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Browsing Tips for Faster Surfing

If you're like me, the biggest problem you have with the web is that it's just so darned huge. We spend great big chunks of our day visiting sites and still never seem to get to everything on that day's To Surf list. The iPhone helps lessen (but, alas, not eliminate) this problem by allowing you to surf wherever Wi-Fi can be found (or just wherever if you only have a cellular connection). Even so, the faster and more efficient your iPhone surfing sessions are, the more sites you see. In this tip I take you through a few more useful tips for speedier surfing.

Opening and managing multiple browser pages

When you're perusing web pages, what happens when you're on a page that you want to keep reading, but you also need to leap over to another page for something? On your computer's web browser, you probably open another tab, use that tab to open the other page, and then switch back to the first page when you finish. It's an essential web-browsing technique, but can it be done with the Safari browser on your iPhone?

Well, the Safari app may not have tabs, but it has the next best thing: pages. With this feature, you can open a second browser window and load a different page into it. Then, it's just a quick tap and flick to switch between them. You're not restricted to a meager two pages either. Your iPhone lets you open up to eight - count 'em, eight - pages, so you can throw some wild web page parties.

Some web page links are configured to automatically open the page in a new window, so you might see a new page being created when you tap a link. Also, if you add a web clip to your Home screen, tapping the icon opens the web clip in a new Safari page.

Here are the steps to follow to open and load multiple pages:

  1. In Safari, tap the Pages icon in the menu bar (see Figure below). Safari displays a thumbnail version of the current page.

    Pages icon in the menu bar

  2. Tap New Page. Safari opens a blank page using the full screen.
  3. Load a website into the new page. You can do this by selecting a bookmark, entering an address, or whatever.
  4. Repeat Steps 1 to 3 to load as many pages as you need. As you add pages, Safari keeps track of how many are open and displays the number in the Pages icon.

Once you have two or more pages fired up, here are a couple of techniques you can use to impress your friends:

  • Switch to another page. Tap the Pages icon to get to the thumbnail view. Flick right or left to bring the page into view, and then tap the page.
  • When you no longer need a page. Tap the Pages icon, and flick right or left to bring the page into view. Then tap the X in the upper-left corner. Safari trashes the page without a whimper of protest.
Below the page thumbnails you see several dots, one for each open page, with the current page shown as a white dot. Rather than flicking through the pages, tap to the right of the current dot to navigate to the next page, or tap to the left of the current dot to see the previous page.

Working with iCloud tabs

Pages in iPhone Safari, not to mention tabs in iPad Safari and OS X or Windows Safari, are handy browsing tools because they let you keep multiple websites open and available while you surf other sites. That's fine as long as you use just a single device to surf the web, but how realistic is that? It's much more likely that you do some web surfing not only on your iPhone but also on your Mac or Windows PC, your iPad, and perhaps even your iPod touch. So what do you do if you're using your iPhone to surf and you remember a site that's open in a tab on one of your other devices?

In the past, you either had to wait until you could use the other device again or you could try to find the site again on your iPhone. Neither is a satisfying solution, so version 6 of Safari offers a much better idea: iCloud tabs. If you have an iCloud account, you can use it to sync your open Safari tabs in multiple devices, and then access those tabs in your iPhone. For this to work, you must be using Safari 6 on OS X, Windows or iOS, and you must configure iCloud on each of those devices to sync Safari data.

With that done, open Safari on your iPhone, tap the Bookmarks icon in the menu bar and then tap iCloud Tabs. Safari opens the iCloud Tabs screen, which displays a list of the open tabs on your other devices.

Opening a page in the background

When you tap and hold a link and then tap Open in New Page, Safari immediately switches to the new page and loads the link while you wait. That's often the behavior you want because it lets you view the new web page as soon as it loads. However, you might find that most of the time you prefer to stay on the current web page and check out the new page later. In those situations, having to perform those extra taps to get back to the current page gets old in a hurry. The solution is to configure Safari to always open new tabs in the background. Here's how:

  1. On the Home screen, tap Settings. The Settings app slides in.
  2. Tap Safari. Your iPhone displays the Safari screen.
  3. Tap Open Links. Your iPhone displays the Open Links screen.
  4. Tap In Background.

Viewing a page without distractions

It seems like only a few years ago that purse-lipped pundits and furrow-browed futurologists were lamenting that the Internet signaled the imminent demise of reading. With pursuits such as viral videos and online gaming a mere click or two away, who would ever sit down and actually read things? Well, a funny thing happened on the way to the future: people read more now than they ever did. Sure, there's some concern that we're no longer reading long articles and challenging books, but most of us spend much of the day reading online.

On the one hand, this isn't all that surprising because there's just so much text out there, most of it available free, and much of it professionally written and edited. On the other hand, this is actually quite surprising, because reading an article or essay online is no picnic. The problem is the sheer amount of distraction on almost any page: background colors or images that clash with the text; ads above, to the side of, and within the text; site features such as search boxes, feed links, and content lists; and those ubiquitous icons for sharing the article with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and on and on.

Fortunately, Safari can help solve this problem by offering the Reader feature. Reader removes all those extraneous page distractions that just get in the way of your reading pleasure. So, instead of a cacophony of text, icons, and images, you see pure, simple, large-enough-to-be-easily-read text. How do you arrive at this blissful state? By tapping the Reader icon, which appears on the right side of the address bar.

Adding bookmarks manually

Although you've seen that the Safari browser on your iPhone offers a few tricks to ease the pain of typing web page addresses, it's still slower and quite a bit more cumbersome than a full-size, physical keyboard (which lets even inexpert typists rattle off addresses lickety-split). All the more reason that you should embrace bookmarks with all your heart. After all, a bookmark lets you jump to a web page with precisely no typing - just a tap or three and you're there.

You probably want to get your iPhone bookmarks off to a flying start by copying a bunch of existing bookmarks from your Mac or Windows PC.

Syncing bookmarks is a two-way street, which means that any site you bookmark in your iPhone is added to your desktop version of Safari (or Internet Explorer) the next time you sync.

But even if you've done the sync and now have a large collection of bookmarks at your beck and call, it doesn't mean your iPhone bookmark collection is complete. After all, you might find something interesting while you're surfing with the iPhone. If you think you'll want to pay that site another visit down the road, you can create a new bookmark right on the iPhone. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. On the iPhone, use Safari to navigate to the site you want to save.
  2. Tap the Actions icon in the menu bar. This is the icon with the arrow in the middle of the Safari menu bar.
  3. Tap Bookmark. This opens the Add Bookmark screen.
  4. Tap in the top box and enter a name for the site that helps you remember it. This name is what you see when you scroll through your bookmarks.
  5. Tap Bookmarks. This displays a list of your bookmark folders.
  6. Tap the folder you want to use to store the bookmark. Safari returns you to the Add Bookmark screen.
  7. Tap Save. Safari saves the bookmark.

Managing your bookmarks

Once you have a few bookmarks stashed away in the bookmarks list, you may need to perform a few housekeeping chores from time to time, including changing a bookmark's name, address, or folder; reordering bookmarks or folders; or getting rid of bookmarks that have worn out their welcome.

Before you can do any of this, you need to get the Bookmarks list into Edit mode by following these steps:

  1. In Safari, tap the Bookmarks icon in the menu bar. Safari opens the Bookmarks list.
  2. If the bookmark you want to mess with is located in a particular folder, tap to open that folder. For example, if you've synced with Safari, then you should have a folder named Bookmarks Bar that includes all the bookmarks and folders that you've added to the Bookmarks Bar in your desktop version of Safari.
  3. Tap Edit. Your iPhone switches the Bookmarks list to Edit mode. With Edit mode on the go, you're free to toil away at your bookmarks. Here are the techniques to master:
    • Edit bookmark info. Tap the bookmark to fire up the Edit Bookmark screen. From here, you can edit the bookmark name, address, or folder. When you're done, tap the name of the current bookmark folder in the top-left corner of the screen.
    • Change the bookmark order. Use the Drag icon on the right to tap and drag a bookmark to a new position in the list. Ideally, you should move your favorite bookmarks near the top of the list for easiest access.
    • Add a bookmark folder. Tap New Folder to launch the Edit Folder screen, then tap a folder title and select a location. Feel free to use bookmark folders at will because they're a great way to keep your bookmarks neat and tidy (if you're into that kind of thing).
    • Delete a bookmark. No use for a particular bookmark? No problem. Tap the Delete icon - the minus (-) sign to the left of the bookmark - and then tap the Delete button that appears.

When the dust settles and your bookmark chores are done for the day, tap Done to get out of Edit mode.

Saving a page to read later

In your web travels, you'll often come upon a page with fascinating content that you can't wait to read. Unfortunately, a quick look at the length of the article tells you that you're going to need more time than what you currently have available. So what's a body to do? Quickly scan the article and move on with your life? No, when you come across good web content, you need to savor it. So, should you bookmark the article for future reference? That's not bad, but bookmarks are really for things you want to revisit often, not for pages that you might only read once.

The best solution is the Safari feature called the Reading List. As the name implies, this is a simple list of things to read. When you don't have time to read something now, add it to your Reading List and you can read it at your leisure.

There are a couple of techniques you can use to add a page to your Reading List:

  • Use Safari to navigate to the page that you want to read later, tap the Actions icon, and then tap Add to Reading List.
  • Tap and hold a link for the page that you want to read later and then tap Add to Reading List.

When you're settled into your favorite easy chair and have the time (finally!) to read, open Safari, tap the Bookmarks icon, and then tap Reading List. Safari displays the Unread list and you just tap the article you want to read. Safari immediately removes the page from the Unread list, but if you need to see it again, tap All in the Reading List.

Retracing your steps with the handy History list

Bookmarking a website is a good idea if that site contains interesting or fun content that you want to revisit in the future. However, sometimes you may not realize that a site had useful data until a day or two later. Similarly, you might like a site's stuff but decide against bookmarking it, only to regret that decision down the road. You could waste a big chunk of your day trying to track down the site. Unfortunately, you may have run into Murphy's Web Browsing Law: a cool site that you forget to bookmark is never found again.

Fortunately, your iPhone has your back. As you navigate the nooks and crannies of the web, iPhone keeps track of where you go, storing the name and address of each page in the History list. The limited memory on iPhone means that it can't store tons of sites, but it might have the one you're looking for. Here's how to use it:

  1. In Safari, tap the Bookmarks icon in the menu bar. Safari opens the Bookmarks list.
  2. If you see the Bookmarks screen, skip to Step 3. Otherwise, tap the folder names that appear in the upper-left corner of the screen until you get to the Bookmarks screen.
  3. Tap History. Safari opens the History screen. It shows the sites you've visited today at the top, followed by a list of previous surfing dates.
  4. If you visited the site you're looking for on a previous day, tap that day. Safari displays a list of only the sites you visited on that day.
  5. Tap the site you want to revisit. Safari loads it.