No matter how big the screen or how effective the software, web browsing on your smartphone just doesn’t match the ease of browsing on a computer. It’s never going to be perfect, but it can be a lot better. Here’s how to make browsing on your smartphone suck less.
Memorize Helpful Shortcuts
All mobile web browsers have some idea that they suck—or, perhaps more accurately, they know of their shortcomings. When you only have some much screen real estate, you can’t include every feature within tapping distance. You have to hide buttons and functionality elsewhere. Mobile browsing is frustrating when you don’t know where to find these things or what tricks to employ, but you can fix all of that with a mild amount of education.
Which tricks you need to know depends on which mobile browser you use. We’ve compiled tips for both Safari and Chrome, the most popular mobile web browsers. Pick the one you use and check out the tips below.
- Search within a page by typing what you want in the address bar, then swiping to the bottom of the results that appear. You’ll find a section called “On This Page” that will allow you to choose an instance of the phrase you searched for and see it highlighted in context on the web page you’re viewing.
- Quickly type domain extensions by tapping and holding the period (“.”) key. This will bring up a hidden list of domain extensions for you to choose and avoid the trouble of typing. Note: this only works this way in iOS 7. If you are running an earlier version of iOS, just tap and hold the “.com” key.
- Swipe through your browser history to avoid dealing with buttons. Apple added a great gesture in iOS 7 that helps you move quickly through your history by swiping from the left or right. The left to right takes you backwards and right to left takes you forwards. It’s not that hard to hit a button, but these gestures are a lot more natural and easy to use.
- Add web sites to favorites for quick access. If you go to a site often, hit the share button and choose the “Add Bookmark” option. Select the “Favorites” location and it’ll pop up as an option in every new tab you create. This makes launching common sites a lot faster and easier.
- Zoom where you want to zoom on any site. If you find it annoying that some sites don’t let you pinch to zoom in and out as you please, you can fix that. Just open Chrome’s settings, go to the Accessibility section, and turn on a feature called “Force enable zoom.”
- Search for text on a page by clicking the menu icon, choose find, and type what you’re looking for.
- Swipe horizontally across the top toolbar to switch between tabs. Left goes to the tab on the left and right goes to the tab to the right, just as you’d expect.
- Swipe down from the tab icon to view all open tabs. Just put your finger on the button and swipe down. Chrome will take care of the rest.
Employ Bookmarklets to Handle Tedious Tasks
You can’t really install extensions on mobile browsers, but you can add bookmarklets to do a lot of the same work for you. Aside from saving web pages for later using services like Pocket, you can enhance search, make pages easier to read, share content on Facebook and Google+, find a site’s reputation, convert a PDF to HTML, and much more. For tons of options, check out these mobile browser-friendly bookmarklets.
Use Text Expansion
Typing can slow down web browsing significantly when you have a lot to enter. Text expansion can fix that by allowing you to create typing shortcuts that expand into larger pieces of text. This can save tons of typing time on any platform, but especially on a smartphone.
Figure out what you type frequently into a browser (e.g. “http://” or your email address) and create typing shortcuts for these things. If you use an iPhone, you have this feature built in and you can learn how to use it from our guide. Android users can install an app.
Accept the Limitations
Browsing on your phone isn’t ever going to be great because you’re dealing with a small screen and several points of potential error. While you can handle some of these issues with the tips above, some web browsing is just better suited for a computer (or at least a tablet). For that reason you need to accept these limitations and know when to save those tasks for a more capable machine. Furthermore, you should keep your smartphone and computer tightly integrated to make link-sharing simple.
Android users can access their bookmarks in the cloud easily with Chrome. iPhone users can do the same with Safari, but seeing as most people don’t use Safari you might want another way. Either use Chrome on your iPhone, or (if you have a Mac) download CloudyTabs for access to iPhone’s Safari bookmarks. On any platform you can use bookmarklets for services like Pocket to save things to read for later, too, if you prefer. There are a lot of ways to move data from your smartphone to your computer, so choose one you like and utilize it when you’re sick of browsing on a tiny screen.
You can’t fix every smartphone browsing problem, but you can avoid too many annoyances with a setup that suits you.