Five Browser Secrets of Power Web Surfers


Whether you're working or wasting time, you spend a lot of time on the Web every day. You've already ditched Internet Explorer and switched to Firefox or Chrome; in fact, Net Applications' browser marketshare stats show Chrome inched past Safari for the first time in December to take the No. 3 spot behind IE and Firefox. But are you using your browser's best features? Power Web surfers know the settings and shortcuts that make getting what you need online fast and efficiently. Here are five browser tricks that can streamline your surfing session, whether you're on Facebook or the company intranet.

Set multiple tabs as your browser home page. The days of a single default home page are over. If you always get on the Web to check the same Web sites—like Gmail, Facebook,, and Google Reader—save yourself the time of visiting them by hand, and set all of them to load automatically in tabs when you start your browser. To set this up in Firefox, open only the tabs you want to load when you start, and from the Tools menu, choose Options. Under Startup, in the Home page setting, click the "Use Current Pages" button to set those tabs as your home tabs. In Chrome's Options you can do the same.

Automatically restore the last tabs and windows you had open. Instead of loading a static set of tabs that don't change when you start your browser, automatically load what you were looking at when you quit your browser last time. In Firefox's Options dialog (get to it from the Tools menu), next to "When Firefox starts," choose "Show my windows and tabs from last time" to restore your previous browsing session. In Chrome's options, on the Basics tab, select "Reopen the pages that were open last."

Undo your last closed tab. You accidentally closed a tab that you didn't mean to? No problem. Just like the Ctrl+T keyboard shortcut opens a new tab, the Ctrl+Shift+T shortcut reopens the last tab that you closed. So when you think you just killed that fantastic article you had open meaning to read it all day, press Ctrl+Shif+T to get it back. Repeat that same shortcut to continue re-opening tabs you closed down your history list. (This shortcut works in both Firefox and Chrome; Mac users, substitute Cmd for Ctrl.)

Open a link in a background tab by clicking your mousewheel. When you're browsing blogs, news, Twitter, or Facebook you come across links you want to check out, but you don't want to stop reading your current page. If your mouse has a wheel on it, click links of interest with the mousewheel to open links in background tabs as you read down a page, so you can switch to them later without interrupting your flow now. An extra tip for mousewheelers: Close background tabs in one click of the mousewheel without switching to them first, too.

Sync your bookmarks across browsers and computers. When you save a bookmark at work you want it in your list at home and vice versa, and bookmark synchronization is available in both Firefox (with an extension) and Chrome. To sync your bookmarks across many different browsers, try the Xmarks extension, which works with Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and even Internet Explorer. Once you've installed the extension, you create a free Xmarks account, and sync your bookmarks (and optionally your Web site passwords) to Xmarks, which then downloads them to any other computer or browser with Xmarks installed. If you're a dedicated Chrome user, bookmark syncing comes built in, no extension required. From Chrome's Tools menu, choose "Synchronize my bookmarks." Sign into your Google account, and Chrome will save your bookmarks into a Chrome folder in your Google Docs account.

These five tips just scratch the surface; next time we'll tackle one-stop search engines and your smart address bar. In the meantime, what is your most-used, indispensable browsing trick?

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  • Dean

    It doesn't matter what browser I'm using, if I have three or four tabs open after a few hours it slows down immensely.  In fact, it gets so unusable I have to bring up the task manager to close it.  It doesn't matter which browser.

  • Jrock

    Firefox is bloated, I agree. It's also a memory hog at times. But I use it everyday to do web dev work. The plugins are unmatched on any browser. Chrome is a great browser, fast, clean and integrated google search in the address bar serves advanced and new users alike.

    Opera is a great browser! But the learning curve and different behaviors, and of course the fact that not all sites build for Opera, keeps me from using it. If you build using standards based markup, which you should do anyway, Opera will display your site pretty well (minimal tweaks).

    Skip using XMarks. Sign up for Delicious, use their plugins (or bookmarklets) and you're done. Your favorites, anytime, anywhere, any browser. Trust me, I use to snyc my bookmarks all the time. Delicious is just easier in the end.

  • Andrew Eriksen

    From an SEO standpoint Firefox is much better than IE and Chrome. Although web design may be better with IE, it really isn't when you consider the wave moving towards Firefox and Chrome. The security of firefox and chrome by far surpasses that of IE6. Wouldn't you agree?

    Andrew Eriksen, CEO
    Physician Practice Specialists
    http://PhysicianCredentialingS... Practice Start Up Assistance The Physician Job Network

  • Tim Laubacher

    I ditched Firefox and went back to IE. It has gotten a lot better. Chrome is the new IE 6. It's a nightmare to work with as a web designer. We don't even test with Opera. It is even worse than Safari.

  • Robert Moreno

    I absolutely recommend that everyone download Xmarks. It's an essential plug-in for and Webhead. If you're using Chrome, the latest version supports bookmark syncing out of the box.

  • Gregory Ferenstein

    does anyone have any other browser plugins that they like to use for multiple tabs?


  • Harrie Baken

    As John Forde said many, many times, Opera just rules. Ctrl+T gives me a new tab with the 25 (yes, twenty five) "home pages" I want.

    Harrie Baken, copy editor & seo

  • John Forde

    ++1 Opera - why do tech writers deliberately diss Opera? Firefox is bloated and a thief of other peoples' ingenuity while Chrome is half-baked while Opera is a fully fledged and innovative browser. The deliberate bias is lazy and unprofessional.

  • Benjamen Hicks

    ditto Timothy Gill. Opera is a powerful browser. Although it does have issues loading some websites. I love the opera unite tool. I think it is the coolest idea that more people need to embrace. I've recently started using Chrome because the address bar is also includes google search. I love that feature. The only time I use FireFox is to watch Neftflix instantly.

  • Timothy GILL

    1) Opera has the concept of sessions, which allow you to have multiple sets of tabs that you can open at any time: at start-up, at any point during your browsing. These take the startup-with-these-tabs idea and makes it more general and powerful. I have sessions for bill paying (all my bank/utility/credit accounts), for blog reading (all my favorite blogs), NY Times reading (tabs for all sections), for any research projects I am doing, etc.
    2) You can highlight a folder of bookmarks and open all the pages at once, in different tabs, using the Properties key (right mouse button). This is useful in Opera if you don't want to create a session, and also works in Firefox. Even better, in Opera, you can use the Properties key on a new bookmark folder to save all the open tabs into a single folder, which lets you use them later; this is perfect when doing research on a topic over a period of days.

    Timothy Gill, Moonpear Consulting