What is a web browser?

The Computer Corner

By Charles Miller

It is fair for me to assume that everyone reading this uses a web browser, even those who say they have no idea what a browser is. A web browser is commonly referred to simply as a “browser” and is the software application on your computer, tablet or smart phone used for viewing the World Wide Web. The major web browsers are Microsoft Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Safari.

When asked what browser software they use, unsophisticated users are often heard to answer “The Internet.” Well, there is no software named “The Internet.” The internet is a network of computers and servers, it is not a software program found on your computer. Browser software such as Internet Explorer or Safari is on your computer and is what is used to view content on the internet.

Your web browser is very likely the program you use the most on your computer, and so it is highly recommended you know its name and also learn at least a little about its parts. You will find it most helpful to know the correct names for these elements when you ask for help because nobody will understand your question if you ask for help with “the thingy next to the whatchamacallit.”

Let us start by opening your browser where you will see lots of doodads and thingamajigs. At the absolute top of your browser will be the “Title Bar” where you almost always see the title of the web page that you are currently viewing (yahoo.com, hotmail.com, etc.) and usually the name of your browser (Safari, Opera, etc.).

Below the Title Bar may be found one or more “Toolbars” extending across the window from right to left. This is where you should find the back button, the home button, and the refresh button etc. This toolbar is a part of your browser software, but there are other toolbars that are optional and can be added from third-party vendors. These include advertising toolbars, music toolbars, search toolbars, and specific toolbars for eBay, Amazon, and other companies.

Also near the top of your browser window will be found the “Address Bar” showing you the whole URL or website address for the page you are currently viewing (http://www.yahoo.com/mx for example). The Address Bar is where you type in the name of a website you wish to visit.

Next is the “Search Bar” which may or may not be there. Some browsers combine the Address Bar and Search Bar into one, but others have separate Search Bars. Here is where you enter something for which you want to search.

At the very bottom of the screen there may be a “Status Bar” telling you what your browser is doing at the moment. This is usually the progress of loading a page, any error messages, etc. The Status Bar can be disabled and so you may not have one showing on your screen.

“Scroll Bars” appear on the right or bottom of the Display Window any time the window is not big enough to display the entire page. Use your mouse or the wheel of your mouse to drag the elevator button to navigate the page in the Display Window.

Did I forget “Display Window?” Not yet! All of the Title Bar, Address Bar, Status Bar and Tool Bars are collectively referred to as the “chrome” of the browser. Chrome (capitalized) is different from chrome (lowercase) and shame on Google for choosing a name for their browser that conflicts with the prior use of this technical term.

Everything outside the chrome is the “Display Window” of the browser, and this is where the content not on your computer is displayed. So what is it that is not on your computer? The Display Window is where you see the content that is on the server at Hotmail or the server at The New York Times or on the server at some other web page you visit.

Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant, a frequent visitor to San Miguel since 1981 and now practically a full-time resident. He may be contacted at 044-415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at) SMAguru.com.

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