Daily Tips & Tricks for Web Enthusiasts

Browsing the Web

Quickly Focus the URL/Search Bar

One of the best, lesser-known keyboard shortcuts web browsers offer is Command + L (Mac/iOS) or Control + L (Windows/Linux). This keyboard shortcut will immediately bring focus to the location bar and select whatever’s there.

With this keyboard shortcut you can make quick work of many common tasks. Here are some examples for Mac and iOS (to use these on Windows or Linux just use the Control key instead of Command unless otherwise noted):

  • Hit Command + L followed by Command + C to copy the current search or URL.
  • Hit Command + L and immediately start typing to replace whatever’s in the location bar.
  • Hit Command + L and then the left or right arrow keys to go to the beginning or end of whatever’s in the location bar.

A Quick Fix for Unbalanced Stereo Audio

I recently came across a video online that had all the audio on the left channel. It was a recording of a talk, and having the speaker’s voice coming out of only the left speaker was very distracting.

Thankfully, there’s a quick way to fix this. Macs and recent versions of Windows have an accessibility feature that combines stereo audio into a single mono channel (which is then distributed equally to both of your speakers).

On a Mac open System Preferences, choose Accessibility, select Audio from the list on the left, then check the Play stereo audio as mono box.

On Windows 10 press Windows Key + U to bring up the Ease of Access Settings, click on Other Options, then turn on the Mono Audio setting.

After enabling this setting, you can concentrate on what matters. Just remember to turn it off when you’re done!

How to Easily Open a Link in a New Tab

Most of the time, clicking a link on the web will take you somewhere new and leave the previous page behind. That’s not always ideal. Have you ever found yourself in one of these scenarios?

  • You’re shopping, and you want to open multiple products at the same time to compare them.
  • You’re reading an article and come across an interesting link, but you want to read it later without losing your place.
  • You’re doing research, and you’d like to open many search results separately.

You’re in luck: There’s a quick and easy way to open any link in a new tab whenever you want without messing around with settings or preferences!

  • On a Mac, hold the Command key when you click on a link to open it in a new tab.
  • On Windows or Linux, hold the Control key when you click on a link to open it in a new tab.
  • On iOS or Android, long-press on a link and a menu will appear with an option to open the link in a new tab. If you’re on an iOS device that supports force touch or 3D touch, make sure you don’t press too hard.

If you’re using a Mac, Windows, or Linux PC you can also right-click on a link which will present a menu allowing you to open it in a new tab, but using the keyboard is usually much easier and faster. One other thing: Clicking on links as described above may open them in new windows instead of tabs. If you’re getting one behavior and would prefer the other you should be able to adjust this behavior in your web browser’s settings.

Search for Text on Websites (Plus a Bonus Meta Tip!)

An oldie but a goodie: You can search for text on the current web page in any browser by hitting Command + F on Mac or iOS with an external keyboard, or Control + F on Windows or Linux. Just type what you’re looking for and the results will be displayed or highlighted.

Using an iOS device without an external keyboard? You can still search the current web page in Safari by simply typing what you’re looking for in the search/URL bar at the top. Matches on the current page will be shown at the bottom of the results list that appears when you start typing.

Bonus Meta Tip!

There are about 370,000 people born every day, and that number is constantly increasing. How many of them know how to search a web page? How many of them know how to copy and paste? How many of them know what the web is? Zero. They need to learn how to do these things, and in order to learn they need to be taught.

Some of them will teach themselves, some of them will be taught by others. Many will pick up the basics as they go, but many will not. I’ve shown many people, at all ages, things that were second nature to me that came as revelation to them. It’s easy to dismiss stuff like searching for text on a web page as something everyone knows, but not everyone does.

Everyone has their own unique life, and many lives do not include the same exposure or experiences you’ve had. The knowledge you take for granted, the skills you view as basic, innate facts are anything but to someone who doesn’t know them.

Assuming other people know something you take for granted is dangerous and irresponsible. It can lead to unintended negative feelings (no one likes to hear, “I thought everyone knew this!”), bad experiences, and other detrimental outcomes.

When I was trying to decide what to write about today I noticed that Past Justin jotted this down as a possible future tip:

Hit Command/Control + F to search the text of the current web page.

I almost deleted it, thinking it was too simple. Too obvious. Something everyone, everywhere, somehow had instinctual knowledge of. I’m glad I didn’t, and I’m sure everyone reading this who had no idea you could search for text on a web page is glad, too.

Remove Annoying Fixed Elements

Most of the time the navigation here on Core Assistance stays visible as you scroll. However, if your display isn’t very tall, I leave the navigation at the top of the page. This allows more room for content when the site is viewed in a small browser window or on a smartphone.

Unfortunately, a lot of websites these days aren’t so thoughtful. Many sites keep headers, footers, subscription forms, chat prompts, social icons, navigation, and other elements visible at all times, leaving only a tiny area for the actual content.

If this upsets you, you’re not alone. Alisdair McDiarmid was also quite annoyed with these sticky elements, so he created a Kill Sticky bookmarklet to get rid of them. His bookmarklet will remove any element with position: fixed; applied, which should take care of most of the annoying elements you’ll encounter.

Just add his bookmarklet to your bookmarks or favorites bar, then click on it to banish sticky elements when they annoy you. If you want them back, all you have to do is reload the page.

Bonus tip for iPad users: If you’re running iOS 11 or higher you can now drag and drop bookmarklets into the bookmarks panel when Safari is full screen. Just display the bookmarks panel using the bookmarks button in the upper left corner, navigate to where you want the bookmarklet to go, then drag and drop the bookmarklet into the panel.

Understanding Private Browsing

As you browse the web, your web browser saves a lot of information about what you’re doing in order to improve your experience online. Here’s a list of some of the things that your web browser normally remembers:

  • Cookies are stored so websites can recognize you automatically, making it possible to log in once instead of every time you load a new page.
  • Some files from the sites you visit (like stylesheets, scripts, and images) are kept in a local cache so you don’t have to download them every time, making web browsing faster.
  • The information you type into certain form fields is saved and made available the next time you fill out a similar form, saving you time.
  • A list of the websites you visted is kept so you can find that one page you visited last Tuesday.

Most of the time, having your web browser store this stuff is useful and desirable but sometimes you might not want it to. That’s where private browsing comes in. In a private browsing session your web browser doesn’t keep a record of anything.

  • No cookies or local storage entries are kept after your private browsing session ends.
  • The browser cache is disabled.
  • Autofill for forms and searches is turned off.
  • Browsing history is not saved.

Private browsing mode is useful for several reasons. Some sites, like Google, will remember you (even if you don’t log in) and tailor content (like search results) based on your previous activity. If you want to see the raw, unaltered content you can use private browsing to make these sites “forget” about you temporarily.

Another handy use for private browsing is to log in with multiple accounts using the same web browser, or log out without actually logging out. This is possible because the temporary cookies and local storage kept for a private browsing session are totally isolated and separate from your normal cookies and local storage. Changing one has no effect on the other.

A Word of Warning

Now, all of that said, it’s important to understand what private browsing does not do. Just because your web browser isn’t keeping a record of your private browsing session doesn’t mean no information is being revealed or saved elsewhere.

  • Your IP address is not concealed.
  • Your network traffic is not hidden, meaning your ISP, employer, or even people on the same network can still see what you’re doing.
  • The websites you visit can still see that someone is visiting them, and they may even be able to tell it’s specifically you using methods involving your IP address and other browsing data.
  • Your browser may not disable browser extensions when in private browsing mode, and some of those extensions may be recording your browsing history.
  • If your computer is infected with spyware or other malware, or you have monitoring software like a keylogger installed, that software can still keep track of your activity in a private browsing session.
  • Other parts of your computer do keep some records, at a lower level, that can be used to reconstruct part or all of your private browsing history. This includes things like DNS cache entries, examining certain file time stamps, and more. Fairly technical stuff, but not impossible.

Remember, private browsing can be useful in a lot of situations, but it’s not magic. Now that you know how it works you can use it with confidence.

Change the Size of Text on Any Web Page

In almost any web browser you can make text bigger by hitting Command (Mac) or Control (Windows) + = (the key with the plus sign). Want the text smaller? Hit Command/Control + - (the key with the minus sign). It’s also easy to go back to the default text size by hitting Command/Control + 0 (the zero key).

Depending on how the web page you’re viewing was designed, the layout and other elements on the page may scale up and down with the text, the text alone may scale, or the design could break entirely. If you make web pages, it’s important to realize that people can and do scale text up and down. Make sure your site works well when they do!