Be a power browser

Count the number of Web sites you visit daily, and you’ll realize that learning even a few ways to streamline your surfing could save you loads of time. I’ve gathered some great tips, as well as a collection of the most-useful keyboard shortcuts for Apple’s Safari and Mozilla’s Firefox.

Cut down on clicks

There’s no need to click on the back arrow repeatedly when you want to return to a page that you checked out earlier. Instead, use the hidden power of the back and forward arrows. If you’re using Safari 2 (   ), click and hold on either arrow to see a list of the names of the pages you’ve visited. (If you prefer to choose from a list of URLs, option-click and hold.) Select a page from the list to hop there right away. Press Command as you select one to open the page in its own tab.

If you’re using Firefox 2 (   ), click and hold on the tiny triangle next to the back or forward arrow to see a list of the pages you’ve browsed recently. Select one to open it, or open it in its own tab by pressing Command while selecting its name. If you have a scroll-wheel mouse or an Apple Mighty Mouse, Firefox offers one more time-saver—hold down the option key and scroll down to see pages you’ve already viewed, or scroll up to go back through your history to more recently visited pages.

Do the time warp

The forward and back buttons can help you find pages you’ve visited today, but what about one you visited last week? That’s a job for the History menu. Unfortunately, scrolling through that menu, and its many submenus, can be a real pain. Search your browsing history instead.

In Safari, click on the Bookmarks icon in the Bookmarks bar (it looks like an open book), select Bookmarks: Show All Bookmarks, or press Command-option-B. Choose History in the Collections column, and click in the search box at the bottom of the window. Type what you remember of the site’s name or URL (you can even type just the end of the domain—for instance,

.org
). As you type more information, the list of sites will shorten. Double-click on one to open it. If you use Firefox, select History: Show In Sidebar, or press Command-shift-H. You’ll see a search field above a list of folders organized by day. Type into that field, and then double-click on the page you want to open.

Try show-and-tell tabs

Tabbed browsing is a great way to keep multiple pages open without making a mess of your screen. But once you have a bunch of pages open, their titles may not be enough to help you find the one you’re looking for. The Omni Group’s $30 OmniWeb 5 (   ) lets you navigate multiple tabs at a glance, using graphic tabs. Graphic tabs display a thumbnail of each page, as well as its title, in a drawer to the side of your browser window (see “Tabs in View”). Just click on a thumbnail to switch to that page, or hover your cursor over a thumbnail to view its name and full URL. You can shrink the thumbnails into simple names by clicking on the list-view icon above the drawer. In both views, press Command-up arrow or Command-down arrow to flip through the tabs.

Size it right

But OmniWeb goes one step further, allowing you to set site-specific preferences and sparing you the hassle of repeatedly adjusting the font size of a site you visit regularly. Click on the Preferences icon in the program’s toolbar, and a pane opens at the bottom of the page. Here you can set font-size, image-loading, and style-sheet preferences. You can also choose from various ad-blocking and language settings.

Get the whole picture

It’s a cinch to save any Web page as a PDF file; just press Command-P, click on the PDF button in the Print dialog box, and choose Save As PDF. The only trouble is that this creates a PDF file broken into separate printable pages, not a true replica of the entire Web page. What if you need an exact copy? For instance, important graphics might be cut in half by these page breaks, and Web designers sometimes need to show complete pages to clients.

A hidden shortcut lets OmniWeb users save a Web page as an unbroken PDF: hold down the option key and select the File menu, and then select Save As PDF. But a file saved this way won’t include any background graphics. To get the whole picture, try Nate Weaver and Johan Sørensen’s free Paparazzi (   ), which lets you save any Web page as a PDF, JPEG, PNG, or TIFF file. Brain Tickling Software’s $18 SnapWeb 4.0 goes even further, offering additional graphic formats (GIF and PSD), text, and HTML, as well as the ability to save an image file of a page directly to the Clipboard. For PDFs, you can choose between simple images and text PDFs, which you can later search for specific words.

Organize bookmarks

Are your bookmarks a jumble of Web site names in seemingly random order? Make finding the right one easier by organizing them into folders. In Safari, select Bookmarks: Show All Bookmarks (or press Command-option-B) and click either on Bookmarks Bar or on Bookmarks Window in the Collections column. Create a new folder by clicking on the plus sign (+) at the bottom of the window. Select the folder, press enter, and name it. Then drag the appropriate bookmarks into it.

Organizing your bookmarks is essentially the same in Firefox 2. Select Bookmarks: Organize Bookmarks. (In earlier versions of Firefox, select Bookmarks: Manage Bookmarks.) In the window that appears, add a folder to the Bookmarks window by selecting Bookmarks in the list on the left and then clicking on the New Folder button in the toolbar. Name the folder and then drag the appropriate bookmarks into the folder. To add a folder to Firefox’s Bookmarks toolbar, create one anywhere and then click on the Move button. Choose Bookmarks Toolbar Folder in the window that appears.

Hop to the right bookmark

Sure, you can access your bookmarks from your browser’s Bookmarks menu, but that requires a bunch of clicks. You can do the same from the one-click Bookmarks bar (or Bookmarks toolbar in Firefox), but it can get crowded fast. If you keep a lot of Safari bookmarks, use Spotlight (Command-spacebar) to search for the right one. Type either the name of the bookmark or part of the URL in the Spotlight search field. Too many hits? To narrow the field, include the text

kind:bookmark
in your search. To open a bookmark, click on it in the Spotlight menu. Firefox users can select View: Sidebar: Bookmarks to open a drawer, to the side of the browser window, that holds a useful list of your bookmarks and a search field.

Halt those downloads

Ever started to download something and then regretted it because the file was bigger than you expected? With Safari’s Downloads window, you can stop and restart downloads whenever you need bandwidth. Just click on the X icon to stop the download and then click on the resulting orange arrow icon to restart it (see “Stop That Train”). You can also restart downloads by double-clicking on the .download file that’s stored on your desktop, in your downloads folder. (Not all downloads will restart from where they left off; some will start over from the beginning.)

[ Kirk McElhearn has authored and coauthored a dozen Mac books. His Web site, Kirkville, has an RSS feed. ]

Tabs in View: OmniWeb’s graphic tabs make spotting the page you want to switch to a snap. Each one is a thumbnail image of the page’s actual content.Stop That Train: Is that download you started too large or too slow? Click on the X icon in Safari’s downloads window (A) to stop it. To restart it, click on the orange curly arrow that replaces the X.
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