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The humble browser is your window into the world wide web. Choosing between Chrome, Firefox, Edge, or anything else is about your requirements. But no matter what you install, there are some universal tips and tricks that you should use.

From keyboard shortcuts to ideal security settings, we’ll cover it all in this one article. The important thing is to use these tips regularly. Of course, awesome extensions can make your browser even better, but the idea here is to stick to what comes out of the box.

Use Common Keyboard Shortcuts

Whether it’s a browser or any other program, learning keyboard shortcuts makes you more efficient. Especially with browsers, you will find there are a whole bunch of tricks to make your life easier.

universal-browser-tips-keyboard-shortcuts

The number of common keyboard shortcuts is huge, so let’s stick to the most common tasks. Your right hand is probably going to be on your mouse or trackpad, so with the left hand, these are the shortcuts you should remember:

  • Esc: Stop loading a page
  • Ctrl+Tab: Go to the next tab
  • Ctrl+Shift+Tab: Go to the previous tab
  • Ctrl+1, 2, 3…9: Go to the first tab, second tab, and so on till the ninth tab
  • Ctrl+T: Open new tab
  • Ctrl+Shift+T: Reopen last closed tab
  • Ctrl+L: Go to Address Bar
  • Space: Scroll down one page
  • Shift+Space: Scroll up one page
  • Ctrl+D: Bookmark this page

It can be overwhelming to learn keyboard shortcuts, so don’t start out with too many. Start with the shortcuts to go to the next or previous tab. Once you’ve mastered those and use them regularly rather than your mouse, move on to the next keyboard shortcuts, like opening a new tab and reopening a closed tab. Here’s a full list of standard keyboard shortcuts for browsers and tab management.

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Much like keyboard shortcuts, there are also a few mouse shortcuts that will help you in browsing faster.

  • Middle Click a tab to close it
  • Middle Click or Ctrl+Left Click a link to open it in a new tab
  • Ctrl+Scroll Up to zoom in
  • Ctrl+Scroll Down to zoom out

Again, start with just one, and work your way upwards.

Tab Actions and Options

Tab management is crucial, and it gets difficult as you use a browser more and more. Soon, you will have so many open that you can’t see their titles, and end up closing the wrong tabs or wondering how to close so many.

When you right-click on any tab, you’ll see a bunch of options which can be of great help, if you aren’t already using them. Here’s what you should use, and why.

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Pin Tab: If you pin a tab, it will collapse into its favicon and appear before all other tabs. Pinned tabs will reopen automatically every time you start your browser. Different browsers have different rules on whether or not you can close a pinned tab.

Close Tabs to the Right: Once you start using Pin Tabs, you’ll find this feature quite handy. Generally, you should pin those tabs that you always have open and check often, like your email inbox or your Facebook page. If you have plenty of regular tabs open and want to get rid of them, right-click the last Pinned Tab and choose “Close all tabs to the right” to get rid of everything else.

Close Other Tabs: Much like “Close Tabs to the Right”, this option will close everything other the tab you’ve chosen.

Make a Lean Bookmarks Toolbar of Favicons

The bookmarks toolbar is one of the hidden gems in every browser. While every browser tries to have a productive New Tab page, the Bookmarks Toolbar is the most productive of all. Here’s what mine looks like:

universal-browser-tips-bookmarks-toolbar-favicons

You visit some sites more than others, right? You can probably identify that site based on its logo, or “favicon”, alone. Well, put that knowledge to use by making a toolbar of your favorite sites, which you can click to quickly go there.

For example, let’s say you want to add MakeUseOf to your bookmarks toolbar. Go to www.makeuseof.com and press Ctrl+D or Cmd+D to add it as a bookmark. In the popup that is activated, choose to save it in the “Bookmarks Toolbar” folder.

Once you see it in your Toolbar, right-click the bookmark and choose “Edit”. Remove the name of the bookmark and keep that field blank; the address remains the same.

That’s it! You will have the MakeUseOf favicon in your bookmarks toolbar. Click it to launch it in the current tab, middle-click it to launch it in a new tab.

Use Bookmarklets Over Extensions

Extensions make modern browsers better than ever, adding functions and features that are otherwise absent. But that doesn’t mean you should install an extension for anything you use.

The better strategy is to use bookmarklets instead of extensions Stop Installing Browser Add-ons - For a Faster, Leaner Browser Use Bookmarklets Instead Stop Installing Browser Add-ons - For a Faster, Leaner Browser Use Bookmarklets Instead Read More . Bookmarklets take up far fewer resources, making them the logical choice if you find your browser often slows down to a crawl.

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The basic difference between a bookmarklet and an extension is simple. A bookmarklet is static in your browser and does not work until it is clicked. An extension is always working, whether you clicked it or not. So an extension takes up more CPU cycles and RAM.

Now that you know how to employ the bookmarks toolbar, choosing to set up bookmarklets over extensions will make your system run faster.

Enable Click-to-Play for All Plugins

What if I told you there was a single trick that makes your browser more secure, loads Web pages faster, reduces data consumption, keeps the browser running faster, and uses less battery? All you need to do is dive into your browser’s settings and enable “click-to-play” for all plugins.

universal-browser-tips-click-to-play-plug-ins

A plugin, as your probably already know, can be anything from Flash to Silverlight. They are the most data-intensive and resource-hogging part of the page. Plus, plugins like Flash are known to have several security vulnerabilities. Most importantly, these plugins load automatically on most sites, whether you want them or not.

By choosing “click-to-play”, you stop them from auto-loading and restrict them till you want to see that content. So whether you’re playing a Flash game or watching a video online, you get to control when the plugin loads, not the website.

Read Any Web Page Offline Later

Digital bookmarking tools like Pocket let you save articles to read them later, and can even download those articles for offline access on your smartphone. But on the desktop, you still need an active Internet connection. So how do you access an important page whether you have data connectivity or not?

universal-browser-tools-save-page-as-file-menu

It’s the oldest trick in the book, but surprisingly, hardly anyone uses it. On your hard drive, create a folder called “Offline Pages” anywhere you want. In your browser, go to the desired page, click File > Save Page As and save it as “Web Page, Complete” file type in the folder. Remember to give it a name you can easily identify!

In the folder, you’ll see an HTML file with the name you chose above. Double-click the file to launch the Web page in your favorite browser, even without an Internet connection. Neat, eh?

universal-browser-tips-save-page-as

In that main folder, there will also be a sub-folder with the name you chose above. Don’t touch that. This contains all the images and other data, so just let it stay there.

Share a Universal Browser Tip

Have you switched from extensions to bookmarklets? Do you use a favicons-based toolbar? We want to know which of these tips you already use and how each of them is helpful to you. And one more thing…

You must have seen people doing something on their Web browser that made you say, “Umm, there’s an easier way to do that.” What was it? What’s a simple shortcut for something that people are using far too many steps to achieve?

  1. Terry Doyle
    June 6, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    ESC does NOT stop a webpage from loading. As far as I can tell on my Chrome/Chromebook it does absolutely nothing.

    The web is less usable than it was 15 years ago and this constant loading of script's and other garbage is getting in the road of a good browsing experience.

  2. makeuseof14
    June 3, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    Mac users don't use Ctrl much, except for Ctrl+Tab/Ctrl+Shift+Tab. Use Cmd instead. But Cmd+Shift+T doesn't work in Safari (even though it should—tell Apple!); use Cmd-Z instead, but only if you do it immediately after you close a window, or you'll undo something else.

    A few other shortcuts I use all the time in all browsers:

    Cmd+W / Ctrl+W: Close current window or tab
    Cmd+[ / Alt+?: Go back one page
    Cmd+] / Alt+? : Go forward one page

  3. nagelfar
    June 3, 2016 at 7:08 am

    Even better - for offline reading - is to save a whole website as a single, compact file - *.mhtml.
    To activate the feature you need to get to "chrome://flags" (without quotation marks) and then find and enable "Save Page as MHTML" option (CTRL+F is useful here).
    After you restart the browser, you will have a right-click menu option "Save as..." with a possibility to choose the mhtml format ("Webpage, Single File").
    Start archiving the Web the sarter way & enjoy :)

  4. Delta
    June 2, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    Put folders on the bookmarks toolbar to keep it lean yet have many often used bookmarks quickly available.

  5. Rody
    June 2, 2016 at 7:24 pm

    -Install an adblocker
    -Don't install themes, it will just make your browser slower.

    • Howard Blair
      June 3, 2016 at 8:15 pm

      "Light" Firefox themes (aka Personas) don't slow the browser down much, if at all; it's just a wallpaper for the tab bar, address bar, and addon bar.
      An adblocker *and* a script blocker (with whitelist) are essential; by blocking scripts from unknown (and potentially unsafe) sites, you're preventing malware infections.