SANDY BERGER: Safer Internet Surfing on the Way With New, Improved Browsers
Just about everyone who surfs the Internet uses a piece of software called a browser as their conduit to the online world.
Because of this, Internet browsers have become one of the most important programs that most people use today.
Those of you who have been on the Internet for a long time will remember when Netscape, one of the first ones, was the browser du jour. Just about every Internet service provider gave you a copy of Netscape when you signed up for your Internet service. Then Microsoft got into the browser business and bundled their Internet Explorer (IE) browser with Windows. That led a lot of people to use Internet Explorer 5, 6 and 7.
Well, Microsoft is still shipping Windows with their Internet Explorer browser. So many people will use it because it comes already set up and ready to go when they get their computer. However, we now have several other options available, including Firefox, Opera, and Safari. All of these alternative browsers are free. All are easy to download from the Web, and all have powerful features. In fact, several of these browsers have recently been updated, adding many attractive tools.
Just a few weeks ago, Opera, a Norwegian company, announced Opera 9.5. Firefox 3 was announced last week. The next version of Internet Explorer (IE 8) is already available in a beta test version and will be completed and released to the public very soon. Although Apple is pretty closed-mouthed about what it is working on, it is no secret that they will probably announce a new version of their Safari Web browser soon.
If you are still using Internet Explorer 6, you should update to Internet Explorer 7 or try any of these other Web browsers. You can find the version you are using by starting your Web browser and clicking on the last Menu option "Help." Then click on the last item on the drop-down list, which is "About Internet Explorer," "About Firefox," or "About Opera," and you will see the version number listed after the name of the program.
If you are using an older browser, such as IE 6, you will want to upgrade because the newer IE 7 and the other browsers have improved security. These newer versions also have improved fraud protection that alerts you to bogus Web sites. So safer surfing is on the horizon with all the newer browsers including IE 7, Firefox, Safari and Opera.
The new versions also all have tabbed browsing so that you can keep multiple browser windows open at the same time. Firefox and Opera have other useful features including built-in spell checkers, pop-up blockers and password managers. Their latest versions also have pausable downloads, session management and searchable bookmarks. Both Firefox 3 and Opera 9.5 are slicker and faster than previous versions.
Each of the new browser versions has its own unique features, as well.
Firefox 3 has one-click bookmarking and a Smart Location bar that is intuitive enough to get you where you want to go even if you just type in real words instead of the long URL. Save on Exit is now built into Firefox. Those with visual difficulties will find the Full Zoom feature that lets you enlarge any part of a Web page instantly extremely useful.
I love the new look of Opera. It is uncluttered and appealing. I also love the ability to see if a password works before saving it. Opera also has the ability to keep bookmarks and notes synchronized among several computers and/or a cell phone. It also has a built-in speed dial that lets you quickly access often-used Web sites.
The browser battle is in full swing. Whenever new versions are announced, new features are added and the new browsers leap frog over the older ones. You might think that the new features would bog down these new browsers and make them slower, but this is not the case. The browser developers are also battling for the lightest and fastest browser. So the browsers just keep getting better and better.
There is no reason to hold back on trying these new browsers. There is no cost. You can install and use several browsers at the same time.
You don't have to uninstall your old browser. If you download a newer version of the browser you are using, it will automatically update your old one. You can also add a different browser while leaving the one you are currently using in place. I have Internet Explorer 7, Netscape 3, Opera 9.5 and Safari 3.1 installed on my laptop, and I can use all or any of them as I choose.
Firefox -- www.mozilla.com/firefox -- works on Mac, Windows, and Linux.
Internet Explorer -- www.microsoft.com/downloads -- works with Windows.
Opera -- www.opera.com -- works on Mac, Windows, Linux, Solaris, BeOS, OS/2 and others.
Safari -- www.apple.com/safari -- works on both Mac and Windows.
Whether you choose to try Opera 9.5 and/or Netscape 3 or wait for the new versions of Internet Explorer and/or Safari to be released, it may be beneficial to try something new. Although each of these browsers has a slightly different interface, none is difficult to navigate. So you can try them out and see what you think. You will probably find some new features that you really like.
Sandy Berger welcomes all of your questions and comments on today's column. Please post them on the Compu-Kiss Message Board at www.compu kiss.com/happycomputing.
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