Using Browsers

You're already using a program called a browser to read this, so you probably know a fair bit about browsing already, but I have to assume that you might be using a browser for the first time: perhaps someone has found this page for you and is leaving the rest of the teaching to me. You can use the up and down cursor keys to work your way down the page (look for a set of four keys with arrows on them to the bottom right of the keyboard). You may have to click on the page first to make them work: either drag the rodent around or drag your finger round the trackpad until the cursor is in the middle of the screen, then click the left button on the rodent/trackpad. The up and down cursor keys should now work.

Lesson one: How to use the rodent or trackpad. If you are using a laptop computer it will probably have a trackpad in front of the keyboard: by dragging your finger over the surface of the trackpad you can make a "cursor" move about the screen. If you don't have a trackpad, you will need to use a rodent instead: hold the rodent down against a flat surface and drag it about from side to side to make the cursor move. If it squeeks loudly, try another rodent. The trackpad or rodent will have at least two buttons on it. If it has three, then ignore the middle one. Normally when you are told to click on something, it means you have to line the cursor up with something on the screen that you want to click on, and then you click the left button on the trackpad or rodent. Tip: you can tell if you are holding the rodent the right way round because the cursor should move across the screen to the left if you drag the rodent to the left. Be aware that there are two different kinds of cursor: there is the rodent cursor (which moves with the rodent), and the input cursor (which appears when you are using the keyboard to type stuff in - it can be moved around with the cursor keys, the cluster of four keys low down near the left end of the keyboard with arrows on them). If you want to play with the input cursor, click in the box below:-

Try writing into it and click in different places or use the cursor keys to move the cursor around within it. Get used to the idea of there being two different kinds of cursor and practise using them now. Notice that the cursor keys move the cursor around within the box after you've clicked inside the box, whereas if you click outside the box, the up and down cursor keys will move the whole page up and down.

picture of top right window corner           picture of top right window corner

Lesson 2: Learning to use the back and forward buttons. You should look for these near the top of the screen on the left: they look like arrows pointing left or right. The pictures above are of the two most popular browsers: Internet Explorer (on the left) and Firefox (on the right), and in both cases these arrows are green (although different versions of these browsers may look different). If you use the rodent or trackpad to line the cursor up on top of the arrows you can then click on them: BUT DON'T DO SO YET! If you click on the left arrow once and wait for the previous page to appear, you can then click on the right arrow to get back here again. Try it now (and I hope you don't get lost). There is a long key on the keyboard which usually does the same job as the back button: it's the delete-left key (also known as the backspace key), found at or near the top right corner of the main block of keys (it probably has an arrow printed on it pointing to the left). This key can be a real nuisance if you accidentally press it when you're trying to read or do something with an interactive page, but there is nothing you can do to turn it off, so you just have to be careful not to touch it, and be warned that if you hold it down for a second or two it may suddenly race back through many previous pages: this may make it difficult to find your way back here again because the forward button may not work from some pages.

Lesson 3: The forward button can only take you forward to a page if you have already been there and come back from it. If you haven't gone forward to a next page yet, you usually have to get to it by clicking on a "hyperlink" like this one (they are almost always underlined). You now know how to find your way back from it, so go ahead and click on the link (put the cursor anywhere on the underlined text, and then click it). Some browsers don't give you any indication that they have responded to your click, so you just have to wait for a while and hope.

Before we go on to lesson 4, just take a look at the browser pictures below: Explorer is on the left again, but this time I've put a browser called Opera on the right. Notice that Opera's back and forward buttons are black rather than green. There is another button coloured green in both pictures, and it is the "refresh" or "reload" button: this button simply reloads the current page, so it's mainly used if a page doesn't appear to have loaded properly. If you look at the Firefox picture (above right), its reload button is blue and goes round in a circle. All the browsers also have a little picture of a house: that is the "home" button which takes you to your "home page" (the page which is loaded automatically whenever you start up your browser - you will probably want to set it to take you to a search engine like Google or an e-mail service provider like Yahoo). If you find a Web site which you think would make a better home page than your current home page, you can click on the word "tools" and select "options" or "internet options" from the list that appears: this will take you to a menu which allows you to set a new home page just by clicking a button with "use current page" on it, though you then have to click one or two other buttons at the bottom of the menu to make it stick ("apply" if there is such a button, and "OK"), but don't bother changing your home page until you have a better idea of what's on the Web. If you find a good site that you'll want to visit again, the best thing to do is click on "favorites" or "bookmarks" and then click on "add to favorites" or "bookmark this page": you can then visit those sites again just by clicking on "favorites" or "bookmarks" and looking for them in the list of sites that appears.

picture of top right window corner           picture of top right window corner

Lesson 4: Another way to go forward to a new page is to type the address of a Web site into a long thin box near the top of the screen. In the pictures above, the box in question has a white background, and its official name is the "address bar". If you have an address for a Web site that you'd like to visit, it should look something like www.magicschoolbook.com (which is the address of this Web site). The address bar should currently contain a line of text starting with http://www.etc. Click twice just to the right of the "www." part of the address to put the input cursor there (and make sure you've got the cursor after the dot rather than before it). There is a key somewhere high up and to the right of the keyboard with "Delete" or "Del" printed on it (it's the delete-right key). Press and hold down that key until the rest of the address has disappeared, and then type in the address of the Web site you want to visit (the "www." part is already there for you). You can now visit the site by pressing the return key (which is typically the biggest key at the right hand end of the main block of keys on the keyboard, usually with a bent arrow printed on it). You should be able to explore that site by clicking on hyperlinks (but don't click on more than one or two hyperlinks for now, because it may make it hard for you to get back here quickly if the site's set up in a complicated way.

Lesson 5: You can also use the back and forward buttons in a more advanced way. Next to the back button there may be a tiny little arrow pointing downwards. If you click on this, a list of earlier pages will appear and you will be able to click on the one you want to go to without visiting all the other pages on the way: this can save you a lot of time if a complicated Web site causes the back button take ages to function each time. Whether or not a browser has the little downward-pointing arrows, you can get exactly the same lists to appear by right-clicking on the normal back or forward arrows instead of left-clicking on them (so you have to use the other button on the trackpad or rodent instead of the normal one). Now that you know about this, you can use the forward button to go back to the Web site you've just visited a moment ago, and this time you can click on as many hyperlinks as you like, getting as deep into the site as the links will take you: you can now find your way back here really quickly just by jumping past most of the pages in between.

Lesson 6: There is a special trick you can use to make it even easier to retrace your steps. When you are at a page which you want come back to later, don't just click on a hyperlink in the normal way, but click with the right button on the trackpad or rodent instead of the left one: this will bring up a menu which offers to open the next page in a new window or tab. This also makes it much easier to compare information on two different pages, because you can then jump instantly between them just by clicking on different tabs either at the top or bottom of the browser window.

Lesson 7: Often you will find good information on a page which you want to hold on to by saving it on your own computer so that you can still look it up when you aren't connected to the Internet. To do this, you can click on "file" up near the top left corner, and then select "save as" from the list that appears. You will then be able to choose a suitable place to store it (somewhere that you can find easily - you'll need to click on a little downward-pointing arrowhead to get a list of alternative locations to appear, but if in any doubt about which location to pick you should just go for "my documents" - you can always rearrange things later), you might also rename the file to give it a more recognisable name, and then you can click on the button that says "save" or "okay". When you look at the saved file, it will often appear twice: once as a folder of components and a second time with a browser icon on it: it is the latter that you should go into to view the page, and if you want to move or copy it to somewhere else in your machine, again it is the second entry that you should highlight rather than the associated folder (the folder should automatically move or be copied along with it, although it is wise to check that it has done so afterwards).

Lesson 8: Printing a page can be done from the same list (click on "file"), but it doesn't always work properly: often the page is designed in such a way that half the text disappears off the edge of the paper. On such occasions it may be possible to highlight and copy the information you want to print (you can do this by holding down the left button on the rodent or trackpad and then either dragging the rodent around or dragging your finger across the trackpad to highlight the text you want, then letting go of the button, and then you can copy that highlighted information off the Web page just by holding down the Ctrl button and pressing "C"). Once you have copied a piece of text, you can then open a wordprocessor and paste the copied text into it by holding down the Ctrl button and pressing "V", and once it's in a wordprocessor document, you will be able to print it out from there properly.