It is 2019, and the browser wars continue. In fact, they have taken a turn for the interesting, after Microsoft announced its intention of switching Edge to the same engine that powers Google Chrome.
Browser makers and developers, both, continue to refine their experiences in innovative ways.
Modern browsers not only focus on increased usability, but also extensibility to allow users the freedom to use these applications according to their unique needs and requirements. We have used the latest versions of the major web browsers for Windows extensively these past few months, and unearthed a selection of brilliant new ideas on how to maximize their potential.
Here is a selection of the best tips and tricks that unlock the hidden power of these browsers!
General browser Tips and Tricks
Let’s start with some ideas for general browsers, before moving onto specific sections for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Vivaldi and Microsoft Edge. There are certain tips and multiplatform extensions that work across the board, though each browser does offer its own unique twist on things.
Here are half a dozen tips for general web browsing improvements:
Download web pages as single Files
How many times have you saved a web page, and ended up with a mess? Back in the days it was possible to accurately save web pages as complete HTML files in almost all browsers. These saved files could be opened later. But now it is a slow and clunky process — even Firefox saves them in a broken and barely usable fashion.
Luckily, you can enlist the services of addon that can quickly download a web page as a single file.
Conveniently titled SingleFile, you click on its icon and it saves your current web page and all its associated images and assets in a single file. You will want to wait until the page is fully loaded, and may need to scroll down the entire page to be sure that all elements are captured.
SingleFile can be downloaded for Chrome, Firefox, and other browsers like Opera, Edge, Vivaldi and Brave and more from its GitHub repository.
A fork that goes by the name of SingleFileZ also exists. It ups the game in that it saves a webpage as a self-extracting HTML file, which is also a valid ZIP file containing all the resources of the saved page like images, fonts, stylesheets and frames. You can get it for Firefox and Chrome.
Access blocked content using a free VPN
They say there is no such thing as a free lunch. But this extension aims to change that. Usually most VPN extensions come with a catch — they may not work reliably, offer limited usage, or almost always ask you for a subscription fee, which is totally understandable when you think about it.
Bravo for Browsec, then, which gives you the benefits of a paid VPN without charging you a penny. It is good enough for all the usual VPN duties like unblocking restricted content, encrypting your traffic and hiding your data.
And you don’t even need to register to use it. Simply install the addon and turn on the protection. You get access to US and UK servers, which makes it easy to access blocked American and British content and services. Protection can be switched on or off with a single click, and automatically disabled on specific websites.
Naturally, Browsec encourages you to upgrade to its paid version for $3.33 per month. This nets you additional benefits like faster browsing speeds and servers in 34 more locations. But for basic VPN needs, this is about as good as it gets.
Switch between different search engines
If you juggle between different search engines in your browser, you are sure to appreciate the power and flexibility that ContextSearch offers. This addon can be an invaluable browsing companion that adds a host of extra search engines right in your right-click menu — you can quickly highlight words on web pages and look them up using the most appropriate services.
And all the big ones are listed here. Among the built-in options, you will find Bing, DuckDuckGo, Twitter, Wikipedia and YouTube. Though somewhat annoyingly, only Amazon.com is listed, instead of its country specific sites.
Regardless, you can also add further search engines to ContextSearch easily, those that you have installed in Firefox. This can be done by choosing Import, and then browsing to your Profiles folder and then selecting the search.json.mozlz4 file.
It is also possible to customize the size of the menu and icons, along with the order of the search engines to suit your needs. And like any capable extension worth its salt, ContextSearch also lets you use various mouse and keyboard shortcuts to decide how its search results are opened.
Get dark mode on any site
Dark modes are now all the rage! These dark themes have become very popular, and almost every week you hear about applications or websites unveiling the option to switch from the plain old white to a striking new black look.
Of course, black is not for everyone. But if you prefer your sites and services with a dark look, then you don’t have to wait until your favorite websites introduce the feature. Just visit Dark Reader and get a dark mode for everything.
Several customization options are available, meaning if night mode is not your thing then you can just as easily aim for the dusk mode by filtering out the amount of light. A toggle switch makes it easy to transition between the looks, while hotkey support is also in. Good stuff.
Block PUP downloads with Malwarebytes
Malwarebytes has recently rolled out an update for its excellent browser extension, making it more effective at protecting you from online threats. This powerful tool was already pretty capable, adept at blocking malicious code, phishing scams, third-party trackers, even clickbait.
And now, it can prevent the downloading of Potentially Unwanted Programs (PUPs), like toolbars and popups that you encounter online. Just make sure that you have enabled the PUP Protection option in the settings.
The latest version also makes it possible to individually turn Malware/Scams and Ads/Clickbait options on and off separately. This is useful for when a site is not displaying properly, but you still do not want to turn off protection competently.
All this is impressive, considering the fact that the Malwarebytes browser extension is still in beta. You may encounter and occasional bug or false positive, where the tool mistakes a legitimate site or program as a threat. But these are few and far between.
Find out if you are reading Fake news
The fake news menace is still alive and kicking, sadly. The fight against fake news on the web continues, with several big players jumping in with their solutions. Your best bet is to install an addon that notifies the trustworthiness of a website based on its overall credibility and transparency.
An independent team of politically diverse journalists got together and founded NewsGuard, which forgoes algorithms in favor of humans reviewing each site individually.
They have made their extension available for Chrome, Firefox as well as Edge. And it puts up a trust rating for each website, which you can see on search results in Google, Bing, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Not every site has been reviewed yet, but there is enough good stuff here to earn a recommendation.
Google Chrome is the king daddy, the 800-pound gorilla of the browser world. Not only has this browser cornered the market, it is also driving the web forward with the latest in new standards, technologies, and extensions. No wonder almost two-thirds of the planet uses it.
Here is a selection of our best tips for Google Chrome:
Create an Incognito shortcut
Find yourself using the private browsing mode in Chrome regularly? Why not create an incognito shortcut that you can use to open the browser directly in by double-clicking? This is very easy to do using the command line switches.
This is actually how you start many advanced features in the Google browser, by adding them to the command that starts the browser. It is also possible to type these commands into the Windows Run box or a command prompt. But in our case, it is easier to create and use a dedicated desktop shortcut.
To do this, open Explorer and navigate to C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application.
Here, right-click Chrome, and select the Send to option. Choose Desktop (create shortcut) option to create a new shortcut on your desktop. This is the shortcut that we will modify to always open the web browser in incognito mode.
Right-click the desktop icon and select Properties. The Target box is the command that starts Chrome, and you can add command line switches to the end right after the closing speech marks. In our example, we will just simply add a space and type –incognito, double dash and all.
You can now rename the shortcut as Chrome Incognito, and use it to open as many private windows as you want. Place this icon anywhere you want for easy, convenient access.
Open websites like apps
The wonders of the worldwide web! Websites these days are not unlike apps in their complexity and usability, so why not use them as one? This trick comes in real handy for web services like email and cloud storage, sites like Gmail and OneDrive.
A normal Chrome window has a title bar with tabs, an address box with a toolbar, even a bookmarks bar. But you can hide all this for a simpler and cleaner browser interface that is perfect for web services.
To do so, first create a desktop shortcut to Chrome.
Then right-click it and select Properties. Click in the Target box, add a space at the end of the command and follow it by –app=https://onedrive.live.com/. Click OK, and then try out your new link. OneDrive will now open in a clean and simple window, just like an app.
This is not for general browsing, though, as you don’t get access to an address bar. But you can easily replace the URL with any site that you want to open as you would an application. Create individual shortcuts for your most used sites and apps, and you will be golden!
Close Chrome using your Keyboard
Why in the world would I want to do this, you ask? Why, when it is easy enough to click the X button in the top-right corner of your browser. That may be true, but many users prefer to use keyboard shortcuts whenever possible for a speedy exit.
Up until version 70 of the browser, you could press Ctrl + Shift + Q to close Chrome. But users complained that this was too similar to Ctrl + Shift + T that was used to reopen closed tabs. This led them to accidentally close the active windows.
From now on, there is a new way to close Chrome using your keyboard, a tried and tested way. All you need to do is press Alt + F to open the main menu of the browser, and then press the X key to exit. If you try the old shortcut, you will see a message about the change.
Move multiple Chrome tabs at once
Moving day! This little Chrome hack is very useful, yet not quite common knowledge. But it can save you an awful lot of aggravation if you are the type that has multiple browser tabs open at the same time, and want to move them around.
You may want to move multiple tabs in your browser to another window, or even create a new window of specific tabs. There is an easy way to do this without dragging them one at a time.
Just hold down the Ctrl key, then select each tab with your mouse — not unlike how you select multiple files in a folder. Once you do that, you will notice that the unselected tabs are greyed out. If all the tabs you want are next to each other, you can also try holding down the Shift key and then clicking the first and last tab. These are now grouped together, and you can move them as one to wherever you want.
It’s just as easy to create a new window of these tabbed groups, as it is moving them around.
Control Spotify from any web page
If you are a music lover and like to listen to music using the Spotify Web Player as you browse the internet, you will know how frustrating it is to keep switching tabs all the time. You need to go back every time you want to play, pause, and skip tracks — not fun.
An extension called Spotify Controller makes life so much easier by letting you control the player from any web page, essentially controlling all your Spotify music form one single place. Just click its toolbar button to access Play, Pause, Back and Forward controls, along with the option to open the player.
Auto save and recover what you write online
No worse feeling online than losing the content of a long email, blog post or online when your browser of PC crashes. This is why many web tools automatically save what you type. But there is a way to get this functionality on sites that do not have an autosave function.
Download Typio Form Recovery, and let it automatically save any text you enter on a web page. You can recover it either by clicking its toolbar button and choosing Open Recovery or right-clicking the page and selecting that option.
The addon is very well designed, and even comes with keyboard shortcuts. Typio saves your data for seven days by default, but you can increase or decrease this as required. It is also possible to delete entries manually, and you can also disable the extension on specific domains.
Typio Form Recovery can even be used to save typed passwords and credit card details, and is an invaluable tool for those who spend their day heavily in their browser windows.
Refresh all tabs in Chrome
Chrome does not have a single option to reload all tabs, as the keyboard short Ctrl + R will only refresh the selected tab or tabs. But there is a way to refresh all your tabs at once, with the press of a single key.
The method is simple enough, and involves basically selecting all your tabs and hitting the above key combination. Simply use the Ctrl key to select multiple tabs, or hold down Shift then click on the first and last one. All the tabs in between can now be refreshed.
Get the old Google Chrome look back
Change is inevitable, but not everyone is a fan of the pill shapes or the New Tab button being moved to the other side of the window. There is a way to get the old look back, if you are using older version 69 of Chrome.
To do that, type chrome://flags#top-chrome-md in the address bar. You will see a dropdown menu, click it and select Normal. Press the Relaunch Now button when it pops up, and you will have the old, classic look of Chrome back.
Firefox is the lone ranger now. As the only major independent browser after Microsoft switched to the Chromium engine, this is a browser that is going at it alone, an alternate if you will, to the Google dominance. For this reason, Firefox has a passionate and dedicated user base.
Here are a handful of great tips if you count yourself a Firefox loyalist:
Stop dodgy websites form hacking your tabs
Remarkable just how long this issue has pestered without browser makers doing anything about this security risk. Well, good guy Mozilla is currently testing a solution for Firefox. But in the meantime, you can prevent the hacking of your tabs via a useful extension.
The story goes that when you click a link that opens a page in a new tab, the new page can control the content in the previous tab, and even load a new page!
This trick is a clear security risk that advertisers and cybercriminals often exploit to serve you ads or even set up a fake login page. Sites that contain malware can easily be opened using this, causing harm to your data or devices.
This is where the straight shooting Don’t Touch My Tabs addon comes in.
It searches for links to other pages that are not hosted on the same domain, and adds an attribute to them so that malicious sites are not able to infect your browser. This is done very subtly so as to not break your internet or prevent your links from working properly. Excellent extension, this.
Password protect your bookmarks
Amazing to think that modern browsers still leave bookmarks out in the open, like the olden days. Even in this day and age of enhanced privacy all around. You could be browsing the web privately and may want to save a link and hide it from other people, perhaps for a surprise gift. What to do?
Prevent nosy users from viewing your secret sites by installing Private Bookmarks, an addon that lets you create a special password protected bookmark folder in private browsing mode.
Once installed, you can click the toolbar button of this addon and enter a password between 8 and 128 characters that contains at least one number. Be sure that this is something that you remember, otherwise keep it written down in a safe place.
You can now bookmark pages privately by clicking the white and purple star button in the address bar of your browser. Sites will be saved to a Private Bookmarks folder that is automatically locked, and you can keep your private links private.
Clean up Firefox bookmarks
Do you bookmark everything left and right? Chances are then, that your Firefox bookmarks are in a messy state. Give your bookmarks a spring clean, and get rid of that random list with broken links. All you need is the tidy Bookmarks Organizer.
This newly update addon scans saves you the hassle of going through all your bookmarks individually to ensure that they still work. It goes through your bookmark list, and takes note of dead and duplicate entries, which you can then easily update or remove.
Bookmarks Organizer also scans for links that now redirect you to a different page. The addon also offers a whitelist feature that can be used exclude specific bookmarks from its scans.
Its findings are displayed in a clear, color coded list that makes easy work of deleting your bookmarks that either no longer work or a surplus to your requirements. Likewise, the extension also automatically fixes all redirects with a single click.
Bookmark all open Tabs
Mozilla made the curious decision of removing the Bookmark All Tabs option in Firefox 64. It let you quickly save all open web pages as bookmarks in one go. Fortunately, there still is a way to use this feature, though it takes an extra step.
What you have to do is right-click a tab and choose the Select All Tabs option. Then right-click again and you will see a Bookmark Tabs option in the menu.
Alternatively, if you are more of a keyboard shortcuts type of a person, you can press Ctrl + Shift + D on your keyboard to bookmark all open tabs. This is the same option that works in Chrome. In either case, you will be prompted to create and name a folder for the saved bookmarks, which will then be placed in your main Bookmarks menu.
Bring Google Material Design to Firefox
Even though Google still has not implemented its Material Design across all its product and services, many a user fancy this design language. If you are a Firefox user that want a little Material Design action on your web browser, there is a way to get that look in a few simple steps.
First you will need to download MaterialFox from GitHub, then extract its ZIP contents. Then open Firefox and go to about:support. In the Profile Folder category, click the Open Folder button and copy the contents that you just extracted into the Profile Folder.
Next, go to about:config?filter=svg.context-properties.content.enabled and double-click it to change it from False to True.
All this done, you now need to download a copy of Simple New Tab, and then use the Customize option of your browser to drag and drop the addon to the far right, by the Minimize button. Restart your browser, and you should have a rather impressive imitation of the new look of Google Chrome right in good old Firefox.
Add Clippy to Firefox
Remember Clippy, that paperclip from Microsoft Office? Of course, you do! Who can forget this attempt from Microsoft to make Office more user friendly! This animated character offered help when it detected various actions in the productivity suite, like when writing a letter in Word.
Clippy was included in Office 97 and stayed with the suite until Office 2003, until a deluge of negative feedback prompted the software titan to retire this animated assistant.
A nostalgic developer, however, has decided to bring the chirpy paperclip back. Clippy can be added to Firefox, and is available as an addon called, well, Clippy.
In other words, you can now have this character following you around the web from his spot in the browser window. You can move it around anywhere you like, of course. And it tries to entertain you by blinking, dancing, and twisting himself into different shapes, and even makes occasional quips about the websites you visit.
The good thing is that this Clippy is far less annoying than the original implementation, so feel fee to give it a try and see how you like it.
Vivaldi has been adding small new features at a rapid pace. These tools make the already brilliant web browsers even better, and one of the most unique and interesting choices on the market for those that want to experiment with something new.
We take a look at a few of these latest additions that make Vivaldi so special:
Open new tabs with middle-click
One of the better new additions in this fledgling web browser is the ability to use your mouse to open pages that you have previously visited in new tabs, rather than your current one. This is very useful for the times when you want to go back to a previous page
This is accomplished via the middle-mouse button.
Just click and hold the Back or Forward button, highlight an entry from the dropdown menu and then press the middle button on your mouse to open that page in a new tab. A middle-click comes in truly handy for powers users here, as the older page is opened in a separate new tab, and you don’t lose your current place.
Save tabs as session
Vivaldi lets you select tabs that you would like to save as a session, but keep everything else open. Neat way to keep some work for a later time. Press the Ctrl key and click the tabs you want to save, and then right-click one and choose Save Selected Tabs as Session.
You will also be able to see the number here.
Give the saved session a name, and save it. You can reopen a saved session by pressing the Alt key, then choosing the File menu and there selecting the Open Saved Session option.
Switch between tabs using number shortcuts
You can switch between tabs much more quickly by using number shortcuts in Vivaldi. To get started, press the Alt + W keys to open the Window menu. Open tabs are listed vertically here, each one with number on the left.
You can either press the number key of the tab you want, or just click it with your mouse to go directly to your chosen tab.
Give quick commands
One of the best tools that sets Vivaldi apart from the competition is its Quick Commands toolbar, which is summoned by pressing the F2 key. You can use it to open a recently closed tab by pressing its title and pressing Enter.
If you can’t quite remember what it is called, simply type show closed tabs, and press the Enter key. This will open the list of recently closed tabs, and you can simply click on the one you want to open. Really powerful tool, this.
Customize which tools appear
Modern web browsers thrive on simplicity. And Vivaldi, too, offers you plenty of ways to customize which tools appear where. For example, you can quickly and easily change what shows in both your address bar up top and the status bar at the bottom.
To do so, and remove something from either area, right-click it and choose Customize. Then just select the Remove from Toolbar option to get rid of it.
To bring items back again, choose Reset Toolbar to Default.
Vivaldi comes with some rather excellent multimedia capabilities, including the ability to let any HTML5 video be popped up into a picture-in-picture window. This PiP ability can let you keep watching it while you do other things in the browser — as long you don’t close the original tab, of course.
Right-click a video and look for the Picture-in-picture option in the menu. You will have to double right-click on YouTube to bring this option.
Show access keys for Websites
Some websites offer support for keyboard shortcuts, known as Access Keys. These basically let you jump to specific sections or use certain tools without using your mouse. You most definitely have used them without actually knowing what they are called, on sites like Hotmail, Gmail, and more.
That is because few websites tell you what these keys actually are!
The good guys over at Vivaldi have added a new feature to their browser that shows you all available access keys for the site that you currently have open.
You can access this option (pun always intended) via the Quick Commands menu by pressing F2 on your keyboard. Start typing access until you see the command Show Webpage Access Key Shortcuts, select it and press Enter.
One of the many useful features in Vivaldi is the ability to stack your browser tabs to keep them organized. This option basically groups pages from the same site into a single, tidy stack. A new update actually brought in an improvement, letting you automatically open related tabs in a stack.
You know, instead of spreading multiple pages from sites across separate tabs.
It’s easy enough to activate this option in the browser. Click the Vivaldi button in the top left side of the screen, and choose Tools, then Settings. Here, click on Tabs in the menu on the left, and in the New Tab Position section, select As Tab Stack with Related Tabs.
Edge is going places this year! Microsoft pulled a fast one by announcing that it is switching the underlying engine of its web browser to Chromium, an open source technology that also powers Google Chrome. While we wait for the official release of that new Edge, the old one still has a lot of users.
So, here are a couple of good tips for the current one:
Stay safe from Malware and Scams
No denying that Edge still lacks behind the big kids like Chrome and Firefox when it comes to security tools. But the past year or so has seen a few good releases make their way to the Microsoft Store, essentially extensions that help you stay protected online.
Download and install Norton Safe Web, and let it scan webpages for malware infection, online scams and annoyance threats. The extension will display its finding in a popup toolbar panel that turns green for safe sites and red for dangerous ones — good way to always stay in the know.
Norton Safe Web also lets you view a full Safe Web report that contains further security information for those of you who want in on all the details. Reviews of the current site by the Norton community can also be viewed.
Open webpages with Internet Explorer
When Edge replaced Internet Explorer as the default choice in Windows, it did away with a few of the tools and technologies that were commonplace on IE. One such web technology is Silverlight, a plugin used to stream specific forms of media, graphics and animation — quite similar to Adobe Flash.
Well, there may come a time when you have to open some old application or site that uses Silverlight.
In that case, Edge offers a handy option. While on a web page, click on the menu on the right, and select the Open with Internet Explorer to open that page in Internet Explorer.
Although the stars have started to align with the Chromium technology, the browser world is still as dynamic and vibrant as it has ever been. You have got Firefox as an alternate mainstay, along with smaller impressive choices like Vivaldi.
Using these browsers is easy enough, thanks to excellent UI and features.
However, making the most of them entails learning some inside tips and tricks, and deploying a few addons to enhance the overall usage. It may take a bit of time settings things up correctly. But once done, your online experience will be notably more streamlined and productive.