Brush up on your Internet search skills

Top Internet tips

Alex Harbaugh, student trainer for information services at Kansas University, shares web tips you might not know. These tips work in Firefox and Google Chrome, the browsers Harbaugh recommends.

• Hold control (command on Macs) and scroll to quickly change the zoom in and out on a web browser.

• Shift + scroll goes through the forward and back history.

• Spacebar is page down, shift + space for page up. Hold to scroll fast.

• Highlight text and drag it to the search bar to quickly Google it.

• On PCs, middle click (scroll wheel) on a link to open it in a new tab. Control + click (command + click) does this as well, and shift + click opens in a new browser window.

• Also, on PCs, F11 goes full screen and back.

• The print screen key on Windows copies an image of the screen to the clipboard. For Mac uses, hold down shift + command + 4 to get crosshairs that allow you to drag and take a picture of your screen. The picture will appear on your desktop.

• Google a math equation to get the answer. For instance, Google search “7-5*2/8+6” and Google will give you the answer. Works with surprisingly complex math equations and forms.

— Sarah Henning

For all the information provided on the Web, it’s kind of ironic that it doesn’t come with an instruction manual.

And because of that even the most savvy Web users might be missing out on something. Like, maybe a little trick that can mean big improvements in one’s Web efficiency, security or usefulness.

“It’s now been around long enough, that people assume you know something. And you’re kind of afraid to say or ashamed to say, or just don’t talk about, say it out loud that you don’t know,” says Pattie Johnston, senior outreach coordinator for the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt. “Older adults are immigrants, computer immigrants, and the kids are natives, they already know how to do this.”

Since the first of the year, the library’s adult services department has been computer teaching classes in its new computer lab. Among the topics have been how to use Facebook or sell something on eBay, but the basics of the Internet class contains a host of useful tools an Internet late-comer may have not been told, Johnston says.

So, what don’t you know that might make your life easier? Go! talks with experts about tricks and tips that others might assume you know.

Search engine know-how. Most seasoned Internet users can find their way to Google, the king of all search engines. But using it efficiently requires more than just scrolling through your search results, says William Ottens, who has taught some of the library’s classes.

First on the list is learning how to use Boolean phrases and quotation marks to narrow your search. Boolean phrases are “and,” “or” and “not” and using them in your search queries can help to narrow your searches. For example, typing the word “colleges” into Google gives you 89 million results, while typing in “colleges and Kansas” results in closer to 8 million.

Another trick is to put quotations around an exact phrase. Say you’re looking for information on the Kansas Jayhawks 2008 NCAA basketball championship. If you type in just those words, Kansas Jayhawks 2008 NCAA basketball championship, you’ll get 898,000 results on Google. But if you put the whole phrase in quotations, “Kansas Jayhawks 2008 NCAA basketball championship” you only get 496 hits.

Ottens says the most attractive skill to many of his students, though, is learning how to access a map from a search engine.

“If you type in ‘Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence, Kansas,’ you can pull up the map, which is probably the first thing on the list of returns,” he says. “They’re usually fascinated by that.”

Security is up to you. Julie Fugett, an IT expert at Kansas University, has taught classes and workshops for senior citizens on computer security, including recently for Douglas County Senior Services, 745 Vt.

Fugett says that many questions she gets are about privacy and viruses and how to combat them — also things that aren’t explained to new Internet users.

“I feel like people will go, ‘Oh, I need to get on Facebook,’ and they have no idea how to set it up so that they’re not showing the whole world all of their stuff. They don’t understand that they don’t have to fill it out completely. We don’t have to know your birthday and your anniversary and who you’re married to, and, and, and.”

Another security matter is knowing what you should actually be concerned about, says Fugett. She says many people are worried about identity theft, when in reality, a more accurate thievery scenario is a huge Internet bill.

“People get worried about the cloak and dagger stuff, when it’s usually the easy, little things that usually trip you up,” she says. “People tend to focus on, ‘Someone’s going to sit outside my house and sniff my wireless network and steal all of my passwords,’ when the reality is you need to password-protect your wireless network because somebody’s going to freeload and download a bunch of movies and either get you a big bandwidth bill or get you a letter (about illegal downloads).”

It’s OK to play around on the Web. In fact, it’s encouraged. Both Ottens and Fugett say they often feel like they have to give newer users permission to play around on the Web.

“For people of my generation and younger, they kind of understand that you’re not going to break it by playing,” says Fugett, 32. “And I think, at least with my parents and grandparents, I’ve encountered more of a, ‘It’s an appliance, and if I push the wrong button and I’ll break it’ mentality. So, they’re less willing to play. I do run into exceptions, but by and large, it seems like the older folks are less willing to play because they think they’re going to break it.”

One of those exceptions is Carol Johns, who at age 80, was nearly late to work this week because she was having a wee bit too much fun on the Internet. Johns has taught herself to search the Web, connect with her family on Facebook, send e-mail and order items online.

“I just learned how to do it. I don’t know how I did it, just experimenting,” Johns says, though she says she’s unique among her friends. “Even last night, I was helping a lady with the knitting project and we couldn’t think of a certain word and I said, ‘Just a minute, I’ll go to my computer’ and I wrote in the word and it gave me the definition.”