Introduction to the use of browsers

This page covers the following topics about web browsers:

  • Different web browsers
  • URL, browsing basics, and problem solving
  • Use of new browser windows and tabs
  • Saving and copying information from browser

Web browsers are very versatile tools because in addition to browsing the Internet, they can be used for many other things as well, like watching videos, listening to online radio stations and managing e-mail.

If problems occur, you might want to try using another browser, or update your browser. In any case, it is good a idea to update the browser from time to time. Browsers will be improved as new technologies emerge and security holes are revealed, so using up-to-date versions is highly recommended!

Different browser programs

Examples of popular, easy-to-use, and free browsers include Mozilla Firefox and Opera. Older Windows operating systems include a browser called Internet Explorer. The browser included in Windows 10 is called Edge. Macs come pre-installed with a browser called Safari. The different browsers look very similar, and they work almost identically.

Browsing web pages

If you know the URL of the page you want, type it into the address bar and click on the Enter, Go or other similar button on the browser.

win10_firefox_address

Following is a list of things that are useful to know about browser use.

  • You can move up and down on a page by using the scroll bar on the right or by using the mouse wheel.
  • Text that appears blue is usually a hyperlink, and clicking it will take you to the page in question. Note that pictures can contain links too, and that the link text will usually change its colour as soon as you have clicked it once.
  • The browser’s toolbar contains buttons which allow you to move from one page to another. Unless you have changed your browser settings, any pages you visit will be saved in the browser’s memory. You can use the navigation buttons to move between pages you have visited. You can usually return to the previous page by clicking the arrow pointing left and move forward by clicking the arrow pointing right. Most browsers will allow you to open a list using these buttons, which lets you to move further back/forward in your browser history. You can open the list by right-clicking the navigation button.
    win10_firefox_fwd_back
  • In browsers, the menu bar is hidden by default in order to save space. In Firefox, for example, the main features can be found behind the menu button in the top right corner. If you wish, you can display the menu bar by pressing the Alt key on your keyboard. If you want the menu bar to be displayed permanently, you can change the setting in View -> Toolbars -> Menu Bar.

URL errors

Normally, the browser will display the page you have requested, but sometimes you may receive an error message that says “Page cannot be found” or “404 File not found”. The reason is usually one of the following.

  • You have typed the address incorrectly: check the address, especially for upper-case letters and special characters.
  • The online service you wanted is temporarily or permanently out of use: use a search engine to find out if the information is available elsewhere on the Web.
  • The page you wanted has been moved or renamed: try shortening the URL or use the online service’s own search field.

By shortening the URL you may be able to find the page you wanted if the original URL does not work. For example, the address

www.helsinki.fi/tvt-ajokortti/apumatti/valokuva/linnunkuva.jpg

does not work, but if you remove “birdpic.jpg” from the address and type

www.helsinki.fi/tvt-ajokortti/apumatti/valokuva

in your browser’s address bar, you will see the contents of the photograph folder and will be able to find the file you were looking for (this method may not work in all cases). You can truncate the URL even more:

http://www.helsinki.fi/tvt-ajokortti/apumatti/valokuva
http://www.helsinki.fi/tvt-ajokortti/apumatti
http://www.helsinki.fi/tvt-ajokortti
http://www.helsinki.fi

Upper and lower case letters are often significant in Internet addresses: the address http://www.helsinki.fi/Talo points to a different page than http://www.helsinki.fi/talo, so pay attention; if you cannot access a page, the reason may be that you have used the wrong case in the address.

Using several browser windows

In nearly all browsers, you can have several browser windows open at the same time. You can open a new browser window in either of the following ways:

  • go to the File menu in the browser and select New Window or
  • press CTRL+N on the keyboard.

These methods usually open the start page of the browser in the new window. If you want to open a link on a webpage in a new browser window, right-click the link. This will bring up a pop-up menu where you can select Open Link in New Window.

Using tabs

You can also open webpages on separate tabs in the same browser window. When you use tabs, you can see the titles of all open pages in one and the same browser window and you can easily navigate between them.

You can open a new tab as follows:

  • click on the + symbol to the right of the tabs, or
  • press CTRL+T on the keyboard.

The image below shows three tabs, with the tab Unisport displayed.

win10_ff_tabs

You can also open links in new tabs: Right-click on the link and, in the pop-up menu, select Open Link in New Tab (see the image above showing how to open a new window).

Saving and copying information from browser

If you want, you can copy and save information (images, text) from a webpage for later use. The Copyright Act protects texts, photographs, sound recordings and other works so that material copied from the Internet normally cannot be used without the copyright owner’s permission (more on copyright).

Copying text

You can copy text from a website into another application via the clipboard, just like in any other program (this was discussed in “Objects and the clipboard”).

Note that when you copy-paste a text from the Web, the formatting of the webpage usually comes with the text. If you want to paste the text without the formatting, choose Paste Special instead of Paste, and then choose Unformatted text from the menu window that opens. Alternatively, you can drop all formatting by passing the text through a simple text editor (such as Windows Notepad) which will lose the formatting. Paste the copied text into the text editor, re-copy in the text editor and, finally, paste into the target application. This method of getting rid of unnecessary formatting applies to other programs as well.

Copying and saving images

You can copy an image from a webpage to another application via the clipboard or save it to your own computer as follows:

  • Copying: place the mouse pointer on the image and right-click. In the pop-up menu that opens, select Copy Image. The image is copied to the clipboard, from where you can paste the image into other programs.
  • Saving: place the mouse pointer on the image and right-click. In the pop-up menu that opens, select Save Image As, and specify where you want to save the image. The image will be saved as a file to the location you specified.

Opening and saving linked files

To open files stored on a page, click the link and select Open from the window that opens.

Alternatively, you can save the file directly to your computer. In this way, you can open and read it later without an Internet connection.

In most browsers, you can save a file as follows. Right-click a hyperlink on a webpage. This will open a context menu in the browser. Select Save Link As (see the image below). You will be shown a window where you can select the folder to save the file to, as well as the name for the file. Finally, click Save.

Once you have saved the file, you can open it by double-clicking it.

If you do not save the file as described hereinabove, but instead simply click it, you may not be able to select the location where the file will be saved. In that case, finding the file may be difficult! In Firefox, for instance, the files downloaded with the left mouse button end up in the default folder for downloaded files, which in Windows is usually the Downloads folder under the (My) Documents folder.