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How to Use a Web Browser

The Web Browser Window

When you start your preferred browser, you'll see something akin to the following:

Firefox Main Window

Note: we will be using Firefox as our example browser, but other browsers will have a similar structure

The screen can be divided into several distinct parts:

  • The URL text field: this shows the URL of the current page and also allows the user to directly enter the web address of a page by the user:URL Input Field

  • The Back Button (Browser Back Button): this allows the user to backtrack to the page previously displayed. This button is inactive until the user has displayed at least two webpages

  • The Forward Button (Forward Back Button): after the user has gone back to a previous page, using the back button, the forward button allows the user to move to the next page displayed in the session. This button is inactive unless there is a later page in the surfing stack

  • The Refresh Button (Page Refresh Button): clicking this icon sends a request to the browser to reload the current page. If you CTRL+click this icon, the browser will reload the page from the web (-bypassing any cached copy the browser may have kept)

  • The Stop Button (Stop Button): clicking this icon sends instructs the browser to abandon the current request. Normally, the stop button is used if a webpage is taking too long to load

  • The Tab headings: clicking on a particular tab heading displays the web page in that tab. Multiple tabs can be open at once:Tab Heading

  • The New Tab Button (Add Tab Button): clicking this icon allows you to open multiple tabs each containing a different web page

Using Bookmarks

One of the most useful functions of browsers is the ability to create Bookmarks. Just like their literary equivalent, web bookmarks allow you to recall a page that you previously viewed. Different browsers create and recall bookmarks in different ways: in Firefox, you can create a new bookmark using the "Bookmarks" menu:

Bookmark this Page

You can then choose where to store the bookmark, before pressing "Done" to confirm the creation:

Edit this Bookmark

Once bookmarked, the page can be recalled in future via the "Bookmarks" menu:

Accessing a Bookmark

Browsing History

In order to implement the Back and Forward buttons, browsers need to maintain a History of the pages you have displayed so far (-including the current one). This is often useful if you navigate away from a page by accident (-e.g. by clicking a hyperlink which turns out to be a dead-end) - you can use the Back button to revert to the previous page using a single click. Browsers will maintain the full history of a session -and most will also maintain at least some pages from previous sessions- making it easy to find pages you previously found. In Firefox, your page history is accessible directly from the "History" menu:

Accessing the Browsing History

Note: certain multi-step web transactions (-for example, when inputing credit card details) do not like the use of the browser Back and Forward buttons: these websites should explicitly state this, if that is the case

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