Browser Basics: Tabs, Windows, Copy and Paste
Here are a few easy tips and tricks to improve your web browsing experience.
Tabs vs. Windows
Any program you run on your computer or mobile device opens in a “window” when you launch it, and that includes web browser programs like Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome. A browser window will display the web page of whatever web address you enter in the address bar (that white box at the top of your browser window that usually contains a web address that starts with “http://” or “https://”).
Most web pages contain hyperlinks (or just “links”) to other web pages; you click on the link to go to the linked page. In the early days of web browsing, clicking on the link would pretty much always close the web page you were already on, and open the linked page in its place. But once we consumers started using web browsers regularly, we figured out pretty quickly that a lot of the time, we want to click on a link in the browser window but don’t want to ‘lose our place’ on the web: we still want to keep the first web page open and available. This may be because we want to switch back and forth between the two web pages, or maybe we just want to take a quick look at the linked page and then go right back to the first page.
Keeping multiple web browser windows open was possible right from the earliest days of Internet Explorer, but the average consumer didn’t know how to do it. Worse yet, keeping multiple web browser windows open usually required the computer to have multiple copies (or “sessions”) of the web browser program running, which uses up a lot of system resources and slows everything down.
So the more recent versions of web browser programs introduced something new: tabs. Tabs allow users to open multiple web pages in a single web browser “session”. If you’re running a recent version of any standard web browser, you should see the tab feature right there at the top of your browser window. There should be one, active tab for the page you’re reading right now (this page), and then at least one additional tab for other pages.
If this page is the only one you have open in your web browser right now, there will only be one additional tab and it will have a plus sign on it. Note that in Internet Explorer, the tab will be blank until you mouse over it and then it’ll show the standard Microsoft ‘new page’ icon.
This is generally true when you’re using a mobile web browser (like on a Kindle Fire, iPad or smart phone) too. Click (or tap) on the plus sign to open that tab, and presto! You have a whole new web page you can use to enter any web address without having to close this page. To move from tab to tab, just click (or tap) on the tab of the page you want to view.
Opening Linked Pages In A New Tab
Some links lead to another page on the same site you’re already visiting, while others will take you to a page on a totally different site. Web developers who follow what are known as ‘best practices’ always set up their links to outside sites so that the page from the other site will automatically open in a new tab. But unfortunately, not all web developers follow best practices. Lucky for you, there’s an easy way to ensure any link you follow will open in a new tab whether it was designed to do so automatically or not.
In a regular web browser that you’re using on a regular computer, instead of just clicking on the link as usual, right-click on the link to open an Options menu. One of the choices in that menu will be to open the link in a new tab. Click on that option. There may also be an option to open the link in a new window, but as I explained, opening a new window also means starting a second browser “session”, and there’s not usually any need to do that now that you’ve got the whole tab thing working for you.
In a mobile web browser that you’re using on a mobile device, instead of just tapping on the link as usual, long-tap (tap and hold) on the link to open an Options menu. One of the choices in that menu will be to open the link in a new tab. Tap on that option.
Using Copy and Paste For Links That Aren’t Links
Sometimes a web address will be given in an article you’re reading online, but for some reason, it’s not formatted as a link. It’s just plain text, so clicking or tapping on it won’t take you to the web address shown. That’s where copy and paste come in. To easily follow that kind of non-link, just follow these simple steps:
In a regular web browser that you’re using on a regular computer:
1. Click to place your cursor in the space immediately before or after the text of the web address.
2. Click and hold the mouse button down while dragging it forward or back to highlight the full text of the web address. Release the mouse button when the full text is highlighted.
3. Right-click on the highlighted text to open an Options menu. Click on Copy, Copy Selected Text, or whatever the copy option is in your specific browser.
4. Click on that plus sign in the first available, empty tab in your browser to open a blank web page.
5. Click to place your cursor in the blank web address box at the top of the new tab, then right-click and select Paste, Paste Copied Text, or whatever the paste option is in your specific browser.
6. Hit the Enter button on your keyboard to load the web page.
In a mobile web browser that you’re using on a mobile device:
This can be a bit trickier, because the process of selecting text is different on different mobile devices. You may have to experiment a little to figure out what works best on your device, but in general, it’s supposed to work like this:
1. Long-tap on the text of the web address to select it. This should open a text tool pop-up that will have little dots, squares or some other shape at both ends of the selected text and one or more commands for you to select (e.g., “Copy”, etc.).
2. If the selected text, which will be highlighted, doesn’t contain the entire web address or contains more than just the web address, drag the shapes at the ends of the selected text to select/highlight more or less.
3. When the correct text is selected and highlighted, tap on the Copy option in the text selection tool pop-up.
4. Tap on the plus sign in the first available, empty tab in your browser to open a blank web page.
5. Tap to place your cursor in the blank web address box at the top of the new tab, then long-tap and select Paste, Paste Copied Text, or whatever the paste option is in your specific browser.
6. If your mobile browser has a “go” button or something similar, tap it to load the new page. If not, pasting the text in the web address bar should have automatically opened your device’s on-screen keyboard, and you can tap the “go” or “enter” button from there.
Now get out there and start browsing like a boss!