Chapter 4. Surf the Web
Sure, you can surf the Web on a smartphone. But odds are you strain your neck and squint your eyes to read the tiny screen, even when you zoom in for a closer look. For most people, microbrowsing is fine on a train or waiting in line at the cineplex, but who wants to do that in a coffee shop, campus library, or on the couch?
Browsing the Web on an iPad eliminates the old strain ‘n’ squint. Its 10-inch screen shows you pretty much a whole web page at once. And forget mouse-clicking—the iPad uses a touch-sensitive version of Apple’s Safari browser, so your fingers do the walking around the Web. You jump from link to link with a tap, and zoom in on pages with a two-finger spread. And the latest version of mobile Safari, the one that arrived in March 2011, is the fastest one yet, displaying web pages more quickly than ever before.
From the basics of tablet-style browsing to tips on Web security, this chapter gives you the grand tour of Safari on the iPad, your wide-open window to the World Wide Web.
Take a Safari Tour
The iPad makes it easy to get to the Web. Just tap the Safari icon there on your Home screen (circled); the first time you open the browser, you see an empty window, ready to host web pages. Tap the address bar so the iPad keyboard pops up and type in a web address.
Except for the ability to play certain video files (those created with Adobe Flash), Safari has most of the features of a desktop browser: bookmarks, a history file, cookies, a pop-up blocker, and more.
When you go to a web page, ‘Pad-Safari behaves just like a desktop browser, too. It highlights the address bar as it loads all the elements on the page and gives you Apple’s “Yo! I’m still loading the page!” animated icon at the top of the screen, which looks like this: .
, (Back, Forward). To flip back to the page you were just on before the current one, tap the button. You need to go back before you can go forward, so after you tap , you can tap the button. This takes you to the page you were looking at before you tapped the button. Got it?
(Action menu). Tap this multi-option icon to add a new bookmark, add a bookmark that lives on your Home screen, mail a link to the page, or print it (if you have an iPad-friendly printer, as Print With Your iPad explains).
Address bar. This narrow white strip of typeable turf is where you enter a page’s web address (also known as its URL or Uniform Resource Locator) when you’re off to see the sites.
If you don’t tap the button and the page loads normally, the button turns into a button. Tap it to reload a page that doesn’t look right (say a bunch of icons or graphics are missing) or if you want to see the latest version of a site that updates frequently—like a news or auction site.
Search box. Safari has a separate little box for typing in search terms. Tap here and the keyboard pops up. Type in your keywords and tap the Search button that automatically replaces the Return key on your keyboard.
Zoom and Scroll Through Web Pages
As soon as many new iPad owners unbox their tablets, they spend hours zooming and scrolling through web pages because it’s cool, fun, and novel to flick a finger across a piece of glass and see a web page respond to touch.
Even though the iPad has a fairly large screen, it’s not quite the same experience as surfing the Web on your 17-inch laptop display or even bigger desktop monitor. Many companies offer mobile versions of their websites that bump up the size of text and graphics so you can see them better on iPads and smartphones. Better yet, many have free iPad apps that capitalize on the touchscreen for things like site navigation.
But not every site out there caters to iPad or smartphone users. You’ll encounter plenty of regular old web pages that look perfectly fine, except that they’re just a wee bit too small to read comfortably without some maneuvering:
Fortunately, the iPad gives you three ways to read pages more comfortably:
Zoom and pinch. Place your thumb and forefinger (or whichever fingers you prefer) on the screen and slowly spread them apart to zoom in (enlarge) the part of the page between your fingers. To go in the opposite direction and reduce the size of the selected area, move your fingers closer together in a pinch formation.
Double-tap. Web pages are made up of different sections, and Safari can isolate each one and magnify just that part. Find the section of a page you want to read and double-tap it with your finger to expand it. Double-tap again to reduce the section to its original size.
When you zoom in on a page and want to read a part that’s out of view, simply drag your finger on the glass to pull that section to the center of the iPad screen.
You can also scroll around a page quickly by flicking your finger across the glass. As your finger flies around, you may inadvertently hit a link, but Safari knows that you’re in transit and doesn’t open the linked page or site. To actually click a link, stop scrolling and tap the link with your finger.
Every so often, you’ll find, on certain web pages, a frame (a column of text) with its own scroll bar—an area of content that scrolls independently of the main page. (If you have a MobileMe account, the Messages list is such a frame.) The iPad offers its own way to navigate one of these frames without scrolling the whole page: It’s the two-finger drag. To scroll within a frame, use two fingers instead of the usual one.
Create and Use Bookmarks
Did you set up your syncing preferences ‘twixt iPad and computer when you first connected your tablet? If so, you’ll find Safari already stuffed with a whole batch of bookmarks (Favorites)—that is, a list of sites you can re-visit with just a tap on the screen, so you don’t have to remember and type in their URLs.
If you ripped your iPad out of its box as soon as you got it and haven’t yet introduced it to your PC or Mac, you can easily copy your existing desktop computer’s browser bookmarks from Internet Explorer (Windows) or Safari (Macintosh and Windows; Sync Info has instructions).
To see all your bookmarks, tap the button at the top of the screen. The Bookmarks box appears. Some bookmarks may be floating loose in the list, while others are neatly filed into folders, or even folders within folders. Tap a folder to see what’s inside. Tap a bookmark to open the website it points to.
The handy search box at the top right of the Safari window can do more than sniff around the Web for your search terms. When you tap in a keyword, it also shows you how many times the word appears on the current web page—which is really helpful if you’re wading through a screen full of text looking for that one relevant term.
Add New Bookmarks on the iPad
As you surf, you can add new bookmarks right on your iPad. And any sites you bookmark there get copied back to your computer the next time you sync up.
Rename it. Some websites have hideously long names, like “Uncle Earl’s Good-Time Five-String Finger-Pickin’ Jam Session,” but you can change that. Tap the top box on the Add Bookmark screen and rename the site something shorter, like “Banjos.”
File it. The third line down in the Add Bookmark box lets you file the bookmark in a folder (see Edit and Organize Bookmarks and Folders) or add it to the Bookmarks bar on the browser window for quick ‘n’ easy access. Tap the Bookmarks link to open Safari’s list of bookmark folders. When you find the one you want, tap the folder’s name to deposit your bookmark there, where it awaits your return the next time you want to visit that site.
If you make a mistake as you tap in a URL and don’t notice it right away, you don’t have to backspace all the way to the typo. Press your finger down on the text until a magnifying glass and a flashing insertion cursor appear, then drag your finger to the error, lift your finger, and correct the mistake. Then go back to where you were.
Make Home Screen Bookmarks
Are you one of those people who has shortcuts to your absolute favorite websites right on your computer’s desktop? If so, would you like to continue the tradition on your iPad’s Home screen? Not a problem.
When you’re on a site you want to save, tap the button at the top of Safari and choose “Add to Home Screen” from the menu box. The site’s icon now sits on your iPad’s main screen. And don’t worry about filling up your Home screen pages—you can have up to 11 of ‘em and flick among them—or, if you run out of Home screen real estate, you can consolidate icons by storing them in a folder. See Make Home Screen App Folders to create folders.
Jump to Other Web Pages
You may find yourself so mesmerized by navigating the iPad with a series of finger moves that you completely forget about the concept of clicking links, especially since you’ve probably been using a computer mouse to do that for the past 15 years or so.
Here’s how you handle links on the iPad: Tap them with your finger, much the way you’d click them if you did have a mouse. As you know from desktop-computer browsing, not all links are blue and underlined. Sometimes, in fact, they’re graphics, like pictures or icons.
If you hold your finger on a link for a moment—press it rather than tap it—a box pops up identifying the link’s full web address and offering three buttons: You can open the linked page, open it in a new browser page, or copy it to the iPad’s clipboard to paste it elsewhere. Cut, Copy, Paste, and Replace shows you how to copy and paste text.
Edit and Organize Bookmarks and Folders
Safari lists bookmarks in the order in which you save them, and that may not be the easiest way to remember where they are—especially if you wander around the Web saving site addresses every day. But iPad Safari is ready for this inevitability, as well as the probability that you’d like to delete old bookmarks every once in a while.
Editing your bookmarks—and folders of bookmarks—is quick and efficient on the iPad’s version of Safari. To edit a bookmark or folder, tap the button and then tap the Edit button. To edit bookmarks inside a folder, tap the button, tap open the target folder, and then tap the Edit button.
If you’re a newshound, there’s one thing worth bookmarking: the RSS feed of your favorite news site—or all the RSS feeds from all your top sites. RSS feeds are subscriptions to a site’s story summaries (the abbreviation stands for Really Simple Syndication). Subscribe, and you spare yourself the tediousness of checking sites for updated news and information manually, plus you get to read short summaries of new articles without ads and blinking animations. If you want to read a full article, just tap its headline.
Safari, as it turns out, doubles as a handy RSS reader. Whenever you tap an “RSS Feed” link on a web page, or whenever you type the address of an RSS feed into the Address bar (it often begins with feed://), Safari automatically displays a handy table-of-contents view that lists all the news blurbs on that page.
Here’s what you can do to bookmarks and folders after you tap Edit:
Edit them. Need to rename a folder or bookmark? Tap a folder to get to the Edit Folder screen so you can change the folder’s name. To edit a bookmark, tap it to get to the Edit Bookmark screen, where you can change its name and address. Tap the Back button in the upper-left corner when you’re done.
Refile them. To make, name, or file a new folder, tap the New Folder button in the upper-left corner of the Edit screen. You can move an existing folder by tapping it, choosing a new location on the Edit Folders screen, and relocating the folder elsewhere in the Bookmarks list.
Rearrange them. Need a new order for your bookmarks? As shown below, drag the three-bar grip strip () up or down the list to move folders or bookmarks to a new place. (You can’t delete or move the History folder, however.)
Sync Your Bookmarks
Saving bookmarks on the iPad as you go is fine, but over the years, you’ve probably built up a considerable collection of bookmarks on your desktop computer as well. In fact, you’re probably very attached to some of those links. The good news is, you can take them with you—at least on the iPad.
To copy your entire Internet Explorer or Safari bookmark library from your computer to your iPad, all you need to do is turn on a checkbox in iTunes. Connect your iPad, click its icon in the iTunes window, and click the Info button at the top of the screen. Scroll down past things you can sync, like contacts, calendars, and mail accounts, until you get to the section called Other. Now, do the following, depending on the type of computer you have:
Windows PCs: Turn on “Sync bookmarks with:” and then choose either Safari or Internet Explorer from the menu. Click Apply, and then Sync.
Macs: Turn on “Sync Safari bookmarks,” click Apply, and then click Sync.
As mentioned on the previous page, bookmarks you make on the iPad get synced back to your computer. But if things start to get too discombobulated and you decide you want to wipe out all the bookmarks on your iPad and start over with a fresh set from your computer, scroll down to the Advanced area of the Info screen (where it says “Replace information on this iPad”). Then put a check in the box next to Bookmarks before you sync again.
This is the wired way to sync. If you subscribe to Apple’s MobileMe service, you can sync bookmarks on all your devices over the air, as Sync Using MobileMe explains.
Special Instructions for Firefox Fans
If Mozilla’s Firefox browser is your preferred window to the Web, you can still move those foxy favorites over to your iPad. Apps like Firefox Home and Sync Browser can help, but you can also do it the long way—by first importing your bookmarks from Firefox into the desktop version of Safari. The next time you sync, your Firefox bookmarks land on your tablet (but bookmarks you add to Firefox on your iPad don’t get synced back to your desktop browser).
Windows. Grab your free PC copy of Safari (www.apple.com/safari) and, during the setup process, import your Firefox bookmarks. Press Ctrl+Shift+B to see them and trash the bookmarks you no longer need. Now set the iPad to sync with your PC’s new copy of Safari bookmarks.
Macintosh. Your Mac came with Safari. But if you spurned it to go browse with Firefox, hold your nose and open Safari anyway. Choose File→Import Bookmarks. Navigate to your Firefox book-marks file in your Home folder, and go to Library→Application Support→Firefox→Profiles→weird scrambled-named folder like e9v01wmx.default folder. Inside, double-click bookmarks.html.
You have reeled in your Firefox bookmarks to Safari. Now, in Safari, press ⌘-Shift-B to show all your bookmarks onscreen. Delete the ones you don’t want on the tablet, and then set the iPad to sync with Safari.
Both Systems. Since most browsers (including Firefox here) usually have an Export Bookmarks feature under the File menu, you can use it to export your bookmarks file to your desktop. Then open Safari and choose File→Import Bookmarks to pull in your list of saved sites.
Call Up Your History List
The History button on desktop browsers has saved many a soul who can’t remember the name of that really informative site from the other day. Safari on the iPad doesn’t let you forget your history, either (well, not without some extra work), and it, too, quietly keeps a list of the sites you recently surfed.
To see your web trail, tap the button and then tap the History folder, where Safari stores your past sites in tidy subfolders with names like “Earlier Today.” Tap a bookmark within one of the History subfolders to go back in time—or at least back to that site. The link won’t be in the History folder forever (time does march on, and so does the History list), so you may want to bookmark it for real within the week before it slips away.
Erase the History List
Don’t want to leave a record of your browsing history in case someone picks up your iPad and snoops around? One way to prevent that is to set up a Passcode Lock on your iPad, as described on General. Then, anyone who wants to get into your iPad needs a four-digit code to unlock the screen.
Another way to clean up after yourself is to erase your whole History list. To do that, open the History folder and tap the Clear History button in the top-right corner (circled above). You’ve just wiped away your personal History. Many politicians probably envy you.
Save and Mail Images From the Web
Every once in a while, you come across an image on a web page that you just have to have on your computer. It could be a cool sports photo of your favorite ball player, an image of a house on a real-estate site, or a wacky picture of a disgruntled Pekinese. Now, on a desktop system, you just have to right-click (Control-click) the image with your mouse and choose “Save Image to Desktop.” But how do you do that on the iPad, where there’s no mouse, trackpad, or obvious way to right-click on anything?
Easy. Press the desired photo or graphic with your finger. A box pops up with a whole bunch of options like Open, Open in New Page, Save Image, and Copy. Tap the Save Image button to download a copy of the picture to your iPad’s Photo library (Find Pictures on Your iPad). From there, you can look at it any time you want, or email it to someone (Email and Print Photos).
Stream Web Audio and Video
When the iPad was announced in 2010, there was much grumbling about the fact that it wouldn’t play files in the Adobe Flash format—which is a large portion of the videos and browser-based videogames on the Web. In fact, some people thought the lack of Flash support would deal a crippling blow to the iPad’s chances of success.
But guess what? Those naysayers were wrong. Sure, the iPad doesn’t recognize Flash, RealPlayer, or Windows Media file formats, but it can do a fair amount of streaming in other formats. After all, it has that whole YouTube app (Watch YouTube Clips) that plays plenty of videos. It can also play some QuickTime movies, like movie trailers, as long as they’ve been prepared in iPad-friendly video formats (Video Formats That Work on the iPad). It can also play MP3 and WAV audio files right off the Web. Here are a few sites to sample:
BBC News. The Beeb’s podcasts stream nicely, and you can search shows by radio station, genre, or get an A to Zed list; the company also has a fine iPad app (described on Use Newspaper and Magazine Apps). http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/
“Meet the Press” audio stream. You can find an MP3 edition of the venerable Sunday-morning talk show here: http://podcast.msnbc.com/audio/podcast/MSNBC-MTP.xml
National Public Radio. NPR has many of its signature programs, like “All Things Considered” and “World Café,” plus “Morning Edition” and its other newscasts, online and ready to stream through your iPad’s speaker at m.npr.org. (NPR has a news-focused iPad app in the App Store, too.)
New York Times podcasts. Check out a whole page of news shows that start streaming when you tap the MP3 link. (The author is an employee of the New York Times.) www.nytimes.com/podcasts
Just about any MP3 file plays perfectly fine in the Safari browser. If you’ve already exhausted your iPad’s music library, search for free mp3 music or check your favorite radio station’s website for an MP3 stream of its live broadcast.
As for video, you have more to watch on the Web than just ‘Pad-friendly streaming videos at Home→YouTube. And Apple hosts a huge collection of movie trailers at trailers.apple.com. Tap a movie poster to get started.
Work with Online Apps
With the rise of mobile Internet-connected devices came the increased popularity of cloud computing—using programs that reside and store files online, up in the clouds, where you can get to them from any Web-enabled machine. This means you don’t have to drag around a seven-pound laptop stuffed with business software just to update a spreadsheet, because you can edit it online with a two-pound netbook. Or an iPad.
Not every cloud-computing site works with the iPad—Adobe’s Flash-based Photoshop.com site, which lets you edit pictures online, is one example. Other sites may have limited functionality, like the ability to read files, but not edit them. Still, if you need to quickly look up something in a document stored online or check the status of an ongoing project, point your iPad toward the cloud.
Google Docs is probably one of the most popular cloud-computing apps, partly because it’s free, partly because it can handle Microsoft Office documents, and partly because it belongs to the ever-growing Google Empire of Free Programs. To use it, you need a Gmail or Google account (also free at www.google.com). Once you sign up, you can create, edit, and share files right in your computer’s web browser—including word-processing documents, spreadsheets, and basic presentations.
Since all those files are online, you can get to them through the Safari browser on your iPad. There are some limitations, though. For one, you currently can’t edit documents or presentations on the iPad, so these files are pretty much read-only copies for reference when you’re on the road. You can, however, do basic editing on your spreadsheet files.
And unlike Google Docs on a standard computer, you can’t use the “offline” feature that lets you edit and save files even when you don’t have an Internet connection. (That’s because a piece of necessary software, called Google Gears, doesn’t work with the iPad’s operating system.)
Another cloud-computing company, Zoho (www.zoho.com), has a whole slew of business and productivity apps that work through your computer’s browser. Many of them are free for personal use; you just need to sign up for an account. Zoho Writer, Sheet, and Show roughly correspond to Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and can open and edit files in those formats. The company also has a front door for mobile devices at mobile.zoho.com; you can log in through the iPad if you need to refer to a file stored online in a less-cluttered interface than logging in to the standard web page.
If you’re a big fan of cloud computing and already use services like the Basecamp project management site (http://basecamphq.com) or DropBox for file-sharing (www.dropbox.com), take a run through the Productivity section of the App Store for iPad-friendly programs that work specifically with those sites. For example, the free QuickOffice Connect app gives you a convenient portal to files you store on Dropbox, Box.net, Google Docs, and MobileMe (Chapter 16).
Dedicated Basecampers have several App Store choices as well. Programs like Satchel ($10) and Outpost 2 ($20) let you keep tabs on ongoing projects, tasks, and deadlines by checking in through your iPad.
Social Networking on the iPad
With your iPad, you can keep connected to all your favorite social networking sites whenever you hop onto a wireless network—because, after all, a large part of many people’s day is spent keeping up with events on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and the like. Some sites even have their own iPad apps.
Chapter 7 has info about shopping the iTunes Store for iPad apps and instructions for installing them. Once you’re ready, here’s some of what’s out there:
Facebook and MySpace. Both sites have free apps in the App Store—but they’re made for the iPhone. They do scale up to iPad size with a tap of the 2x button, but that means a blotchy display. Several third-party apps, like the Friendly and MyPad lines, give you alternative ways to tap social sites. The apps are streamlined for the touchscreen, but if you’re not into them, there’s www.facebook.com and www.myspace.com in Safari.
Twitter. Using this widely popular micro-blogging service is much easier on the iPad than trying to text out pithy thoughts on a tiny mobile phone (unless, of course, it’s an iPhone). Most Twitter apps are still iPhone-oriented, but Twitter for iPad, free and shown below, does an excellent job of turning your tablet into an easy-to-tweet dashboard for all your thoughts of 140 characters or less.
Flickr. Several apps are available for browsing pictures on this massive photo-sharing site, but many exist just to ease photo-uploading. Perhaps the best way to experience Flickr is to point Safari at www.flickr.com.
AIM. You can’t get more social or networked than with instant messaging, which keeps you in touch with all your online pals through real-time, typed conversations. AIM for iPad works just like its computer and smartphone counterparts: Pick a friend off your Buddy List and shoot over a message to start a conversation. But the iPad edition doesn’t end with AIM—you can also pull in updates from Facebook, MySpace, Foursquare, Twitter, YouTube, and other social sites.
Photobucket. If you choose to share your pictures on Photobucket, check out the free Photobucket for iPad app. You can download any image to the tablet, easily search the entire site, and create albums right on your iPad.
Use Autofill to Save Time
Some people will love the iPad’s simple virtual keyboard, and some will hate it because it feels like typing on a glass coffee table. And some will use it only when buying things online while relaxing in the hammock out back. No matter how you feel about the keyboard, there’s one feature built into Safari that’s bound to please everybody: Autofill.
Autofill, as its name suggests, automatically fills in your name, address, and phone number on web forms—saving you the drudgery of typing in the same information all the time. It’s convenient, reduces your keyboard time, and speeds up purchases for power shoppers.
Along with your contact info, Autofill can remember passwords for websites that require them, but be careful with this. If you accidentally lose your iPad or someone steals it, the thief can retrieve your password, waltz right into your password-protected accounts, and steal even more from you.
To turn on Autofill, start on the iPad’s Home screen and tap Settings→Safari→Autofill. On the Autofill screen, tap the On button next to Use Contact Info. Tap the My Info line below it and choose your own name and address from your Contacts list. (See Maintain Contacts if you don’t have a contact file for yourself.) Now when you come to a web form that wants your info, you’ll see an Autofill button on the iPad keyboard; tap it instead of doing all that typing.
If you want to go ahead and use the password-supplying part of Autofill, tap the button on the Settings screen to On. Now, whenever you hit a site that requires your password, Safari gives you three choices: Yes, Never for this Website, and Not Now (the latter means you’ll get pestered again on your next visit). Say Yes and the browser logs you into the site automatically from then on.
To play it safe, say Yes only to non-money-related sites, like online newspapers. Tap “Never for this Website” for any bank, stock-trading, e-commerce, or other site that involves money and credit-card numbers.
Use Multiple Web Pages
Tabbed browsers, like Internet Explorer and Firefox, have changed the way people surf. If you need to compare two pages or flip back and forth between them, you no longer have to open them in two separate windows. Tabs let you easily click back and forth between pages in the same window, making your personal space-time continuum much more efficient.
Safari on the iPad gives you a variation on the concept of tabbed browsing. You can push older pages off to the side when you need to open a new one, but still have both within a finger’s reach. Here’s what you can do:
Open a new page. Need to check something on another site? Tap the button in the Safari toolbar. Your current page shrinks into the background. Tap inside the dotted outline of the New Page silhouette on the black screen (shown in the bottom-right corner) to get a fresh blank page to address and visit. You can open up to eight other pages this way. To see how many pages you have open at once, check the icon, which now has a tiny number inside it. If you see , for example, you currently have three pages open.
Switch to another open page. Go back and tap again. You return to the black screen and a grid of up to nine open pages, looking sort of like baseball-card versions of their larger selves. Find the page you want to revisit and tap it to open it full-screen again.
Use Safari Security
The Web is full of wonders—it’s like the collective consciousness and accumulated knowledge of everyone who’s ever used it, right there for you to explore. The Web is also full of jerks, criminals, and general-purpose evildoers, so you have to take care to keep your personal information safe in this Playground of Information. To see how Safari can help protect you, go to the iPad’s Home screen and tap Settings→Safari. Your defenses include these:
Fraud Warning. Some websites aren’t what they appear to be; their main purpose is phishing—masquerading as legit sites to get you to enter personal info, like bank account and Social Security numbers. Turn this setting on so Safari can warn you when a site stinks like bad phish.
Block Pop-ups. Once a web surfer’s lament, these unwanted extra windows (often hawking cheesy products and services) have been largely shattered by pop-up blocking controls in most browsers. Still, you may need a pop-up window here and there to order concert tickets or to fill in web forms. You can block or unblock pop-ups here, but it’s a universal setting for all sites.
Accept Cookies. A cookie is a little file that helps a website recognize you. This can be good—you get a personal greeting from sites you revisit, for example—or bad, because some cookies track and report (to paying third parties) the ads you respond to. Here, you can choose to have Safari take a cookie Never, Always, or only from sites you actually visit.
Databases. Tap here to see which sites store info locally on your iPad. As shown above, many of Apple’s help guides stash a bit of data here.
Clear History. Tap this button to erase your Safari history (Call Up Your History List).
Clear Cookies. Tap the Clear Cookies button to delete them all.
Clear Cache. The cache is where your iPad stores downloaded graphics and other web page parts to speed up your surfing. You can jettison these files by tapping Clear Cache here.