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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nokia N800 & N810: Hints and tips for using the web browser

Some hints and tips for using the web browser on the Nokia N800 & N810

The web browser is the most important feature on the N800 and N810 internet tablets as it lets you look at websites, which is the main purpose of the tablets.

The browser is fairly easy to use, especially if you're used to using web browsers such as Firefox or Internet Explorer on computers. However, there are still a few quirks and features which may not be immediately obvious, and that's what we're going to look at in this tutorial.

For those who are interested, the browser used in the N800 and N810 is called MicroB, and is based on the same Mozilla technology that Firefox uses. It is compatible with all the major advanced website standards such as Flash, Javascript and AJAX, and is possibly the world's best web browser on a pocket-sized device. The tablets are compatible with far more websites than the iPhone or iPod Touch because Apple's gadgets cannot display Flash-based sites.


How to open the browser

There are actually many ways to get the browser window to open. The three most popular are:

- New Window method: Click on the browser icon (the globe in the top left hand corner), then click on "Open New Browser Window", then enter the website address you want to go to in the address bar at the bottom of the screen (the one with the small globe next to it), then click on the green button to go to that address. You can open several new windows if you like, and you can switch between them by clicking on the icon featuring two white squares that appears in the bottom left hand corner and selecting the window you want. You can also close windows by clicking on the squares icon and then clicking on the "X" next to the window you want to close.

- Bookmark method: Click on the browser icon, then click on one of the bookmarks, and the site you selected will open in a browser window. If you already have a browser window open, the site you selected will appear in that open window. You can add your own bookmarks by going to the site you want to bookmark, then clicking on the small globe next to the address bar, then clicking on "Add Bookmark".

- Keyword Search method: Click on the Google search box on the tablet desktop, then type in the words you want to search for, then click on the arrow on the right of the search box. The results of your search will appear in a new browser window, or if there's already a window open the results will appear in that. You can change to a Wikipedia search if you prefer, by clicking on the Google icon and selecting Wikipedia. If you can't see the search box on the desktop at all, click on the "Home" menu at the top of the desktop, then "Select Applets", then tick the box marked "Internet Search", then click on "OK".


Menus in the browser

There are actually three separate menus in the browser window:

- The "Web" menu at the top of the screen, which is the most comprehensive and lets you access virtually all the browser's features.

- The Bookmarks menu, which is the small globe to the left of the address bar at the bottom of the screen. This lets you go to your favourite sites, lets you add a bookmark for the site you're currently viewing ("Add Bookmark"), and lets you remove and organise bookmarks using the "Manage Bookmarks" option.

- The Magnifying Glass menu, in the bottom right hand corner of the browser window. This lets you zoom in and out, choose whether to show images and lets you switch Flash and multimedia support on and off. It's also got a search function if you want to find a particular word or phrase on the page you're currently viewing. Do NOT tick the "Fit Width To View" option, see below for an explanation why.


How to refresh web pages

There's no "Refresh" or "Reload" button on the tablet browser, but you can refresh pages by simply clicking on the green arrow button next to the current page's address. For example if you're currently looking at www.google.com, you can refresh the page by pressing the green button next to "http://www.google.com/".

However, this may not work on some sites which use a web technique called frames. Pages on sites that use frames can be refreshed by going to the "Web" menu at the top of the screen, then clicking on "Web", then "Navigation", then "Reload". If you're using the web at full size the Web menu won't be visible. You can still access the reload option though, by holding the stylus down on the screen to make a menu appear (don't let go until you've selected an option), then select "Navigation", then select "Reload", then take the stylus off the screen.


Do NOT use Fit Width To View

There is an abominable option on the tablet browser called "Fit Width To View", on the magnifying glass menu in the bottom right corner. Do not use this option. Make sure that this option is always unticked.

For more details on why Fit Width To View should be avoided, click here to see our special mini-tutorial on the subject.


How to turn Flash on if it doesn't work

If you're trying to access a Flash-based site (for example homestarrunner.com or youtube.com) and it doesn't seem to work, it may be that your tablet browser has Flash support switched off.

To switch it back on, click on the magnifying glass in the bottom right hand corner of the browser, then click on "Components", then make sure you have ticked the "Shockwave Flash" option. Also make sure the "Default Plugin" option is also ticked.


How to stop pages loading when they get stuck

As regular web users will know, sometimes websites get stuck while they're loading, and you may want to just stop the page loading.

If a site gets stuck while it's loading, or if it's just loading too slowly, press the small red icon in the bottom right corner which appears during the loading process.

You can retry the loading by pressing the green button next to the website address bar. Alternatively, you can give up and go to another website by entering a different address or clicking on a bookmark.


How to highlight and copy text on websites

If you want to highlight text within a text entry box (for example in an e-mail or forum post you're writing), just sweep the stylus over the text you want to highlight.

If you want to highlight text on normal web pages, you have to use a special "double tap" method. Tap the stylus twice near the text you want to highlight AND DO NOT LET GO AFTER THE SECOND TAP. With the stylus still held down, move it over the text you want to highlight and the text should change colour as you do so. After the text is highlighted you can let go. If you want to copy highlighted text, hold the stylus on the highlighted text and select copy from the menu that appears.

The "double tap" method can take some getting used to, but once you get the knack of it it should be fairly easy to use.

The reason there is a double tap method at all is because a single tap could indicate you just want to scroll around the page. The tablet needs some way to tell that you want to highlight text rather than move the page. Ordinary computers with mice don't have this problem because you don't use the mouse buttons to scroll the page, they have a scroll wheel instead.