Tag Archives: Chrome

How to Prevent Compulsive Browsing

Guess what happened to me the other day? I had a big project to work on. Before I started, I figured, I would just check my email and my Facebook account “really quickly.” So I did. I still didn’t really want to start, so I checked my Google Reader feed. Then I read some things linked to that, and some things linked to that. Then I looked at the clock and noticed that I’d just wasted a whole hour.

Everybody has a different weakness; maybe yours is Reddit, or Memebase, or Google News. I have a huge problem with Wikipedia; I love learning about random stuff so much that I click any links that look interesting, and then I click some links in those articles, and eventually I notice that I’ve moved ridiculously far from my original topic.

Ironically, it was several levels of links out from my Google Reader feed that I learned of the program that has worked wonders for me. It was an article called “How to Quit Wasting Time on the Internet” that showed up in the related articles section of a website I’d reached after clicking a link on one of the pages I reached by clicking a link on Reader. Given that I was undeniably wasting time on the Internet at the time, I immediately clicked the link.

The article has a large number of suggestions, so if you’re interested in more options and tools, take a look at it. But what worked for me was a Chrome extension called StayFocusd. It has two modes:

  • A daily limit on browsing time for particular sites. You make a list of sites you often waste time on (I have Facebook, Google Reader, Lifehacker, The Onion, YouTube, Wikipedia, and for good measure even though I don’t often visit them, Reddit and StumbleUpon). You can also check a box that will count sites you access by clicking links on time-wasting sites as time-wasting sites as well (very important for sites that are primarily lists of links to others, such as Google News or Reader). Then you choose how long you want to give yourself to browse these sites per day (right now I have 20 minutes, but I’m still trying to find the best amount). After you’ve used up that time, you can’t visit those sites for the rest of the day, and you can’t increase the time either.
  • A complete block for a given amount of time. This is called the “nuclear option.” You choose the length of time you need to be distraction-free and whether you want to block just your blacklisted sites or the entire Internet, and after you click the button there’s no going back.

It’s quite possible to cheat if you want to; for instance, you can simply open a different browser in which the extension is not installed. But unless you have really serious self-control problems, you don’t really need to block things entirely, you just need to give yourself a reminder. As soon as the extension informs me that I’m not supposed to be visiting a website, I immediately realize what I’m doing and lose the desire to try. Having a timer also works wonders to remind me to scan lists of articles quickly rather than waste time reading unimportant ones.

I had no idea how much time I was wasting this way until I installed the extension. Since installing it, I find myself wondering what I should do much more frequently; though I wasn’t aware of it, apparently I had a tendency to just start browsing the Web and then get drawn into something that way.

If you’ve ever had a problem with compulsive browsing, this extension could give you time you didn’t even know you had.

Download StayFocusd for Chrome

(Note: There are similar extensions for Firefox; see the original article that I linked earlier for some of these.)

Reopening Tabs You Just Closed

Ever closed a browser tab, then immediately realized you still needed it open? Maybe you even waited a few minutes before you wanted to go back. Fortunately, you don’t need to go hunting around for it in your history or search for it again.

I’ve already partially mentioned this tip (buried in the middle of another), but here it is again: Just press Ctrl-Shift-T.

Here’s the new part: In Chrome, you can also middle-click the New Tab button to reopen the previous tab. I discovered this by accident the other day while trying to close the last tab I had open (I missed it and hit the new tab button instead).

While you’re at it, check out four other ways to use your middle mouse button when you’re browsing (and find out what a middle-click is, if you haven’t picked up on it from my tips yet!).

Five Really Cool Chrome (and Firefox) Extensions

In my opinion, one of the best things about Google’s Chrome browser is the excellent selection of browser extensions. In the past, Firefox has taken the title for largest selection of extensions, but recently I’m seeing more and more really good Chrome extensions. Since two of these extensions are available for Firefox as well, I’ll give you links for those versions too.

Here are five of my favorite extensions.
1: AutoPager (Chrome and Firefox)
Have a favorite site that likes to split articles over five different pages, requiring you to click the Next link every time you get to the bottom of the (usually about two paragraphs long) page? AutoPager automatically loads the next page once you begin to reach the bottom of the page you’re currently on, then tacks it onto the end of the page you have.

It does require a “rule” for each page, but most popular sites have rules uploaded by users, and if you really want it to work with a site that doesn’t have a rule, you can always write one yourself.

Download:
2: Better Omnibox (Chrome only)
The “omnibox” is the improved address bar in Chrome that can be used to load websites by typing just the first couple of letters, search the web, and search websites (type the first couple of letters of the site you want to search, then press Tab). Better Omnibox extends this to allow you to search your history and bookmarks as well by simply pressing #, then entering your search terms. Searching history and/or bookmarks always used to be a painful process, requiring opening up the history page or bookmarks manager, and it never seemed to work quite right for me. With this extension, finding a page I visited yesterday is as easy as it could possibly be.

Download:
3: Chrome Remote Desktop (Beta) (Chrome only, obviously)
This extension is just what it sounds like–you can access another computer remotely. You need a person sitting at the computer you want to access, who clicks the Share button and receives a code and sends it to you; you simply type the code in and are on your way.
As a makeshift tech support representative for quite a few people, this extension comes in handy occasionally. Trying to write a script for somebody over the phone (or worse, Facebook chat with a slow typist, as it was last time this happened) is more frustrating than you can possibly believe until you’ve tried it. After I finally thought about this extension, the problem was fixed in under five minutes.
Also nice is the fact that this extension is completely cross-platform: you can access a Mac from a Windows PC, a Linux PC from a Mac, or even a Windows PC from a Chromebook. It’s supposedly still in beta, but I’ve never had a problem with it.
Download:
4: Visual Hashing (Chrome and Firefox)
This handy extension changes the white background of password fields to four colored bars which change as you type your password. Each set of colors is the result of a mathematical calculation based on the password you type, but there is no way to derive the password from the bars, so this won’t help anyone watching you figure out your password. On the other hand, once you‘ve typed your password and watched the pretty colors a few times, you’ll notice that the colors don’t look right and realize you’ve mistyped it before you hit Enter and wait fifteen seconds for the site to reload and make you type everything in again.

 

Download:

 

5: Chrome Daltonize (Chrome and sort of Firefox)
This extension is a bit more obscure, but it’s still interesting. Its purpose is to filter the colors in images that appear in web pages. It can either simulate colorblindness or perform the Daltonization technique, which creates more contrast and makes it easier for people who are colorblind to differentiate the colors in the image. This extension is probably a bit more useful for me, since I actually am colorblind and occasionally have difficulty with fancy graphs and maps on the Internet, but most of the people with normal color vision to whom I’ve showed the simulation have thought it was pretty cool too, so it might be fun to play with anyway.

 

Chrome configuration
Once you’ve installed the extension, right-click on the little color wheel that appears on the toolbar and choose Options. Chances are fairly good the default settings aren’t what you want. You can either choose to Daltonize or Simulate any of the three main types of colorblindness; if you actually are colorblind, you probably want to choose the one that corresponds to the type you have. (If you’re not sure, check out the handy test at http://www.colour-blindness.com/colour-blindness-tests/colour-arrangement-test/.) If you’re just playing around, you might want to try each of the settings in turn.

 

Once you’re done with the settings, close the tab, browse to the page you want to try the extension on, and click the color wheel button.

 

Firefox configuration
There is no native Firefox extension, but there are bookmarklets available at the download link. To use a bookmarklet, just drag the link to your bookmarks toolbar or menu, browse to the site you want to use it on, and click it. (It might take a second to work; be patient.) With the bookmarklets, you need to drag a different link depending on which settings you want; see the Chrome configuration section if you’re confused about what they are.

 

Download:
Firefox bookmarklets: http://daltonize.appspot.com/

Changing Your Browser’s Homepage

One of the most frequent questions I get when setting up a computer for somebody is how to change the home page. Usually it starts on something silly like MSN or the website of the manufacturer, and so you want to change it. Here’s how.

 

This tip was tested on Firefox and Chrome; it is probably mostly applicable to Internet Explorer as well, but the exact steps will be different.

 

The Quick Method
This works on both Firefox and Chrome.
  1. Browse to the website you want to make your home page.
  2. Look to the left of the web address. Depending on whether the site is secure or not, there will be either a little icon or a company name of some sort.
  3. Drag this icon or name onto the home button (it looks like a home, and is on the toolbar, often next to the back and forward buttons). Firefox will ask you for confirmation, while Chrome will just go ahead and make the change. Here’s a screenshot if you’re confused.
For some strange reason, Chrome doesn’t display the home button by default, but adding it is no problem: click the wrench in the upper-right-hand corner, then Preferences, then check “Show Home Button.”

 

The More Involved Method
If you want some more options, like having multiple tabs as your home page, you need to head over to your browser’s options dialog box. This will usually be in Tools -> Options or Edit -> Preferences, though many recent browsers have one or two big buttons instead of multiple menus, so click the button and then Options or Preferences.

 

To set multiple tabs in Firefox, browse to all the pages you want, then open the options and select Use Current Pages. In Chrome, under the “On Startup” section in Preferences, select “Open the Following Pages,” then type or paste the addresses you want.

 

SorenscorchgeekBjornstad
http://www.thetechnicalgeekery.com

 

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.

 

Copyright 2012 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.

 

Avoiding Unnecessary Typing When Entering URLs

Repeatedly typing http://www.google.com gets old really fast. Here are three ways to avoid typing any more of a web address than you need to.

1: Simplify the URL
Most people probably already know this trick, but every modern web browser will fill in the http:// for you if you omit it. You also don’t normally need to include the www., but in this case a few stupid websites will return an error if you omit it. (When I attempted to contact my school corporation about the fact that their website did this, I discovered that nowhere on the webpage was there a webmaster email.)

 

So all you really need to type is google.com. (Additional Note: If your website has something else before the dots, like this website, tips.thetechnicalgeekery.com, that’s called a subdomain, and you cannot omit that–it leads to a different page than if it was missing.)

 

2: Ctrl-Enter
If you type just google and press Ctrl-Enter, the .com and .www parts will be filled in for you. Some browsers support additional modifiers of Ctrl and Shift to allow you to also use this trick for .org and .net websites as well–try it and see if yours does.

 

3: Autocomplete
Google Chrome has a really nice feature where beginning to type runs an incremental search through websites you visit frequently. So all I have to do to get to Google is press Ctrl-T to open a new tab, type a g, and google.com will appear in the address bar. Then I just press Enter and I’m there. This can save you an enormous number of keystrokes, and is one of the primary reasons that I use Chrome. If you don’t have Chrome, you might consider trying it out.

 

—–
Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad
http://www.thetechnicalgeekery.com

 

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.

 

Copyright 2012 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.

A Little Refreshment: Reloading the Current Page

If a website has changed, you often don’t see the changes right away. A few sites, such as Facebook, do dynamically update the website, which usually makes this tip unnecessary. However, occasionally Facebook and similar websites do fail to update, and most websites will still need manual refreshing. Here’s what to do if you suspect the website on your screen isn’t the most recent version.

1: Refreshing a Page
The Refresh button has been moved all over the screen by many major browsers lately. It’s usually either next to the Back and Forward buttons or at the end of the address bar. Here are screenshots for Chrome and Firefox.

To reload the page, just click the button. Most of the time this will load the most recent copy of the page with no problems.

2: Really Refreshing a Page
Sometimes your browser thinks it’s smarter than you, and when you push Refresh it just loads a copy from your computer’s cache. (The cache stores copies of frequently accessed Web resources on your computer so that pages can be loaded more quickly.) So even after you’ve pushed Refresh, you may not actually have the site’s most recent version.

If you’re suspicious that you still don’t have the latest version of a site, simply hold down the Ctrl key while hitting Refresh. This will disallow loading from the cache and force a full copy of the page to be downloaded from the Web. (A few browsers use Shift instead, so if it still doesn’t work it can’t hurt to try that as well.)

3: Keyboard Shortcuts
I’m a big fan of keyboard shortcuts. I use Refresh several times a day, so I get really annoyed by having to try to click the button every time I need it, especially since it’s in different places in different browsers. So the handy shortcut for Refresh is F5. (This also works in combination with Ctrl; see section 2.)

If you don’t like F5 for whatever reason, a few browsers also accept Control-R.

4: Refreshing Other Stuff
The refresh concept (and the F5 keyboard shortcut) also works for folders on your computer. If you save a new file in a folder, for example, but currently have a window open showing that folder, the folder may not display the new file. Pressing F5 will tell it to look for files again, thus showing your new file. If your desktop isn’t displaying changes, you can use this trick there too: click anywhere on the desktop, then press F5.


Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad
http://www.thetechnicalgeekery.com

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.

Copyright 2011 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.

Using Your Middle Mouse Button In Your Browser

Most people don’t even know what a middle mouse button is, let alone how to use it. But it is enormously useful. Here are a few ways to deal with tabs in your browser much more easily.

“But I don’t have a middle mouse button!”: That’s what 90% of people I inform about this tip say. Of course, they’re wrong–unless you have a really old mouse, you have a middle mouse button. To middle-click, you just press down on the scroll wheel. (If you have a laptop, you can usually emulate a middle-click by pressing down the left and right touchpad buttons simultaneously, and if you have a Mac with one mouse button you can hold down the Command key and click.)

A disclaimer: I only had access to the Chrome and Firefox browsers while writing this tip. While I personally believe you should be using one of these two browsers, I understand you may not be, in which case these tips will probably work but I can’t guarantee it.

1: Closing a Tab
To close a tab, you could aim for the little tiny “x” button in the corner of the tab. Or you could just middle-click anywhere on the tab and save yourself a couple of seconds every time you close a tab.

2: Opening a Link in a New Tab
I couldn’t live without this trick. Sometimes you’re researching a topic and come across a link that looks interesting, but you want to be able to easily return to the current page. Don’t follow the link (and maybe several more links in the same fashion) and then click the Back button a few times–this is a lot of wasted effort, and you might even have trouble figuring out which page of the 5 you just visited was the original one. Instead, middle-click the link, then switch to the new tab. When you’re done with the new page, you can simply close the tab to get back to where you were.

This is also really nice if you’re reading a page and see something that looks interesting, but you don’t want to stop reading the page you’re on to look at it. Instead of trying to remember all the links you wanted to look at, middle-click the link, then move to that tab when you’ve finished reading the original page.

I also use this trick when visiting news sites: I scroll through the list of available articles, middle-click all the ones I want to read, then close the home page. In this way I can easily read all the articles I’m interested in without having to click the Back button, wait for the page to load, and find a new article each time.

3: Opening the Previous Page in a New Tab
Tip #2 is all well and good, but sometimes you don’t realize that you still needed a page until after you click a link on it. In this case, you can middle-click the Back button, which will bring up the page you were just visiting in a new tab. This option is even kind enough to duplicate your browsing history in the new tab, so you can still click Back and Forward in the new one (unlike if you opened a link in a new tab, where the new tab starts with no history).

4: Duplicating a Tab
If you want to duplicate a tab, you can middle-click on the Refresh button, which will open a new tab pointed at the URL of the current page. In practice, usually this tip is unnecessary because you can use 2 or 3 to accomplish the same thing.


Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad
http://www.thetechnicalgeekery.com

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.

Copyright 2011 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.

Six Handy Browser Shortcuts

Want to know a quick way to scroll down the page without the mouse? Or reopen a tab you closed by mistake? Here are six ways to move around your browser more efficiently.

  1. Press the spacebar to scroll down one screen. This allows you to read a page without having to keep scrolling the mouse or pressing the arrow key. About two lines from the previous page will be left on the new page so that you don’t lose your place.
  2. Open a new tab by pressing Control-T. It’s sure a lot easier than trying to hit the little plus button next to the tabs.
  3. Open a new window by pressing Control-N. You probably don’t need a new window very often, but it’s an easy shortcut to remember for when you do.
  4. In Chrome, open a new incognito window by pressing Control-Shift-N. (In Firefox, enter private browsing mode by pressing Control-Shift-P.) This doesn’t save history, cookies, or anything else, so you don’t leave any traces of where you’ve been when in private browsing mode. (Well, the web server can still collect information about your visit. But your computer stays free of any information.)
  5. Press Control-L to move your cursor to the address bar. This can save you reaching for the mouse when you’re ready to visit a new site. It’s especially handy in Chrome, where you can easily start a search from the address bar.
  6. Press Control-Shift-T to reopen a tab you just closed. This is really nice when you accidentally close a tab, or if after a few minutes you realize you weren’t really done with that reference page. It sure beats having to open your browsing history and find it again.


Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad
http://www.thetechnicalgeekery.com

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.

Copyright 2011 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.

Finding Text on a Web Page Quickly

Chances aren’t bad you already know the basics of this trick, but if you don’t, it could save you a heck of a lot of time. If you already know the trick, I have a couple of wicked cool shortcuts you probably don’t know.

(Disclaimer: I only had access to the Chrome and Firefox browsers while writing this tip. I find that these are the best browsers available today; if you don’t have one of them, check them out! If you are stuck using a different browser, these tips will probably work anyway, but I can’t guarantee it.)

Part 1: Searching for Text on a Page
In every modern browser, you can quickly search for any text on the current page by pressing Ctrl-F (“find”) and typing a word or words in the search box. In most browsers you’ll be brought to the first result and all results will be highlighted as you type. Here are screenshots for Chrome and Firefox users.

Part 2: Cool Tricks
Now here’s the stuff you probably didn’t know:

1. Alternative Ways to Start Searching
If you don’t like the Ctrl-F shortcut, in most browsers you can use F3 instead. In Firefox, you can also use a slash (‘/’). This search works slightly differently from the normal search box (for instance, there is no “Find Next” button); see a screenshot.

If you use Firefox, there’s an even faster way to start searching if you set an option. Go to Edit –> Preferences (or Tools –> Options depending on the version of Firefox you use), select the Advanced tab at the top, and check the box “Search for text when I start typing” (screenshot). Now when you’re outside of any elements on a web page that accept text (text boxes, search boxes, drop-down menus, etc.), Firefox will automatically start a quick find.

2. Continuing A Search (and more tricks)
Because of the differences between browsers, this section is really confusing. So I made three versions, the Chrome version, the Firefox version, and the both version. Pick the one that corresponds to the browser you use — if you use both or neither, you probably want to plod through the both version so that you know the differences. (If you use Internet Explorer or Safari or some other strange and weird browser, take a look at the tips and experiment to see which ones work for you.)

____CHROME____
Beginning a search is all well and good, but if the first result isn’t what you wanted, how do you move on? When you start a search, you’ll get a couple of buttons that let you move to the next or previous result. Clicking these buttons with the mouse works just fine, but if you don’t have your hands on the mouse or you’re clicking other places on the website with your mouse, you may find that repeatedly returning to the buttons is a bit inefficient.

In this case, you need the F3 (Find Next) key. Pressing F3 will immediately jump you to the next result on the page. (If you close the search box and then realize you need to keep searching, F3 will still take you to the next result.) If you miss a result and need to go back, just use Shift-F3.

But F3 is kind of hard to reach, isn’t it? Just pressing Enter (and Shift-Enter) does exactly the same thing while you’re in the search box. There is only one small limitation: if you close the search box, Enter won’t reopen it–only F3 will.

When you press F3, the text in the search box is highlighted, allowing you to easily change the word you’re searching for if you need to.

____FIREFOX____
Beginning a search is all well and good, but if the first result isn’t what you wanted, how do you move on? If you start your search by pressing Ctrl-F or F3, rather than /, you’ll get a couple of buttons that let you move to the next or previous result. Clicking these buttons works just fine, but if you don’t have your hand on the mouse or you’re clicking on other things while searching, you may find that repeatedly returning to the buttons is a bit inefficient. And if you started your search with /, you apparently can’t go to the next result at all.

In this case, you need the F3 (Find Next) key. Pressing F3 will immediately bring you to the next result on the page. (If you close the search box and then realize you need to keep searching, F3 will still take you to the next result.) If you miss a result and need to go back, just use Shift-F3.

But F3 is kind of hard to reach. Just pressing Enter (and Shift-Enter) does exactly the same thing while you’re in the search box. However, this trick does have a couple of limitations:

  • When searching with / (but not when using Control-F), pressing Enter will follow a link if the text found was in a link. If you land on a link and want to keep searching, you need to press F3 instead of Enter.
  • After closing the search box, Enter doesn’t return to a search, only F3 does.

If you don’t think you can remember the differences between F3 and Enter, you can just forget about the Enter tip and use F3 instead–slightly less efficient, but simpler.

____BOTH____
Beginning a search is all well and good, but if the first result isn’t what you wanted, how do you move on? If you start your search by pressing Ctrl-F or F3 in Firefox, or anytime in Chrome, you’ll get a couple of buttons that let you move to the next or previous result. Clicking these buttons with the mouse works just fine, but if you don’t have your hands on the mouse or you’re clicking other places on the website with your mouse, you may find repeatedly returning to the buttons is a bit inefficient.

In this case, you need the F3 (Find Next) key. Pressing F3 will immediately bring you to the next result on the page. (If you close the search box and then realize you need to keep searching, F3 will still take you to the next result.) If you miss a result and need to go back, just use Shift-F3.

But F3 is kind of hard to reach. In both Chrome and Firefox, just pressing Enter (and Shift-Enter) does exactly the same thing while you’re in the search box. However, this one does have a few limitations: In Firefox, when searching with / (NOT when using Control-F), this will follow a link if the text found was in a link. In both Firefox and Chrome, after closing the search box, Enter doesn’t return to a search, only F3 does.

In Chrome, when you press F3, the text in the search box is highlighted, allowing you to easily change the word you’re searching for if you need to. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen in Firefox.

In Firefox, when searching with /, pressing Enter while over a link will follow it.

Part 3: Internet Explorer 7 Notes
While I won’t exactly consider this a complete test, I got a chance to try this tip out in Internet Explorer 7. (Note that the current version is 9, so some of this information might potentially be out of date considering your browser.)

  • Oddly, you can’t use F3 to advance to the next match–but it still works to bring up search in the first place. Go figure.
  • When you press Enter, it seems that the search function finds the first match after where you last clicked on the page (though that point isn’t actually displayed in the browser).
  • You can still use Enter to advance to the next match.


Soren “scorchgeek” Bjornstad
http://www.thetechnicalgeekery.com

If you have found an error or notable omission in this tip, please leave a comment or email me: webmaster@thetechnicalgeekery.com.

Copyright 2011 Soren Bjornstad.
Verbatim copying and redistribution of part or all of this article
is permitted, provided this notice is preserved.