Browsing the web from a mobile device has never been easier. The Android Browser application was designed specifically for mobile device web browsing and has a number of useful features – some, like Flash support, not found in many other mobile browsers. The Android Browser supports sophisticated navigation which allows you to read content comfortably, even on a small screen. The Browser application also includes support for opening multiple windows simultaneously, sharing pages with friends and directly saving images from the web.
1. Start browsing
The Browser application is a fundamental feature, available on all Android devices and tightly integrated with the operating system. As a user, you can launch the Browser application in a variety of ways. You can launch it from the application listing or by clicking on the Browser icon (the globe) on the Home screen (Fig 1). You can also launch the Browser application from within other applications, such as by clicking on URLs in the Gmail application. The Browser app looks much like any other web browsing software you might be familiar with: the web address is displayed at the top, with the content from that website displayed below it.
2. Configuring the Browser
3. Browsing with the Browser
The Android Browser application was designed specifically for browsing on a relatively small screen. The Browser leverages the touchscreen and simple navigation controls available on the device to support sophisticated navigation without any common input devices like a mouse. You can use your finger or the navigation hardware available on your device (like a directional pad or a trackball) to scroll up, down, left and right within the webpage. There are also a number of other touch controls you can use to navigate pages, for example clicks and touches. You can press on an item such as a link to click on that link. You can press-and-hold an item, such as an image, to launch a context menu with options for what to do with that image (like download it or set it as your wallpaper, etc).
4. Mastering the Browser zoom controls
Take advantage of the zoom controls to zoom in and out of a webpage. Double-tap to zoom in and out. On newer devices, you can use the twofingered pinch-and-zoom method on the webpage to increase the text size or enlarge an image. Did you zoom in too far? If you find you have to pan left and right to read lines of text, you can simply doubletap in the window, causing the text on the page to wrap based upon the boundaries of the screen.
5. Using Bookmarks
You can use the Android Browser to bookmark your favourite websites. To add a bookmark, browse to the webpage, then press the Menu button and choose the ‘Add bookmark’ option (on many devices, you’ll need to press More to see this option). You’ll then be prompted to name your bookmark and save it (Fig 3). To access your existing bookmarks, tap the icon to the right of the website entry field in the Browser. The bookmark listing icon looks like a flag with a star. You can also access your bookmarks by pressing Menu and choosing the Bookmarks option (again you may need to press More first). You’ll be presented with a screen with three tabs (Fig 4): your existing Bookmarks, Most visited sites and your browser’s History.
6. Managing your Browser Windows
The Android Browser has the notion of windows. Much like tabs or separate windows on a desktop browser, these windows allow you to browse more than one website at a time. To open a new Browser Window, press the Menu key, and then choose the Windows option. Choose ‘New window’ within which you’ll be able to enter a different URL. You can use a similar method to switch quickly between windows; simply choose a specific open window from the provided list instead of the ‘New window’ option.
7. Sharing websites with friends
The Android Browser includes great sharing features. When you want to send a webpage to a friend, press the Menu button and choose the ‘Share page’ option (again, you might have to press the More button to find it). You’ll then be presented with a list of applications, like email or messaging apps, that you can use to share the website with your friends. If you have social media apps like Facebook or Twitter installed, they’ll be included in this list as well.
8. Enhancing your Browser experience
The Android Browser supports plugins. One of the most powerful plug-ins is Adobe Flash. With this plug-in enabled, you can view embedded Flash websites and videos otherwise not available to mobile browsers (Fig 5). Adobe has a site designed to highlight great mobile Flash content, found at http://m.flash.com. You can download the Adobe Flash plug-in from the Android Market. Published by Adobe Systems, the plug-in is (currently) called Flash Player 10.1; when installed, the plug-in will not appear in the application list. Once installed, Flash can be enabled or disabled in the Browser using the Enable plug-ins option located in the Browser Settings.