Alternatively referred to as a web browser, a browser is a software program created as a simplified means to present and explore content on the World Wide Web. These pieces of content, including pictures, videos, and web pages, are connected using hyperlinks and classified with Uniform Recourse Identifiers (URLs).
There have been many different web browsers that have come and gone over the years; the first, named WorldWideWeb (later changed to Nexus) was invented by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990. However, the first graphical browser and widely used browser that help bring popularity to the Internet was NCSA Mosaic.
List of current Internet browsers
What happens when you first open a browser?
When you first open your Internet browser it will typically load your homepage.
Note: If you changed your browser settings it may also open the last opened web pages or all tabs you had opened when it was last closed.
Getting around in a browser
Each browser has a navigation toolbar that helps you find your way around the Internet. As seen in the images below, the navigation toolbar has undergone significant changes to streamline its appearance and functionality. However, the toolbar is likely never going to lose the navigation arrows and address bar.
Overview of browser bar buttons, menus, and functions
As we mentioned in the previous section, over time, many Internet browser buttons and options have either been moved or done away with completely. Consequently, some of the options mentioned below may not be immediately visible on your browser.
Tip: In certain browsers, pressing the Alt key on your keyboard shows hidden options.
Nearly all modern browsers today have moved advanced options and features in the upper right or left-hand corner of the browser window. Each browser's menu button is different:
For example, Internet Explorer uses , Chrome uses , Firefox uses , and Opera uses .
The back button visits the previous page that referred you to the page you are currently viewing. Typically this button resembles an arrow pointing to the left.
The forward button moves you forward a page. It only works if you have previously used the back button. If you have not gone back, and your browser shows a forward button, it will be grayed out.
The stop button no longer exists in the majority of modern web browsers. However, it's function (to stop a web page from loading) may still be executed by pressing the Esc key.
As you browse the Internet the browser cache's data it downloads, meaning they store some or all parts of each page you visit on your computer. This feature is useful as it allows users to not have to download the full page each time they visit the same site. On some sites, you may want to refresh the page to get the latest version; e.g. on a news site. The Refresh button can also be used to reload a page that has failed to load because of an error.
Tip: Press the F5 key or Ctrl + R to refresh the page from the keyboard.
The Home button is used to return users to their default web page; the same page that loads when the browser is first opened.
In the past, the Search button was used to open a user's default search page or execute a search on the text found in the address or URL text field. Today's browsers have what is called an Omnibox, which is a search function built into the address bar.
This function is used to make the browser window a fullscreen; temporarily removing the toolbar, buttons, and address bar. Often, this view mode may be toggled on and off by pressing the F11 key on your keyboard.
This feature allows users to view the which pages that have been visited since the browser history was last cleared or created. All your saved pages are stored in your Internet cache.
Tip: The shortcut key for history for most browsers is Ctrl+H.
This feature, although no longer a button and may be accessed through the main settings menu or pressing Ctrl + P on the keyboard.
This button no longer exists but was used to increase or decrease the size of a font; an option now covered by the zoom feature.
On modern browsers, holding down the Ctrl key and pressing either the + or - key zooms in or out, increasing and decreasing the size of font and images. To reset the zoom function to its default size, press Ctrl + 0 (zero) at the same time.
Used to open a user's preferred e-mail program. Today, this option is no longer found in browsers.
Used to open and edit the web page you are currently viewing in an HTML editor. Today, no longer found in browsers.
Browser related help pages
- How do I clear my Internet browser history?
- How to determine your browser, browser version, and installed browser plugins.
- Can I have more than one Internet browser installed?
- History of the Internet.
- Full list of Internet browsers help and support.