My husband has been known to fall asleep in his recliner while we are watching television. He never fails to wake up at the most important part of the show and ask me, "What happened?" When I returned to the world of technology training after a 15 year stint as a full-time Mom, I felt just like my husband. I knew the beginning and I had caught bits and pieces of the middle, but I felt like I had missed some of the most important pieces of information that would help me make sense of this strange new world of technology. I didn’t know what parts I had missed so I went back to the basics. In this column I am going to take you back to basics starting with Internet browsers.

In the last 15 years the center of technology has shifted from software programs on personal computers (like WordPerfect, Word and Excel) to the Internet or more specifically the World Wide Web. The Internet is a vast network of computers connected to each other. The World Wide Web is the part of the Internet that links documents to each other. These documents are written in hyper-text markup language or HTML. To view these HTML documents you need a browser.
You can think of a browser as a translator between you and the web. There are four popular browsers:

  • Internet Explorer is the best known because it has been included with every version of Windows since Windows 95.
  • Chrome is gaining in popularity, it is owned by the king of search engines Google.
  • Firefox is owned by Mozilla, a non-profit organization dedicated to making the web better.
  • Safari is owned and distributed by Apple on their Macintosh products.

All of these browser are either included with your computer or can be downloaded for free from their websites. Since Internet Explorer has been included on every personal computer running Windows I will use it to illustrate the parts of a browser.

To launch Internet Explorer click on this icon.  Note: you need to be connected to the internet either through a modem, DSL, Wi-Fi or other type of connection. 

The window that opens will look similar to the one below. At the top of the window is the Title Bar which gives you access to the Windows commands Minimize, Maximize (Restore) and Close.


Below the title bar is the Address Bar with shortcuts to some of the most often used commands.

Tabs allow you to have more than one web page open at a time. To open a New Tab on the blank box after the last open tab. This opens a new window with your home page.

Below the open tabs row are three bars, the Menu bar, the Favorites bar and the Command bar.

  • You can access all of the browsers commands through the Menu bar.
  • The Favorites bar is a shortcut to the websites you have marked as favorites.
  • The Command bar features shortcuts to common tasks.

Clicking on one of the double tipped arrow icons displays more options.

By default these are the toolbars displayed. You can hide or display toolbars by selecting View: Toolbars from the menu bar. The toolbars with a check mark are currently displayed. To hide a bar click on the check mark. To unhide, click the empty check box.

If you accidentally close the Menu bar, right-click on a blank area of any of the other toolbars and select Menu Bar from the shortcut menu.

Setting Your Home Page

  1. Navigate to the page you want as your home page.
  2. Click on the down arrow next to the icon that looks like a house on the Command Bar.

  3. Select Add or change home page…which will display the following dialog box.
  4. Select either:
    1. Use the webpage as your only home page
    2. Add this webpage to your home page tabs
    3. Use the current tab set as your home page
  5. The next time you launch Internet Explorer your home page or home page tab set will be displayed.
  6. To return Home click the home icon or click the New Tab to open a new window.

Save Web Sites as Favorites

Favorites allow you to save the addresses of web sites you visit frequently.

  1. Navigate to the website you want to save, a good one would be
  2. Click the first icon  on the Favorites Bar and the web address will be immediately added to the Favorites Bar.
  3. You can also click the star next to the home button on the address bar. Either select one of the folders shown or click on the down arrow next to the Add to Favorites for more options.

Other Browsers

If you chose to download of the other browsers, like Chrome or Firefox, the end-user experience is very similar to Internet Explorer with a few differences in terminology. For instance Favorites are called Bookmarks.

The designs of Chrome and Firefox are cleaner than Internet Explorer. In my experience they are also faster and more secure.


To Set Up Chrome

  1. Go to the Chrome web site.
  2. Click the Download button.
  3. Agree to the Terms of Service.
  4. You may see a dialog box asking for permission to download to your hard drive, click Yes.
  5. When it is finished installing Chrome will open automatically.


To Set Up Firefox

  1. Go to the Firefox web site.
  2. Click the Download button.
  3. Click Run to launch the setup wizard.
  4. Follow the steps.

Whichever browser you chose be sure to either bookmark or favorite, the website built with you in mind.

Becky has been on the cutting edge of technology for three decades. As an independent contractor she taught end-users over 50 software programs, became a help desk support technician for a major law firm and a technical writer for a government agency. She shares her technical knowledge and experience on her blog, Technology with a Buzz, and in her book series, The Retired Housewife’s Guides for the Technically Challenged.