Five steps to faster surfing

Follow these easy tips and find what you're looking for in a snap

Whether you use the Net as a tool or as a diversion, developing good surfing skills and habits can help you enjoy your time online even more. Setting up your computer and your browser properly, and learning a little bit more about how the Internet works, can return immediate dividends.

Here are some tips:

Set up bookmarks
This one’s a no-brainer. Everybody has at least five sites they visit each time they log on to the Net.

To get where you want to go faster, create bookmarks in the browser of your choice. For example, if you’re using Internet Explorer, find a page you want to bookmark, click the Favourites button at the top of the screen, click Add to Favourites and then follow the rest of the prompts.

Understand URLs
URLs (Universal Resource Locators) are integral to navigating the Web. Think of them as the address of a page or application. By linking to the right address, you can move from page to page or site to site within a couple of mouse clicks. True, you can always type a URL into your browser’s address bar, but specific pages might use an address
that is too long and complicated to input. Knowing the anatomy of a URL can help you navigate a site without relying on your own memory, or constantly clicking the Back button in your browser.

Here’s a breakdown of the URL to this article:
URL – /technology/ article.jsp?content=20031029_094057_2236
http:// – tells your browser that you want to get access to a Web site. – is the name of the site.
/technology – indicates that the page is located in the Technology department
/article.jsp?content=20031029_094057_2236 – is the specific name that has been assigned to the story you’re trying to access.

Why is it worth knowing this? Let’s say you are searching for a site using the Google search engine and the page that is returned contains an error message. Try taking a closer look at the URL. You should see a similar pattern on the site you’re trying to visit as described above. For example, you might be able to tell what part of the site the page is in, and even what sub-section. Then all you have to do is delete sections of the URL all the way back to the “.com” and follow the path through the site’s home page. This can help you find “lost” pages and save you the trouble of performing multiple searches.

Disable script debugging
If you’ve been using a version of Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.5 or higher, you’ve probably encountered the annoying “Runtime Error” window that pops up occasionally while you’re surfing. The message comes from a debugging feature in IE that is meant to alert you to a coding problem in the page you’re on.

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s debugger picks up a lot of errors that you probably wouldn’t have noticed, and quite often, several of the alert messages will popup one after the other. This feature is useful to Web site developers and page designers, but unfortunately, no one knows why Microsoft made it part of the default features for regular Internet users.

Here’s how to disable it in Internet Explorer 5.x+:

“Tools” menu > “Internet Options” “Advanced tab” > Check the boxes (so that they’re empty) for “Disable script debugging” and “Display a notification for every script error.”

Clear your cache
If your page load time is lagging, or if you find that the pages you frequent haven’t been refreshing, or even worse, are generating error messages, it’s probably time to clear your browser’s cache memory. Information from the links that you visit online is stored in your browser’s cache memory. Every time you click on a link, choose a bookmark, enter a URL, or press the Reload button, your browser checks with the visited Web site’s server to see if an update has occurred. If the page has updated, a fresh version is sent to your computer over the network. Otherwise, a copy of the page is retrieved from your cache. This can cut down on a page’s load time. However, if your cache memory is cluttered, it can interfere with your browser’s performance. That’s why you should clear your cache on a regular basis. Here’s how:

“Tools” menu > “Internet Options” > Under “Temporary Internet Files” click “Delete Files” > Confirm the delete by clicking OK.

Customize your browser
When you’re on the Net, you probably do more than just surf from page to page. You might be exchanging emails with a friend, instant messaging with another and downloading a movie trailer at the same time. Your browser has features that let you flip back and forth between tasks instantly (without minimizing windows and clicking new icons.)

As you’re exploring your browser, you’ll also pick up on quick commands that can act as shortcuts when you’re online. Hitting “Ctrl-N,” for example, opens up a new browser menu and saves you from going to the “File” menu, or minimizing all your windows to hit the Explorer icon. “Ctrl-F” opens up a window to let you search for keywords on a Web page. Hitting “Control-Enter” adds the “http://www.” and “.com” to a word in the address bar, so all you have to do, for example, is type in “hotmail,” use the shortcut command and browser takes you to your email account automatically.

Explore your browser’s menus and you’ll be surprised at the time-saving tidbits you discover.

Happy surfing!