y9nx7qoz).

Feel free to experiment since browsers will not conflict with each other and you can even use two of them at the same time with no problems. If you don’t like a browser you can uninstall it, except Edge which is part of the Win 10 operating system. To make a browser the default, which means it will be used to open links contained in email, publications, or websites, click on the Start button, Settings, and then Default Apps.

However, there is an enormous amount of other things that a browser can do with the use of add-ons, which are small, easily installed and usually free extensions. There are extensions to improve security and for shopping, entertainment, working remotely, productivity, and weather, just to name a few categories.

On my Edge browser I installed Bitwarden which is an excellent, free, password manager that syncs my passwords between my computer and mobile devices, and Adblock Plus to clean up websites by deleting the most obnoxious ads. Other notable add-ons are Grammarly to monitor your writing, Pocket to save websites for off-line reading, and in Firefox there is a Canadian Spelling dictionary (https://tinyurl.com/35m53u2w) to correct errors in forms and emails.

Each browser has a similar process for visiting its extensions website where you can browse, search, or explore thousands of extensions by category. In the browser click the three dots or horizontal lines in the upper right of the browser window to get into Settings. In Chrome go into More Tools and Extensions or in Edge click on Extensions and then the link to Get Extensions for Microsoft Edge. If you use the Firefox browser select Add-ons and Themes from the Settings menu. By the way, extensions for Chrome can be installed in the Edge browser.

There are also hundreds of themes which change the look of the browser such as adding a floral or Star Wars border.

The Computer Hope website has instructions and necessary links for adding extensions (https://tinyurl.com/wsyb4fzm) and, equally important, instructions for removing or disabling an extension if you don’t like it (https://tinyurl.com/75cazwnz).

Ray Saitz, a Peterborough resident and teacher, writes a regular column on the internet. He can be reached at rayser3@cogeco.ca and links to helpful websites can be found at www.rayser.ca/online.

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