Using a Web Browser

Using a web browser is vital for doing various things online. Understand how to use a web browser in this free lesson.

Using a web browser

A web browser is a type of software that allows you to find and view websites on the Internet. Even if you didn't know it, you're using a web browser right now to read this page! There are many different web browsers, but some of the most common ones include Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Mozilla Firefox.

No matter which web browser you use, you'll want to learn the basics of browsing the Web. In this lesson, we'll talk about navigating to different websites, using tabbed browsing, creating bookmarks, and more.

Watch the video below to learn the basics of using a web browser.

We'll be using the Google Chrome web browser throughout this lesson, but you can use any browser you want. Keep in mind that your browser may look and act a bit differently, but all web browsers work in basically the same way.

URLs and the address bar

Each website has a unique address, called a URL (short for Uniform Resource Locator). It's like a street address that tells your browser where to go on the Internet. When you type a URL into the browser's address bar and press Enter on your keyboard, the browser will load the page associated with that URL.

In the example below, we've typed www.bbc.com/travel into the address bar.

the address bar

Links

Whenever you see a word or phrase on a website that's blue or underlined in blue, it's probably a hyperlink, or link for short. You might already know how links work, even if you've never thought about them much before. For example, try clicking the link below.

Hey, I'm a link! Click me!

Links are used to navigate the Web. When you click a link, it will usually take you to a different webpage. You may also notice that your cursor changes into a hand icon whenever you hover over a link.

clicking a link

If you see this icon, it means you've found a link. You'll find other types of links this way too. For example, many websites actually use images as links, so you can just click the image to navigate to another page.

Review our lesson on Understanding Hyperlinks to learn more.

Navigation buttons

The Back and Forward buttons allow you to move through websites you've recently viewed. You can also click and hold either button to see your recent history.

back and forward buttons

The Refresh button will reload the current page. If a website stops working, try using the Refresh button.

the refresh button

Tabbed browsing

Many browsers allow you to open links in a new tab. You can open as many links as you want, and they'll stay in the same browser window instead of cluttering your screen with multiple windows.

To open a link in a new tab, right-click the link and select Open link in new tab (the exact wording may vary from browser to browser).

opening a link in a new tab

To close a tab, click the X.

closing a tab

To create a new blank tab, click the button to the right of any open tabs.

creating a new tab

Bookmarks and history

If you find a website you want to view later, it can be hard to memorize the exact web address. Bookmarks, also known as favorites, are a great way to save and organize specific websites so you can revisit them again and again. Simply locate and select the Star icon to bookmark the current website.

bookmarking a webpage

Your browser will also keep a history of every site you visit. This is another good way to find a site you visited previously. To view your history, open your browser settings—usually by clicking the icon in the upper-right corner—and select History.

viewing browsing history


Downloading files

Links don't always go to another website. In some cases, they point to a file that can be downloaded, or saved, to your computer.

If you click a link to a file, it may download automatically, but sometimes it just opens within your browser instead of downloading. To prevent it from opening in the browser, you can right-click the link and select Save link as (different browsers may use slightly different wording, like Save target as).

downloading a file

Review our lesson on Downloading and Uploading to learn more.

Saving images

Sometimes you may want to save an image from a website to your computer. To do this, right-click the image and select Save image as (or Save picture as).

downloading an image

Plug-ins

Plug-ins are small applications that allow you to view certain types of content within your web browser. For example, Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight are often used to play videos, while Adobe Reader is used to view PDF files.

If you don't have the correct plug-in for a website, your browser will usually provide a link to download it. There may also be times when you need to update your plug-ins. Review our lesson on Installing and Updating Plug-ins to learn more.

plug-in warning