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Computer & Mobile Internet Browsers – How to Choose the Right One

Whatever you search for or surf to on the World Wide Web, you can’t enter cyberspace without an internet browser.

But with five different main players in the market, it’s never easy to choose the right one. If you own a PC desktop or laptop, you may be using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer by default, because it’s simpler when running a machine using Windows 7.

If you own an Apple iMac or MacBook, then you’re probably surfing through Safari, Apple’s own browser that comes pre-installed.

And if you carry an Android smartphone in your pocket, it’s more than likely to have its own native browser built-in, while the iPhone and iPad again use Apple’s Safari.

But what about Google’s Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and even the lesser-known but massively popular Opera?

This week Microsoft was forced to release a temporary software fix for IE in order to protect its millions of users worldwide from being infected with a Trojan computer virus.

But while all browsers have their own flaws, they also all have different and often exciting features that could prove more useful than sticking with the browser placed at your fingertips initially.

Here’s a quick guide to the five major players in the internet browsing stakes.

» Microsoft Internet Explorer

The latest version of Microsoft’s browser is Internet Explorer 9 and it works only with the Windows Vista or Windows 7 operating systems. This will be replaced with IE10 when Windows 8 is released, most probably at the end of October.

It can be downloaded here along with the previous versions IE8 and IE7 which are best for anyone still using Windows XP.

Microsoft say it is the fastest Internet Explorer experience yet and main features include one box searching and URL entry, the ability to pin your favourite sites to the taskbar in order to open them in one click and enhanced technology behind-the-scenes to allow the focus to be on the website you are viewing not the browser itself.

So controls and buttons have been reduced and shrunk while the most-used Back button is now bigger. Using the Snap function, you can also view two websites side-by-side and there is InPrivate Browsing that won’t record viewed pages in your History.

While all browsers now have Tabs to move between pages rather than having to open a brand-new window each time, IE9 now colour codes those tabs to show related ones, making them easier to spot if you have loads open at once.

» Apple Safari

With the recent upgrades for its Mac OS X operating software to Mountain Lion, Apple has improved the browsing on Safari significantly. But Safari is not just available for Macs, it is also available to download for PC users too.

Among the best features are integration with social networks Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to tweet and update your Status to share web pages straight from the browser. Again, like with IE9, there’s one box for both search and URL entry with Safari suggesting possible websites as you type.

In Mountain Lion you can view each tab as a large preview image, while multi-touch gestures using your trackpad allow you to swipe through them. But one massive improvement is the ability to view the tabs you have open on your Mac version of Safari on your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Using the iCloud system, it will remember what sites you have open so you can access them from any device and carry on surfing wherever you go.

The new Safari is also noticeably faster and also includes a Reading List that saves content from web pages you look at allowing you to then read them when offline. See all 250+ features here.

Using Safari Reader you can also hide all the adverts to concentrate on the text of a webpage while Private Browsing and built-in security is also offered. In OS X, Voice Over will also read out what appears on the browser.

» Google Chrome

Chrome, developed by Google, is fast becoming extremely popular and rivalling Mozilla’s Firefox for second place in browsing downloads. It is available for PC, Mac and Mobile – both Android and Apple’s iOS 6 for iPhone 5, iPad and iPod touch. It also comes pre-installed on Google’s Chromebook laptop.

Chrome is one of the simplest browsers to use and view, as there’s very little on screen other than your open tabs, bookmarks and the webpage itself. That means you get a much fuller view of what you’re surfing without it being complicated by buttons all around it.

By creating an account, you can share your bookmarks across any computer or mobile you’re using Chrome on and it can be personalised with a whole host of themes created by third parties.

The Chrome Web Store features lots of apps from developers that can be downloaded to make your browsing even better while in a similar way, a gallery of Extensions adds new tools for the likes of sharing and taking screenshots.

Chrome is extremely fast, up there with Opera for speed of loading, and offers a range of security features for safer browsing such as warnings if Google feel you may be about to log on to a phishing website.

» Mozilla Firefox

Firefox is an open source browser which means anyone can develop tools to make it better. It is often thought of as the second most-used browser worldwide and until Google Chrome came along, pretty much was the only real rival to Internet Explorer.

As well as being available for PC and Mac, Firefox can also be downloaded onto your Android smartphone.

Like its rivals, it has one box for search and URLs but simply entering a single word will bring up a series of pages choices and Mozilla say its “Awesome Bar” learns your surfing habits to offer better options over time.

Rather than using Bookmarks, you can select pages you use most often to keep open as Tabs all the time while duplicated pages will not be opened as Firefox will simply send you to the original page you had there.

By creating an account, as with Chrome, you can sync your browsing between different computers and mobile while a built-in spell checker can cast a close eye over blog posts you type or emails. Find out more about the features here.

You can also tag webpages with multiple terms and categories making them easy to find and it has an easy to read Library, clearly showing your history and bookmarks. You will also find loads of so-called Add-ons developed by others that can enhance your browsing experience. They’re a bit like the apps you’d use on a smartphone and you can see them all here.

» Opera

The least known of all the five major browsers, Opera is actually massively popular. It is available for Windows and Mac as well as a massive range of phones including the iPhone, Android devices and BlackBerry and tablets.

Like Chrome and Firefox, there are a massive range of add-ons and themes to download to personalise the browsing experience and Opera is lightning fast on whatever platform you are running it. For mobile, it’s one of the best browsing experiences you can find.

Among the computer-based features are the ability to use any search engine you want directly from the address field, the chance to create groups of related tabs in what is known as Stacking and a find function to search text on the web page you are viewing.

There’s a download manager, spell checker, RSS feed reader and you can block a wide range of content with pop-ups blocked by default.

There’s also a Turbo button that can speed up surfing sessions when your Wi-Fi is slow, particularly if you’re using a hotspot where you’re joining lots of people logging on together.

As soon as you open Opera, all of your favourite sites are displayed with thumbnails to choose from and again, like the others, it can be set to share sites viewed across multiple devices.

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